Most of us are familiar with John the Baptist’s words uttered when Jesus approached him to be baptized. Sometimes we fail to connect that confident assurance to the frightened plea he sent by way of his own disciples while in Herod’s prison.
I don’t doubt John’s sincerity when he uttered those words. But I know circumstances can make walking faithfully in the light of truth harder than one might imagine.
Life has made me very aware of the difference between a one time proclamation and ongoing affirmation of that assertion.
The author of 40 DAYS OF DECREASE uses words from Corrie Ten Boom’s authorized biography to illustrate how we might choose to use a platform God grants us (due to fame, position, personal charisma, etc.) as a window to show others the person and work of Jesus Christ. It’s a beautiful and sweet story of Corrie “collecting praise each day and offering it as a bouquet to Jesus” each night.
The implication is that Corrie was completely unaffected by the limelight shone on her and her ministry.
But there are other sources that say Corrie was as human as the rest of us-she could be obstinate and insistent on things being HERway.
She could use her fame as an excuse for special treatment.
I’m not sharing this to dishonor Corrie-she is an amazing woman of God and lived a life that brought Him glory! I’m sharing to point out that it’s a lot harder than one might think to not fall prey to the trap of human admiration. (Just look at the recently revealed situation with Ravi Zacharias.)
I know I purpose to turn any praise I receive away from myself and toward the One who enables, keeps and strengthens me.
But there’s a corner of my heart that sure enjoys hearing it, enjoys getting “likes” and “shares” on social media and (embarrassingly) keeps track of such things.
How tempting it is to gather up the flattering words of others that tickle our ears and inflate our egos! But truth is, any grace I possess, any goodness I may do, any talent I may exercise is a gift from God. And He deserves the praise.
So this fast is a good one.
Because when I begin to scrape together and pile up the praise of men, I lose sight of my purpose. I forget that everything I have is given in trust by the Savior of my soul.
My sole reason for walking this earth is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Lent helps me remember that.
*I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.*
Old Elizabeth, young Mary-both bearing sons. Zechariah’s doubts, a young maid’s submission-he was supposed to understand God through study and practice, she was the ignorant one yet trusted.
Priests within a Sabbath walk from the manger slept on unaware that God had broken forth into their world while outcast shepherds got a personalized and most glorious birth announcement writ large across the sky.
Perhaps the most poignant contrast of all is a tired young mother pondering quietly what this might mean for her and her newborn Son and shepherds telling everyone they meet what they saw and praising God for giving them the privilege.
Mary, too, pondered all of these events, treasuring each memory in her heart.
20 The shepherds returned to their flocks, praising God for all they had seen and heard, and they glorified God for the way the experience had unfolded just as the heavenly messenger had predicted.
Luke 2:19-20 VOICE
My heart beats with Mary’s. She knew and understood part of what was going on but had no way to anticipate or comprehend precisely what it meant to be the mother of Messiah.
She pondered the shepherds’ visit and their story.
I’ve pondered too.
“Ponder” means “think about (something) carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion.” (Oxford Dictionary, online).
When Dominic was killed I dragged everything I thought I knew about God and how He worked in the world into the glaring light of child loss. I examined and turned it over. I compared my notions with Scripture and with my ongoing experience.
I was forced to make a decision.
I had to reach a conclusion: Was God who He said He was or was this all a made up, feel good story I told myself? Is the Bible true? Is Jesus real? Was His sacrifice sufficient and does it guarantee eternal life?
After long and careful thought I decided that my Heavenly Father was faithful, His character is trustworthy, every promise He made is “yes” and “amen” in Christ.
I imagine Mary had many moments when she wondered what God was doing in and through her. I suspect she had her doubts.
I think often of the ultimate pain and horror she endured at the crucifixion.
But she held on.
And the Lord called her blessed.
I am holding on to truth and hope with both hands.
Sometimes my faith wears thin.
But I know, know, know that my Father is trustworthy.
We really don’t know how much Mary understood about what was happening in and through her. Gabriel visited her, yes, but even his message wasn’t comprehensive. Have you ever thought about what or how much Mary knew? Does it give you courage to trust God as things unfold in your own life?
How has child loss impacted your faith?
The shepherds praised the Lord because everything the angel told them was accurate. Has your personal experience affirmed the truth of Scripture?
Can you find reasons to praise the Lord even here, even now?
You are the Almighty God, the King of the Universe, Creator and Sustainer of life. You know the end from the beginning. You are working all things for my ultimate good and for Your glory.
But it’s hard to walk along a path when I can’t see far ahead. Sometimes it’s a struggle to trust and not be afraid. I do ponder things in my heart. I want to make sense of what You are doing (at least what I think You are doing) and what I’m feeling.
Help me lean into your truth, to trust your heart even when I can’t trace your hand. I believe, help my unbelief!
Thank You for every evidence that points my heart in the right direction. Thank You for showing me more of yourself. Teach me to praise You for all You are and not only all You do.
I loved everything about it: the color scheme, the food (I love, love, love to cook-it was never a burden), family and friends gathered around the table, and the wonderful slowness of the day as it lingered into nightfall.
It was more flexible than Christmas for including all sorts of folks who otherwise didn’t have someplace to go. Living near colleges meant that we welcomed students from around the world-we might have two or three dozen laughing faces milling about.
It was wonderful.
And I loved going around the circle, tummies bursting, to share what people were thankful for and why.
I think we often interpret Old Testament Bible verses in terms of New Testament reality.
Sometimes that’s warranted because the verses foreshadow the fullness of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection.
But sometimes we miss out on the deeper meaning of what God was saying through His prophets.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the verse, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” quoted as a general blessing/admonition/encouragement at the beginning of a worship service or just the start of an ordinary day.
I don’t think that’s technically a misappropriation of the sentiment, but I do think it falls far short of what the Psalmist was trying to convey.
The Temple stood on a hill above Jerusalem and those last steps for the pilgrims who traveled faithfully three times a year to celebrate the appointed festivals were hard. Many had walked miles and miles and were just plain tired.
So they sang songs (Psalms) to encourage their hearts as they plodded forward.
If you have a Bible with notes you’ll see them marked as “Songs of Ascent” because that was exactly what they were.
In addition to the expense, time, effort and commitment it took to make it to the Temple, pilgrims were expected to offer a sacrifice. Some could bring their own and some had to purchase a lamb or ram or other sacrificial animal from those offered by vendors just outside the inner courts.
It could be easy to resent the cost of coming.
It would be absolutely understandable to get just a bit disgruntled making those last few steps to plunk down a sacrifice to a God they couldn’t see.
So the Psalmist says, “This is the DAY(the appointed feast, the reminder of covenant, the renewal of promise) the Lord (Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and you) has made (ordained, appointed, set aside). Let us rejoice (revel in the fact that He has chosen us of all people, that He is faithful, that we can come and worship) in it.”
God doesn’t need my lamb or goat or calf.
The feasts weren’t designed to jog His memory regarding my relationship with Him, they were designed to help ME remember that I am creature and He is Creator.
And I need that reminder most when things are hard, when I am tired and when I may have forgotten that worship is a privilege.
Some days are uphill all the way.
I’ve had a few of those lately.
And while this verse isn’t really about ordinary days, it helps my heart as much on those as it does on the special ones. ❤
Rocking babies I never dreamed that one day my life would look like this.
I never imagined that one of those tiny bodies I held close to my mama heart would not outlive me.
Now I sit in the same rocking chair in the dark, thinking about how so many things I wouldn’t have written into my story are now part of it.
And if I’m honest, it can easily overwhelm my heart. It can carry me to a place of despair and desperation where there’s no room for thanksgiving-not the holiday OR the feeling.
Here we are-the fifth year of holidays without Dominic-and I’m no better at it than I was at first.
Oh, I’ve figured out how to make my way through the day. I can lay out the plates, fill the pantry and put on a spread. I am not nearly as prone to tears as I once was-at least not while folks are watching.
But that easy flow of laughter and near chaos that once marked our gatherings has been replaced by a kind of mechanical plodding that moves from one moment to the next until the day has passed and I’ve survived once again.
I always expected our family to grow larger. I looked forward to the day we would no longer fit around the dining room table and we’d have to figure it out. Spouses and then grandchildren peopled my imagination with such clarity! While I never saw faces, I could hear the laughter and watch the motion of so. many. new. lives filling my home.
This year is especially strange.
Circumstances and work schedules and distance dictate that Thanksgiving will be spent with most of my family far away from my table.
So there won’t be just one empty chair today, there will be several.
And if I stare too long or focus too closely on what I don’t have, I can forget what I still possess.
It’s a temptation-always.
But temptation can be resisted. I am not doomed to follow that train of thought to the bottom of the pit of despair.
I refuse to let the darkness overwhelm the light.
I will be thankful for all the love this house has known, still knows and will know. I will be grateful that even though we are physically distant, we talk to one another, sharing laughter across the miles. I will cherish the moments I had with Dominic and rest in the knowledge that in eternity we will have so many more.
I can’t fill that chair-no one can fill that chair except my son-but I can fill my heart with good things.
I can choose thankfulness even when it’s hard.
Maybe that’s what Thanksgiving is really about-not an unending list of all the sweet things in life-but a short list of beauty extracted from the hard places.
Thanksgiving isn’t always bounty, sometimes it’s sacrifice.