Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Christmas Reflection

Tell the story simply and from the heart

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. Luke 2: 8-9

There was nothing great and glorious about Jesus’ birth, any more than the birth of any child. In truth he arrived following the pains of childbirth, in a lowly setting. With the exception of the three kings who came bearing gifts, everyone and everything around the baby Jesus was simple, natural and rustic. He came from humble beginnings, but he was not forever trapped in a stable. He grew in stature and wisdom and became someone who would forever change humankind, not with physical might, but with compassion, mercy, wisdom and truth.

His birth was attended by a host of angels, so perhaps it wasn’t so humble after all. He is the Son of God, and there is nothing humble about that. How he lived is a testament to divine light; how he died is a commentary on the cruelty of humanity; how he rose from the dead is God’s love for us made manifest.

Good news of great joy. The divine and the human, one child, one night one incredible story. Christmas lights are a reminder of His equally incredible love for all humankind revealed when a new light – born in a manger – came into the world. Bells are angel voices, tolling out the story. Carols are the music of human hearts raised in praise and thanksgiving. Christmas is for Christians, yes this is so, but the story is for everyone, no exceptions. God’s love is remarkable, unfathomable and not subject to human interpretation. Does God hold each of us accountable? I believe he does, but that is God’s job, not mine. Thank the God of all creation it isn’t my job to decide how or if others will accept the joyful news of Christ’s birth. My job is to light the lights, ring the bells and sing the songs that tell the story, Christ is born.

Because of God’s love we who accept his truth are among the chosen, and it matters not to God what faith label we carry. How awesome is that? God in his glory, fully realized in every sense of the word, powerful beyond imagining, greater than anything human minds can conceive, creator and author of all of life, in all of the cosmos, God has chosen to love you and me. I am struck speechless at the idea of it, knowing full well I haven’t deserved this love and have at times forgotten that it is there, holding me up, protecting me in the storms of life, taking it as my due. God’s love for me is singular. It is based on his infinite love for his creations, you and me. The thing is that although it is singular to me, it is also singular to every person upon whom his favor rests. His choice. His love. Amazing beyond words.

I say thank you, God, for the babe in a manager and thank you that he didn’t remain there, a symbol of something. Instead he grew to be a man, God in human form, who taught and encouraged, healed and redeemed, a single individual who changed the world forever. I often don’t understand what I read in the Bible, I trust its message and give thanks.

No, God did not send the Child into a rich family, and the first people to hear about the birth were not the elite and educated. The message got out and about through working shepherds and a working class man and woman who would care for the child, a housewife and a carpenter. From these unlikely foundations the message blew through the world creating quite a stir. It drove one ruler to the mass murder of children. It created a longing to learn more in the hearts and minds of kings. It stirred the hearts of a young couple just starting out in life, two people willing to live in faith that their young charge was someone special.

In this time of grief over the loss of so many little ones, we can pray their heart-breaking deaths will cause us to make dramatic changes in the mental health care system to prevent more tragedies in the future. The God of all will bring comfort to those who turn to him, including the family of the disturbed person who pulled the trigger again and again and again. Honoring the birth of one Child strengthens us to cope with the deaths of 20 beautiful children and the deaths of their protectors. The horror of Dec. 14 cannot be denied. Our hope and comfort lie not in the hands of a madman, but in the hands and heart of God.

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This is from the mid-December issue of Happenstance Literary. Get your subscription today for only $12 at http://www.vandermeerbooks.com/Subscribe.html. Through the end of December purchase a subscription for yourself and get one free for someone else. Go to this link http://www.vandermeerbooks.com/happenstance11-15-12rev.pdf to access a complimentary copy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas



Go and tell...

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. Luke 2: 8-9

Terror. Awe. Are they the same? I’ve read commentaries that say the shepherds were in awe when the angel appeared and that being terrified and being in awe are similar. I’m not sure I agree. Awe is reverence. Awe is worship. Awe is respect. Terror is something else entirely. If I had been out in the middle of a field with nothing but a bunch of sheep and a bright light popped out of nowhere, my initial reaction would likely be terror. As a shepherd my next reaction would be concern for the sheep in my care. Were the sheep frightened by the light? The bible doesn’t say, but my thought is they would be a bellwether for the shepherds. If sheep – notoriously skittish animals – didn’t run madly away, perhaps this light was something wondrous rather than something fearful. And then the shepherds got the word. An angel shared with these lowly men of the field that something wonderful was happening in Bethlehem. A heavenly host appeared praising God, bringing light into the darkness. The shepherds felt compelled to go to Bethlehem and see for themselves. Afterwards they shared the good news, a message we continue to celebrate. It is a story worth telling.

Your comments are welcome, and if this message touches you, please share. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Stress: Victim of Cirsumstances

2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and of a sound mind.

When stress is ruling (and ruining) your life, it’s time for a change. What kind of change? Therein lies the dilemma for most of us. We feel comfortable (Really? Yes, really) in the track we’re treading because it is something we know and with any kind of luck at all we can blame someone else for the anxiety that plagues us. “I’m stressed because…” You fill in the blank and for some there is more than one response. Those are excuses for being stuck. God has a better plan. He does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power. What we do with that gift is up to us.

Being a victim frequently is a consequence of being unwilling to change our circumstances. No matter the reasons for our stress and distress God has a way over around under or through our circumstances. Does He make life easy for us? No. Life makes life hard. Circumstances beat us up. People disappoint us. We have horrifying health issues. People we love die. We die. The question isn’t what is life doing to us, but what are we doing with each day, each hour, each moment during all that upheaval? God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power. And the assurance we have is that He is with us every step of the way, every day and in all ways.

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Sharon Vander Meer publishes Happenstance Literary, an online magazine featuring her work and the work of other writers. Click here to learn more and to subscribe. Please share this post with others by clicking on the buttons below

Love: Our Present Redeemer

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Love one another as God loves you is a first step in making relationships work. God does not control the affairs of man, although he could. He loves us enough to provide for our redemption, not because we earned or begged for it, but because his love knows no bounds. That means we are at liberty to be who we want to be. When that choice takes us down a wrong road, he doesn’t wrench us back, but he does wait for our return. When we do come back he welcomes us with open arms and a clean slate.

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Sharon Vander Meer publishes Happenstance Literary, an online magazine featuring her work and the work of other writers. Click here to learn more and to subscribe. Please share this post with others by clicking on the buttons below

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hope



On Eagle's Wings

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

One of my favorite faith songs is, “On Eagle’s Wings,” by Michael Joncas. The refrain sings of God’s power to protect and guide while giving encouragement.

And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of his hand.

On the days when life is at its most turbulent, God’s grace and mercy are present, his guidance is without fail, and his love raises us above the fray. We can soar on the breath of his love and move forward in the hope of each new day.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Trust



Rooted in God's Promise 

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Mark 9:23

FROM CLIPART.COM
Make no mistake. There is one way and only way to stay ahead of the curves life throws you. God. His blessings, mercy, compassion, strength, and love are the roots that keep us firmly planted in faith and trust. Life is not perfect for anyone. Our need for God is constant. In times of joy he is in the fabric of our lives enriching our happiness. When tough times come it is those roots that keep us from being knocked down and run over. God with us is an absolute; everything else is transient.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Faith



He is Faithful Without Fail


I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

God gives victory to the faithful, perhaps not in the way we want, but in the ways that are best for us. When we let anyone but God rule our lives we encounter doubt and fear. What about all those people who seem to have no faith but fly through life in a golden airliner? Our relationship with our Father has nothing to do with anyone else. It is personal. When we begin to compare ourselves with others we miss out on what is in store for us. We become entangled with the towering power of self-doubt and the quest for glory and worldly gain. God has more for us than can be measured by the human eye; what He has for us is measured in the heart and demonstrated by our actions. Fear and doubt are nothing in the face of God’s promise to be with us always.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Promise



Open Doors

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Psalm 46: 1-3

The faithful of God
are not promised forever happiness,
that isnt the way life works.
Life happens, devastating in its brutal reality.

God did not promise
a trouble-free existence.
We endure loses we do not think we can bear,
but we do.

God does promise to be present with us.
God gives us backbone,
Christ gives us comfort,
The Holy Spirit gives us understanding. 

 _____________________________


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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blessings

Count your blessings, name them one by one

Shout with joy to the Lord, O earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before Him, singing with joy. Psalm 100:1-2 (NLT)

Life is a day to day opportunity to rise and shine. My husband likes to quote my sister-in-law, who in her last days asked him as he was leaving after a visit if he was going to go out and look at that "...great big beautiful world." In her limited perspective, so close to the end of her life, she saw each new day as a gift. She saw the future in seconds not hours or days. She was happy for the smiles of her family and probably brokenhearted at the tears they tried not to shed. 

Get up and get moving. It isn't a negative thought, but our days are numbered. How we count them–in joy or sorrow, working or complaining, sharing our gifts or keeping them hidden–is up to us.

Get out there, look at that great big beautiful world and engage in life.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Trust: Our Unchangeable God


Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

When everything is falling apart
there is One and only One you can trust.
The world may tell you to trust in your job,
or your friends, or your own devices,
but no one but God can get you through a crisis,
or through joy. And yes, He does get you through joy
otherwise in the ecstasy of accomplishment
you may believe you did it on your own.

We are nothing and have nothing
that does not come from our heavenly Father.
Our faith is not based on empty promises
or worldly establishments built on human desire,
Our faith is in the unchangeable God
who loves us all the time, in joy and in sorrow.
today, yesterday and tomorrow.

 _______________________________

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