I will be a grandmother soon. I have a new object on my table next to my morning spot, a beautiful tiny box engraved with a grandmother and baby.
The giver of this gift understands the gift.
She’s one of many who have told me it is a joy I’ve not yet known.
On this Christmas Eve, I’m thinking about transitions, about changes that are coming with the coming year.
Yesterday and even the day before, I longed for time travel, I longed for Christmas with my children as children, the Christmases like before.
I think I miss the morning most, the mornings they’d wake up to Santa and then the excitement, the surprise, the silly and sweet expressions.
I’m in the 23rd chapter of Luke today, the one that describes the crucifixion.
My eyes are welling up, my nostrils sting with the thought, I believe in the death of Jesus, a man sent from God so that we could be with God. Thank you, God, I believe.
The same Jesus who as a newborn was laid in a wooden feeding trough, being without a safe and warm place to be born.
Mary cradled Him, awestruck over his existence, over how clearly it was God who caused him to be.
It’s not recorded; but, it must’ve been difficult not to intervene, not to come to her son’s defense when they brought him before Pilate and then before Herod who declared he’d done no wrong.
Yet, it was ultimately an angry mob who demanded him be dead.
“but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed.”
Luke 23:21-23 ESV
And Mary knew this was God’s plan for her son, still I wonder how she handled it all, had she hoped he’d be spared?
Could someone hear the mercy in his voice, the forgiveness offered in his final moments…could that be enough?
“And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.”
Luke 23:34 ESV
She heard Jesus comforting the mourners who followed him. She saw her son being laid on a cross and challenged to save himself from death.
She was not surprised when she saw her son think less of himself and more of another.
She heard him tell the criminal about redemption knew he’d be remembered in heaven.
She heard him tell the women his death had a purpose, a purpose even for them. If there is to be weeping, let it be for what is to come for you, what my death will accomplish for you, for your children.
Let your tears be tears of joy, save them for the elation, the blessing of what will be.
“And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’
Luke 23:27-29 ESV
On Christmas Eve, I’m thinking of the baby, the baby born to save and the babies for me that God made.
I’m pondering last minute little things, tokens that convey my undeniable love. I’m thinking of Mary and the truth we both know, children are a gift from God.
I am certain Jesus knew he was loved, loved and let grow and go.
Children are proof to me of miracles. There’s no way no one could ever convince me that’s not so.
“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.”
The blue of yesterday’s sky was phenomenal, like a breakthrough.
The moon at dusk already so full you believed you might touch it.
Clear and undeniable.
Last night I held up a tiny candle, listened and sang with a sanctuary of others.
We all were proclaiming “I Believe”!
And then we all left the service and went about our two days before Christmas ways.
I am prompted to pray this morning, leaning into Jesus, asking for more of Him to show in me, my request for continued transformation.
Progress not perfection
Optimistic, I am, for 2019.
Jesus foretold Peter’s denial. Peter denied he would.
The disciples were with Him as he prayed to His Father, not my will but thine. He rose from his prayer to find them all sleeping, told them get up, this is a critical time, you may be challenged to leave me, you might be tempted not to stay.
Jesus was arrested and they all watched him being led away. Peter, Luke recorded, stood back a distance away.
He sat with the ones who accosted Jesus.
“And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”
Luke 22:55-57 ESV
Others asked as he sat with them. I imagine, the plan to destroy this man the rulers were all afraid, afraid he might be more knowledgeable, more inspiring, more inviting, afraid he might topple their lofty positions, afraid that they were wrong, would be proven wrong.
Peter could have told them all, it is true, I have been with Him, I have seen.
I know Jesus. He knows me.
Jesus was more than they wanted to believe, the people all sitting around the fire in the home of the high priest.
Peter was aligned with them and he denied being a believer of Jesus.
And just as Jesus foretold, the rooster crowed.
“Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.””
Luke 22:33-34 ESV
Peter allowed logic and the desire to be one with the rulers and religious leaders cause him to sit the fence of doubt and assurance.
It can be hard to believe a happening from 2000 years ago. Believing is a choice and it’s an ever increasing assurance. It’s unexplainable.
It’s a real sense of connection and it is remembering your life before and knowing your life now is lighter, enlightened and significantly meaningful because you know you’ve mattered all along, that your life and its purpose was an intricate part of God’s plan.
Lean into Jesus at Christmas, it’s the perfect time to know Him more,
The 21st chapter of Luke opens with four verses about generosity, about giving more than you might think you should or can.
“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Luke 21:1-4 ESV
The remainder of the chapter is like a warning, a warning of how we should watch ourselves and not grow weary. Jesus told all who would listen about how we should live in the world without him until he returns.
“There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.” Jesus Luke 21:11 ESV
Verses like these often prompt sermons about our worldly life in light of eternity. Speakers and preachers ask us to look around, notice the events that could be warnings, ready ourselves for either eternity through our passing or His return.
Mysterious it is, another mystery of God’s plan in making us and earth; it’s up to us to know with all our hearts it doesn’t end here even if we can’t imagine how heaven will be.
Like the widow who gave her only coins without concern over how she might live, we are to believe in what we can’t be sure of, in what our human minds are too limited to comprehend.
We are too live with eternity in mind, both with anticipation and with self-examination.
Last night my grandson surprised me, called me over to the tree. He added two ornaments, pointed them out to me. The red and white candy canes are not at all consistent with my theme.
But, I’ll let them be, cause me to think about the red, the blood shed by Jesus for me, and the white representing salvation, peace, redemption. I’ll hum the old hymn, “Whiter than Snow”.
I want to live every moment mindful of your mercy Lord.
The rain is falling so lightly now. A minute ago, I opened the back door and there was a warm encircling wind.
Now, I’m so in love with this moment, this moment beside the Christmas tree, the rain coming down again like yesterday.
Different rain than the unceasing one of Thursday. This one, I welcome, I feel it is a cleansing rain.
The geese are flying over, my mama would say, “Here they come.”
Yes, mama I know, today is a new day.
I’m fixated on the silence now I am again serene, I am aware of God with me.
Yesterday’s morning post ended with me thinking of the name, Immanuel, a name of Jesus, “God with us”.
Last night, I told someone I just felt a “darkness” coming down. I had finally settled on what my “one more thing” gifts would be for my children. I abandoned the thought of the grandstanding gifts of excessive and chose the more simple, the needed, the essential.
I sometimes overcompensate. I worry they’re not quite completely sure of my love, or of me.
Shopping was interrupted by a crisis call, 911 had to be called and the response to the crisis and our connection to the one who disrupted our day in a violent demand went on into the night.
There was prayer, prayer alone and prayer with another and prayer coupled with setting boundaries of providing insight to the ER. That is my role.
That is all, I told another and told myself.
I’m not called to rescue, only to provide a way through which many times is to step away, not be the depended upon rescue.
I am satisfied. I’ve done all I can.
Now, I’m thinking of where God was in all of this occurring. Only after the fact am I realizing I should have slowed down, been less frantic and fearful and frustrated.
I wish I had simply paused and breathed deeply in, let my shallow air linger in my lungs and wait, wait, to let my soul override my mind and know without a doubt, He knows, He sees.
He is with us. He is in control.
Love is the life of faith; obedience the life of love. Yea, rather, Christ Himself is the life of the soul. Edward B. Pusey, Joy and Strength devotional
I’m nearing the chapters describing Jesus’ death. In this experience of reading through Luke, I am being reminded of the purpose of His birth, the intention of God in all His son did while he walked on earth.
In Chapter 20, Luke records the questioning of Jesus, the discussions and debates over His authority. They were worried their kingdoms might topple, that the ones they considered their rulers might lose their esteem or that they, the rulers themselves might lose their lofty positions.
“And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.”
Luke 20:26 ESV
They heard Jesus teach with parables and discerned His lesson as a criticism of them. They sent spies to pretend they believed and would follow, only to try and catch him or to convince themselves they were okay, had no need of Him, could stay aligned with Caesar.
Like today, they made complicated what God planned to be simplicity in our belief. Not all of them but some decided to accept, to stop their disbelief,even though they were not yet certain of what was to come, what would clearly justify their belief.
“Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him any question.”
When we believe God is with us, we’re less prone to question. When we return to the places we know we have found Him before, He will still be there.
An opened hand to heaven before my feet hit the floor, the warm wind before the rain begins, yes, He was there.
I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains And I believe, I’ll see You do it again You made a way, where there was no way And I believe, I’ll see You do it again. Elevation Music
Luke, Chapter 19 opens with the account of small man with a bad reputation. He perched up high in a sycamore tree, watching for Jesus to walk by.
He must have known that either he’d lose sight of him in the big crowd or that he wouldn’t be welcomed. He was a tax collector known for greed, was avoided and avoided others.
Or perhaps, none of this mattered to him at all, he had heard of a man who changed lives, brought redemption from wrong.
He was intrigued and maybe hopeful that he could see the man who would be a Savior, hoping Jesus was everything everyone had been proclaiming him to be.
Zacchaeus, like many others kept himself at a distance, not having any expectations or demanding to be seen.
The woman with the menstrual malformation, the man with the palsied hand, the ruler who wanted his servant to live, each of them came unassuming; but, willing to believe.
Jesus saw Zacchaeus and told him he’d like to go to his home. He invited himself there.
Zacchaeus, I imagine hurried down from the tree oblivious of the critical onlookers and he and Jesus went on their way, Jesus was going to his home today!
“And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”
Luke 19:2-5 ESV
I suppose it was a splendid house, Zacchaeus had accumulated wealth. But, he had a plan and he told Jesus, he was remorseful and he wanted to give it away.
“And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Luke 19:8-10 ESV
Jesus saw his sincerity, his commitment to live differently, to make a turn towards mercy, to begin new things, new life, to be born again.
It’s just that simple.
Everyone can have a story of when Jesus noticed our need, beckoned us to come with him, no need to hide any longer, he waits to welcome us in.
Father God, we thank you for your son born without a crib, we thank you that you receive us where we are, that you still receive “sinful men”. Tell me what to say today, thank you the gift of beginning again. Because of mercy, Amen
May Christmas bring us more clearly with you, Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
By now you might be asking, what about Advent, what about the Book of Luke?
This is where I say, God’s word and God simply blow me away.
In chronological order, I open my Bible and I see Jesus teaching about persistence through a parable about a woman who refused to give up, she is known as the “persistent widow”.
“And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’”
Luke 18:3 ESV
Jesus told a parable that included a lesson about a woman who knew she deserved justice, knew she deserved better.
Like the widow, we motivate and empower women to seek better, to justify themselves despite what led to their homelessness.
Sometimes, we ourselves are called to model traits like persistence.
All nonprofits do year-end appeals. We frame our requests for money around a story of one we served or a certain type of plea.
This year, I decided to be clear.
I asked the readers of our letter in paper or on their screen to consider how our work might resonate with them. How they may relate.
Our year-end Giving Appeal is called We Need You Now.
MHA Aiken County, nor any of our programs are “faith based”, except for the way I try to persist every day in bringing my faith to work with me.
Thank you for allowing me to talk about work, it seemed a waste to waste a true story of not losing hope to maybe peak your interest about the woman who persisted in the Book of Luke.
The woman like me, the person like you, to whom Jesus is saying:
Do not lose heart. Pray and do not lose heart.
If you’re looking to make Christmas even more joyful, more connected with Christ and others or if you’re just curious about this church with a cool and kind pastor and congregation who love people and love Jesus, visit Newspring in Aiken or just a church somewhere.
Many times Jesus spoke in a way that was so matter of fact, so very direct.
“The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said,
If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Luke 17:5-6 ESV
I imagine them expecting some wisdom more than his reply of it’s up to you to embrace this powerful source, this thing you are to hold as evidence of me in you.
This mystery of a strength that no one can see, only can be known.
Jesus reminds me today as I read Luke’s recording of His words.
You know when your faith is waning, you know how to again believe.
You know you only need to begin, begin like tiny seed no one else can see; yet, can be fully and faithfully sort of secretively known.
It’s a thing between you and He.
So cup your little imaginary seed in the palm of your hand, Lisa Anne and then plant it on the blank canvases, open spaces and empty pages waiting for you to go and grow.
Maybe moving, uprooting, or seeing unusual or unexpected shooting ups of new living and new life.
Begin with your little seed.
Begin again to grow, not to chase, only go in the way you feel the sway of His answer to your longing, your prayer.
Lord, tell me what to say. Tell me what to create.
Begin because you know you are able and that you were made me to be capable.
You know that we can, God, it’s just we are not consistently obedient.
We are not always willing.
Like the apostles asked you to do it, to increase their faith, we do the same.
We must be willing to believe and begin and then to see the evidence of gifts we doubted we’d ever see.
We must wait for it, anticipate your glory!
Luke opened Chapter 17 with a conversation about temptations toward sin. Jesus told the disciples that temptation is a sure thing. He told them to be careful that their lives didn’t lead others to sin.
Then He healed ten lepers and only one came back to give praise, to thank God for the healing.
In response to the question about when and how they would see God’s kingdom, Jesus cautioned them all in their trying to figure it out, told them to spend less effort on being informed of the mystery and more on being prepared for it.
For not all will see the Kingdom, only those who follow, leave behind their questions and simply continue on, those who don’t turn back to what they left behind, their lives before.
“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”
Luke 17:33 ESV
Choose to stay on your different way.
Be the one who holds tight to the faith like tiny seed.
Be the one who chooses moderation over selfish satiation. Be the one who turns back from yet again grace to honor the one who makes hope and healing.
Be the one who surrenders and believes God created you for more and that more starts often with the tiniest of seeds.
Be the one who knows it is okay to ask for help. To sit without words as the warmth of a tear puddles in your eye’s corner, to say, I am here again, God. I can’t find you nor can I find the words.
Change me from the inside, so that my outside is the one you know I was created to be.
Blank slates every morning, clean canvases waiting to bring you glory, Lord, let it be.
Let it be you through me.
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
The 16th chapter of Luke’s book is not so gentle a read. It ends with Jesus telling a rich man who refused God that there’d be no need in a miraculous sighting sent to warn his family of Hell. Jesus tells the regretful rich man, they didn’t believe in Moses, it’s likely they may never believe.
“He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”
Luke 16:31 ESV
I stood holding hands with family yesterday and prayed. I was asked by my cousin to pray.
It felt a little awkward, family can be that way; but, also a sweet answer because I’d actually thought about it, thought about it on the drive to the gathering, what would I pray if I were to bless the food, to pray?
I consider this God. I consider the way this all fell into place truly sweet, a God thing.
I thanked the Lord for the tradition of our get together, for the good things he’s brought us over the past year, the good things he has brought us to and through, and for the food.
As we released our hands, a circle so wide it covered four rooms, intersected by a kitchen and a hall, everyone was quiet and then our Georgia Christmas meal began.
This morning, I’m remembering intercessory prayer. I’m thinking with certainty how God hears our prayers and how I most likely won’t know how my words offered up a little awkwardly will impact my family members.
Somehow and somewhere, they will.
God hears us when we say them, He always hears our prayers.
The rich man lost his opportunity. He ignored the needs of a poor man who inherited heaven as he focused on his wealth.
“And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.”
Luke 16:20-23, 25 ESV
I sat last night making lists and making plans, most of them revolving around money and the assurance over the lack of enough of it.
I thought of how I love giving, love listening and then providing, how I more than anything love giving what is perceived as a “way too generous” surprise.
I’ll review my list today, I’ll squeeze in a shopping trip this week, wrap some new boxes and rearrange them under our tree.
I’m hoping my gifts to my family will be an evidence of my faith, of my peace, of my hope and my finally really believing in mercy and grace.
Talking less about it, acting it out more.
As I sit in my spot, I’m remembering my family, the love, laughter, good fortune and misfortune in the room.
Family can be tough. Everybody knows. All coming from the same people and place, all knowing all our stuff and still, loving one another, even if skeptical over the bumps in our roads and how still, we grow.
I’m thankful for them. I believe I told Him and them so.
Thank you, God, that we are all here.
This year, my hope, my purpose is that my family sees more clearly, that they see me being who I say that I am.
That they see, Jesus.
That they see “why I believe”.
“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
Chapter 15 is a collection of parables. One, well known and no more relatable than the others, just more often told.
Jesus told the tax collectors and the Pharisees, a captive but cynical audience, three stories about loving lost things, maybe hoping they’d all see themselves, realizing they may be caught in a similar story.
They were condescending and doubtful, remarking that he’s the one who welcomes sinners, has dinner with them.
Jesus had their attention. He told of a man who had a hundred sheep and lost one and how he refused to stop looking until that sheep was back in the fold. He told of a woman frantic over losing one coin of her ten, how she swept every corner of her home way into the night until she found it, found that lost coin.
He used both parables to compare God’s joy when one person, just one comes to Him, or decides it is time to come back to Him.
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Luke 15:7 ESV
He told about a brother, one of two, who squandered his share of the father’s riches. That father longed for his son’s return and when he returned, the father ran to him. He ran to him!
“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
Luke 15:20 ESV
Every morning, I return to my morning place. I wait for a moment sometimes or I might just sit. I find Him there quite often.
In the way a word from one book or an email will correlate, complement another.
I wait. I listen to His voice through His Spirit in me.
I sometimes find my eyes wet with tears, others I have to let sink in, the important true lessons for the progression of my faith.
I’m awakened and I’m humbled gently over changes I should make.
It’s a good space, my quiet spot.
I’m found here by Him.
Found and found again.
May you find Jesus this Christmas or may you return to one who’s looking for you, arms wide open saying, “Come back home.”