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.
I love their bright aspect that brings a smile to my face no matter what mood I’m in or what trial I’m facing. Their happy, heavy heads declare that today is a day to shine!
Last week as I was walking, getting some *fresh* air in congested California I passed a house where some precious soul had planted a row of sunflowers and they were standing bravely, boldly behind the fence that declared, “This far and no further”.
Their heads were turned toward the eastern sky, soaking in the sun’s rays and reflecting back the light and life that sun brings to everything on earth.
There is no denying that sunflowers sing praise.
They sing praise to a new day when their heads rise to meet the sun.
They sing praise to provision when they follow the light as it moves across the sky.
They sing praise to rest when their heads droop as the sun sinks low in the western horizon.
They are a living testimony to our Creator.
I want to be like the sunflowers-compelled to turn my face to the Son.
I want to be a witness to the life He gives and sustains.
I want to reflect and represent Him boldly, bravely and big.
In some liturgical Christian traditions, today is the day the church remembers and honors Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive and rare perfume.
It was a beautiful act of great sacrifice as the perfume would ordinarily be a family treasure broken and used only at death for anointing a beloved body.
It’s also an expression of deep sorrow because somehow Mary knew.
So she poured out her precious gift on the One Who loves her most.
Tears are my sacrifice.
I am pouring them at the feet of Jesus, trusting He will receive them and bless them as He did those of Mary even if others don’t understand.
Christians sometimes have a funny idea about sorrow being unspiritual. We often expect grieving hearts to heal quickly without allowing for the many stages of the grief process. Pam writes, ‘Our Savior was ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53:3). I wonder if He came to one of our churches now like that, if someone wouldn’t try and cheer Him up and tell Him to ‘let it go and open himself to the joy of the Lord,’ then give him a book and tape series to that effect?’ “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great, but do not let me fall into the hands of men.” 2 Samuel 24:14
~ Jennifer Saake, Hannah’s Hope
Would I have chosen this broken path?
Will I embrace it as something God can use to make me more like Jesus?
I hope so-I’m certainly trying.
We are told our tears are so very precious to God that He keeps track of them in a bottle. I often wonder if when we get to Heaven, or when God remakes the earth into its beautiful and perfect form, the bottles will be opened and every tear counted and redeemed.
I do know that God has made many precious promises to those who love Him and suffer sorrow in this life.
Psalm 84 has always been a favorite and since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven it is doubly so. Verse six speaks hope to my heart:
“Passing through the Valley of Weeping (Baca), they make it a place of springs; The early rain also covers it with blessings.” AMP
This version is beautiful:
And how blessed all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel; They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks, discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain! God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and at the last turn—Zion! God in full view!
~ Psalm 84:5-7 MSG
No matter how difficult the passage, God promises to be with me on the journey and to bless my endurance with His very Self.
It’s hard to receive sorrow as a gift and even harder to lift it as a sacrifice of praise.
But when I do, I find God meets me there.
The pain doesn’t disappear, but He gives me strength to bear up under it.
And this great sorrow that weighs on my heart also opens my eyes. I am not the only one weeping.
Look at Jesus. He is always weeping, a man of sorrows. Do you know why? Because He is perfect. When you are not absorbed in yourself, you can feel the sadness of the world. ~Tim Keller