You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2014.

The gymnast springs from the mat to the impossible bars above. Her willowy form flips in an artful spiral through the air. Gasps rise from the arena as the routine mounts toward her final moment. She whirls from the heights and unfolds her legs. The entire performance depends on the ending impact. Her heels stick the landing with grace. A roar of applause echoes around her.

I’ve long admired the grace of gymnasts. I bear all the clumsiness of a Lucille Ball character, without the intentionality. Just this week, I bumped my head emptying the dishwasher and busted my thumb vacuuming. Someone asked if I planned to go ice skating this winter. I tried not to snort while guffawing in response to that one. Good thing my parents had second thoughts about giving me the middle name, Grace. The irony would’ve been overwhelming to bear for a lifetime.

If anyone needs grace, I do. I wish it were only a matter of poor coordination, but I’ve demonstrated clumsiness of the soul as well. No matter how much I’d like to hide my scrapes, I have stumbled over my selfishness and pride plenty of times this year. Worries tripped me. I tangled a knot of criticism into my hair a couple of times. Annoyance choked me with more intensity than the infinity scarf which took half a day to figure out.

What a mess of snot and frizz I’d be if I tried to stick a graceful landing! Or, as the apostle Paul put it, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).

Thank God I don’t have to depend on a flawless performance for a perfect outcome. I vault into my life’s path with the intent of obeying God’s will. One moment, my spirit soars in beautiful alignment with His. Then my focus wobbles. Christ offers me the grace I lack. He draws my mind and heart back into synch with His. With each day’s prayers of heartfelt repentance, I seek His grace. Awkward girl that I am, God knows I need it often. And Jesus promises I can count on it for a beautiful ending. Thankfully, He’s always willing to correct my straying flip and make that impossible landing happen with His perfect grace.

As we approach the end of one year and peek into the next year’s performance, will you share my confidence in His sufficient grace? Let’s look forward to ending and starting anew with the perfect outcomes of Christ in center focus. The applause of a “great cloud of witnesses” will fill the kingdom as we stick that heavenly landing.

May the redeeming power of our Savior bless your New Year’s celebrations and all of 2015.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).

because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace . . . For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:4-10).

 “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. . . For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. . . . What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15-25).

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1).

We landed in Manhattan in search of great Christmas cheer. We strode among holiday shoppers and dined beside neighborly locals. Our eyes sparkled in the brilliance of tree lights and glamorous storefronts. Unbeknownst to us, a shadow rolled across the city. In the midst of preparing for the celebration of a Savior, darkness mounted its forces.

In the days before our arrival, hate-mongers stirred protesters to steam through those icy streets. Fists raised, a rally cry rose for murder. Blood thirst escalated and snatched up souls dangling near its edges. A fatal stabbing hit the news. Two officers fell prey to an ambush. Assassinations culminated in paranoia and division. With a stench far weightier than smog, resentment poisoned the air.

Media didn’t notify us first. The impact touched us through personal stories as we met people. The woman who sat with us on the plane told us about her son’s overtime demands. Nine to twelve hour shifts with little sleep between them. She shared her worries over her son and daughter, NYPD officers. A young man in the airport told us his friend was stabbed to death over the weekend. The report on television brought him the sad news. We visited mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Sunday morning, where the priest said he learned of the assassination from sorrow-laden officers during the previous night’s event. So many lives burned by evil.

Each word, touch, and gesture ripples out with influence on other lives around it. I’ll risk overstating the obvious with a new and much-needed declaration: We don’t need any more hatred. Our scarred and fear-riddled world needs an infusion of love. The night has raged far too long, and our shuddering souls ache for light.

Let’s invite the Light of the World to shine through and among us. Adopt rally cries of love and peace. Seek healing and unity instead of vengeance. Lower our fists and reach out to clasp hands. Pray for our neighbors until we see enemies as brothers and sisters in God’s family. Sound impossible? Only if we attempt it without God’s strength to make all things new.

The same Christ born into mad King Herod’s kingdom of paranoia and violence remains available to us today. He drew into one family the poor outcasts along with corrupt tax collectors. His teachings about love culminated in one equalizing point–the cross. He rent His body to make way for an otherwise impossible redemption, reconciling us with a holy God.

In Christ, we can reconcile with one another. No gap remains too wide for His outstretched arms to bridge. Even our modern “people walking in darkness” can see a great light. We who know the Light must step up and share it with others. Will you join me in reflecting the ultimate Star this Christmas?

“the people living in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
    a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16).

“The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).

The sanctuary’s music and message fade the instant I see one. They snatch my attention from intimate conversations. Even the deepest gloom cannot hold my focus while these remain in view. The immediate and thorough captivation brings me no guilt. I’m convinced God designed infants to draw our attention.

Though many ancient cultures dismissed the influence of youth, children signified divine favor. God’s people discouraged little ones from demanding undue attention, but Scripture related other notions about new lives. Psalm 127 describes children as a heritage and reward from the Lord. Psalm 8 indicates the Lord empowers the praises of youth to defeat evil. This verse appears twice, repeated by the ultimate fulfillment of infant significance.

Isaiah prophesied peace under the leadership of this holy child, the Messiah. Jesus’ birth enraptured the angels, detoured on-duty shepherds, and compelled wise men hundreds of miles to bestow gifts upon him. He drove the corrupt to distraction while inspiring awe in the repentant. Hardened fishermen, prostitutes, and zealots–along with all of us sinners–would receive a miraculous opportunity of transformation into wellsprings of God’s love. And it all began with an infant’s birth.

So each time a tiny foot or petal-soft cheek snares my attention, I remind myself of the divine engineering behind these precious distractions. We’re meant to pay attention to infants, and our primary life-focus should turn forever toward the One born to free all who choose to allow their hearts to be captivated by His presence.

Thank You, Father, for the most transforming gift of the Christ child, born for us and in us. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for laying aside Your heavenly crown to bring Christmas to our sinful hearts. Let us be easily and thoroughly distracted by You in all seasons.

“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, . . .The Holy Spirit will come upon you . . .Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:31-35).

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

“The wolf will live with the lamb,
and the leopard will lie down with the goat.
The calf, the young lion, and the fatling will be together,
and a child will lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

“Let the little children come to Me, and don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:16)

“Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lordchildren, a reward” (Psalm 127:3).

“Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger” (Psalm 8:2).

Snowflakes dove from high clouds, mimicking their northern sisters who had successfully decorated the landscape for Christmas. Tropical breezes dissolved the flurry into tiny droplets. The parched earth embraced the saturated air. Glimmering mist kissed tree trunks, leaves, and noses of all who turned out to receive it. Heaven’s dew returned to bless the pleading world with an affectionate, I mist you…

While setting up Christmas lights today, I squinted to see a silvered version of neighboring homes. Though too fine for my eyes to see, the water’s effect remained undeniable. No matter how I might try to ignore the moisture, it enveloped me. I walked across the glistening lawn to get an extension cord. The yellowed grass squeaked a chorus of praise beneath my soles. Ah, how water revives and transforms our perspective when we feel the need for its quenching power.

The fine mist thickened within an hour. We could no longer ignore the rain’s presence. I prayed over my husband’s footsteps on the slick rooftop and ladder. And marveled at the promises spoken through our tropical flurry. The message of Christmas reigns over the world, despite its attempts to deny the true presence of Living Water.

We could look for Christmas at the mall, on Hollywood screens, or in the platitudes of cheery cards and carols. The marketplace attempts to whet our appetites for celebration, but fails to quench our thirst for life. Many feel estranged and disenchanted from this plasti-perfect requiem to build happy facades with our good fortune. Misfortune seems out of place among ‘the holidays,’ but the Lord crafted Christmas for those with no hope left in the world.

Christ laid aside his royal splendor to take the helpless form of a human infant. Born in a barn. To a homeless and outcast couple. Among people so oppressed and heavily taxed by foreign government that they could barely afford to eat. In a world starved of good news or any word from God. Despair, crippling diseases, and chronic illness ravaged the nation. Corruption infiltrated governments and worship leaders. The parched earth cried out for God’s presence. Jesus poured Himself into the midst of the horror. He starved, endured betrayal, and suffered unfathomable pain. He walked hundreds of country and back-alley miles to offer the quenching presence of God to remain with us forever. He didn’t spare a single drop of His life.

As the world’s thirsty plea for hope rings on today, Jesus still offers the fullness of Himself to slake our deficiencies. He refreshes our dusty flesh-state and revives our souls. Christ descends on us like gentle, yet saturating mist. Even when we fail to notice, His presence envelops us and all our circumstances. Hardships lighten in the silvery mist of eternal hope. Our strength renews, and we no longer feel as if we bear our burdens alone. Unlimited joy seasons the breezes from beyond the horizon, where our destined home holds an eternity free from problems. Heaven awaits as our next step, and the Author of Life promises to walk alongside us on the way there. We can stretch out our arms and sing in the glimmering rain.

As Living Water transforms our vision, we recognize those withering neighbors who need to hear the songs of heaven’s dew. This Christmas, will you join me in reaching out to offer a sip of refreshing hope to those who thirst? Be part of of the flurry. May Christmas pour Christ’s blessings through you until the world shimmers.

 

“The poor and needy search for water,
    but there is none;
    their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
    I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them” (Isaiah 41:17).

 

“In the time of my favor I will answer you,
    and in the day of salvation I will help you. . .They will neither hunger nor thirst. . .Then you will know that I am the Lord;
    those who hope in me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:8-23).

“Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
    nor any scorching heat.
 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:15-17).

“He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today. . . a Savior has been born to you. . . This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:5-12).

“whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

 

“Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty'” (John 6:35).

The world headlines scream with grueling details of torture and slaying of helpless innocents. The nation roils as hateful chants billow across a land erupting with violence. Local newscasts reveal cases of abuse and oppression lurk behind neighboring doors, too. Disease, poverty, and despair buzzes throughout the social media posts and text messages we receive from our loved ones. Misery’s intensifying din bloodies our ears.

Longfellow’s hymn penned during the Civil War echoes into our modern lives with eerie relevance.

“And in despair I bowed my head
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,
‘For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.’”1

A hundred and fifty years after mothers watched their sons kill one another in battle, we still wring our hands at the horrors around us. The battles differ, but ravage our country with the same merciless fervor. Addiction, cancer, and depression besiege us. Homelessness and trafficking invade our communities. Our backs crumple as endless crises add burdens to our hearts. Another untimely death. Three more terminal diagnoses. Hopeless murmurs swarm. How much more can we take?

None. The weight exceeds the limits of our design. We search for respite to brace ourselves, but the efforts prove futile. Human relationships and man-made attempts at solace fail to sustain our needs. Earth cannot manufacture peace. Our only hope begins with unchaining our hearts from self-reliance. We were not designed to bear increasing burdens, but to carry them to Someone stronger. One Who exchanges them for magnificent peace surpassing any known to the earth or even comprehensible to human thought. The Lord alone grants solace powerful enough to protect and strengthen us.

He wraps us in the wind of His Spirit, insulating us against the chaos. His embrace uplifts our souls, as if suspended among the clouds and renewed with strength to soar. Our hope and breath rise full once more. Christ revives us to bear His life’s peace. His solace compels us to reach out from our solitude and share it.

The pain of the world has not ended, nor are we dull to its groaning. Christ shapes our lives and compassion into His likeness. Anxiety removed, our hearts hold more room for love. With this revitalization, God equips us to glide on His power. Not above the suffering, but into the midst of it. We carry the message of divine peace to this despairing world. For there is no peace from this dark earth, but He sends rays of divine solace into it through us.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

1 I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1864, Available at http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/i/h/iheardtb.htm

Categories

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,275 other followers

tyeagerwrites