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Light and Love Ahead

 

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To him who led his people through the desert, His love endures forever. Ps 136:16

When they had heard the king, they went their way, and behold the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. Matt 2:9

Christmas is a season of light and joy, when all Christendom celebrates Jesus’ birth. It’s a good reason to celebrate. After all, Jesus’ birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection are the means to our eternal salvation.

However, many struggle to find joy this season. Grief, loneliness, addictions, unemployment, heartache, family problems, illness and a host of other issues rob humanity of the joy of Jesus’ birth. These desert places are difficult and real. Maybe you walk such a desert path this Christmas season.

Consider Mary and Joseph’s difficult journey to Bethlehem. She was very pregnant, riding on a donkey and too poor for amenities that might have made the journey easier. How uncomfortable that ride must have been! They were exhausted, worried, fearful and miserable. Perhaps they wondered if they had made a mistake in venturing out of Nazareth. They must have doubted they were on the right path.

But they were exactly where they were supposed to be. The Old Testament clearly prophesied the Savior’s birth in Bethlehem. God’s mercy brought Mary and Joseph to the City of David for a reason. Their difficult place was for our benefit. Their desert had reason and a purpose. Though they struggled, they were triumphant in the end. God confirmed His word with angels, a magnificent star, wise men, a chorus of angels and adoring shepherds.

Your desert place is also part of God’s plan, and you will see the reward if you persevere. Listen to His voice. Pray for wisdom to navigate rocky paths. Trust Him to guide you along your difficult journey. While there is no pat answer or easy fix, remember there is light and love ahead. Look toward the manger where your Redeemer is born. Do you see the shining star? In spite of your suffering, there is light and love ahead. Don’t give up.

 

 

 

A Harmless Sun

Therefore you provided a flaming pillar of fire as a guide for your people’s unknown journey, and a harmless sun for their glorious wandering.

Wisdom 18:3 RSV-CE

 A friend describes a recent trip to China as “grueling.” Most travelers know what she means. Though traveling has its glorious moments, much is downright uncomfortable. Certainly being crammed with strangers on a crowded airplane is neither delightful nor exciting. Increased airport security means longer waits, more rules to follow and increased opportunities for tedium and dissatisfaction. Travelers, like my friend, grit their teeth and persevere, believing their destination worth the expense and hassle.

We are each on a spiritual journey.  Our paths meander and circle back to old problems and former nemesis. We get tied up in the rules and expectations of others.   Messy and uncomfortable situations blindside us. We stumble and fall, make mistakes and make amends. We learn most things the hard way. The passage above describes life as our glorious wandering.

Most days feel anything but glorious. But somehow on this unknown journey, we are guided by the flaming pillar of God’s presence. He changes our most fiery trial into a “harmless sun” that may feel hot and uncomfortable, but does not burn our skin. And by our daily cooperation, He leads us through all of life’s problems to our final destination.

Place Your Own Mask Before Helping Others

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Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Matthew 7:3

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:5

Yesterday on our Delta flight, the stewardess instructed us to place our own oxygen masks in an emergency before trying to assist others. Why? If we lose consciousness due to loss of oxygen, we will be of no good to anyone else.

Jesus says basically the same thing in the above passage. As humans, we are quick to notice the faults of others while remaining oblivious to our own. After a lifetime of trying to make others change, I realize that my efforts have been in vain. How much wiser to work on myself instead of trying to force change on others. Only then will I be strong enough to help someone else.

 

His Days are Like Grass

0914141414       Frost warnings this week threatened our garden and flowers.  It’s been a short summer and our tomatoes are still unripe.  While I worried about the tomatoes, I really grieved over our hydrangeas and morning glories.  They are my favorites, and have only been blooming about a month. I’m sure you’ll agree that they are gorgeous.

The Lord was merciful and spared us by a few degrees. Hopefully, we can enjoy them a few more weeks. It made me think of  the following passage.

As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field;  the wind blows over it and and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.  But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children. Psalm 103:14-17 NIV

0909141113a 0909141113a      It’s good to know that even if our lives are shorter than we’d desire, we can rest in the Lord’s everlasting love.  It is promised not only to us, but to our children and grandchildren.

He Does Not Thresh Forever

Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say.  When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually?  Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil?  When he has leveled the surface, does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin?  Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot, and spelt in its field?  His God instructs him and teaches him the right way.  Caraway is not threshed with a sledge, nor is a cartwheel rolled over cumin; caraway is beaten out with a rod, and cumin with a stick.  Grain must be ground to make bread; so one does not go on threshing it forever.  Though he drives the wheels of his threshing cart over it, his horses do not grind it.  All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.

 Isaiah 28:23-29

 Yikes!  Sometimes the load seems heavier than usual, and it’s easy to think God allows hardships without reason. I know I’m not alone.  The above passage tells how a farmer handles different crops.  Growing up on a farm, I remember how my father harvested the grains.  Each crop was handled differently.  The corn was picked, the grain threshed and the hay baled.  It seemed the grains were handled as uniquely as the products made from them.

In the same way God deals with the individual characteristics of his children.  He knows we are fragile, he knows we are wounded and broken.  In perfect wisdom, he deals with us as carefully as a farmer harvests the crops on his farm.  He does not thresh forever!  Though trials may come, we can rest in the knowledge that He will never allow us to go through more than necessary to yield the fruits of righteousness in our lives.  Oh, consider the depths of love he has for each of us.