Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Meditations of a Pregnant Woman at Christmastime

I remember just sitting there staring into the mirror.

The year was 1988. It was Christmas time and I was nine months pregnant. I was also exhausted. Staring into mirror, I wondered how on earth was I supposed to do it all? It was hard enough to carry out my basic responsibilities without the added pressure that Christmas brings a mother of young children. So there I sat, staring at myself and complaining to God.

I groaned when I thought about how uncomfortable the forty-five minute car ride to church would be. And that's when it happened. Suddenly, sitting there, I began to think about Mary as she prepared to leave home and begin the long journey between Nazareth and Bethlehem.  A journey that could possibly take up to four days and be ninety miles long.

Nine months earlier Gabriel had come to her with the message that she would give birth to the Son of the Most High. But there were a lot of details that were not included. Like, for instance, at the time when Gabriel appeared to Mary she didn't know that the birth of the Son of God wasn't a public announcement. What she was told, however, was that she was not to be afraid because she had found favor with God.

Gabriel told Mary that God would give her son the throne of His father David and that He would reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom would have no end. However, there was no mention of the fact that, when the time came for Mary to give birth in David's hometown, the only place available would be a stable surrounded by animals.

Sitting there, staring into the mirror, my heart began to rejoice because I realized that the same promise that had been given to Mary so long ago had been given to me as well. I heard echoing in my heart and spirit the words of Gabriel, "Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you." There are so many details of my life that I don't know or understand, but when I meditate on this promise that the Lord is with me, my heart magnifies the Lord and my heart rejoices in God my Savior.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Beyond the Horizon

Look beyond the horizon where time and eternity meet. If you are in need of encouragement look there.

I have been preparing the classes that I will be teaching on Daniel this January. One of the ways I've been studying is to read and listen to the visions Daniel had until I can picture them in my mind. Then when I have trouble sleeping I review the visions that Daniel had when he was lying on his bed while I'm lying in my bed. I picture the four winds of the heaven stirring up the great sea. I watch the panorama of world kingdoms parade before me until One who is like a son of man comes with the clouds and approaches the Ancient of Days.

I find courage as I contemplate the now but not yet of the everlasting kingdom. Wrapped in the darkness of the night I let the promise bathe my mind that the kingdom, dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under all of heaven will be given to the people, the holy ones of the Most High God. I am aware of wars and rumors of war, yet my hope has found its anchor beyond the veil where the Prince of Peace reigns. "His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:14).

My studies take me beyond the seventh chapter in Daniel as I compare the visions there to the ones I find in Revelation 12 and 13. Again, reading and listening to these chapters until I can see them with my mind's eye, I am aware of the kingdom of God that is both present and yet future. I recognize both the victory that has been given but the battle that must still be fought as well. The battle against the ancient enemy who accuses the saints before the throne of God day and night is won by "the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony" (Revelation 12:11).

To look beyond the horizon to where time and eternity meet is to understand that, though the battle we fight is real, the victory has already been attained. Here we find endurance. Here we find what we hope for. And here we place our confidence in what we do not yet see.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

When Darkness Calls Grace Responds

"Hello darkness my old friend. I'm here to talk to you again." No! Darkness is not my friend, and, Simon and Garfunkel, get out out of my head with that song of yours. Every year it's the same; even though I am determined that seasonal affect disorder is fake, I find myself sucked into a vortex of despair.

Darkness is not my friend, it is my sparring partner. It's not like the noble art of fencing; no, it's more of a wrestling match. It involves clinch fighting, throws and take downs, joint-locks, with my opponent constantly finding and taking advantage of my weaknesses. Sometimes I just want to give up because I just don't want to fight anymore. I want to say, "I'm tired. You win. Close the curtains. Darkness, come on in." When I've used up all my hoarded resources, I have to find help outside myself.

Earlier this week I found myself bruised, with my joints out of their sockets from wrestling with depression. I felt like I was just about to be pinned to the mat. Because my enemy had been in such close proximity, he had been whispering gloom, despair and agony into my ears. When I cried out for help I heard the voice of kindness respond, "You don't have to fight this battle on your own. Lean on me."

I felt exhausted and exposed from my wrestling match, so I was grateful to find refuge in the truth that I was not alone. Leaning on a strength that was not my own, I began to find my heart bathed in light. As I filled my mind with the words of my Savior I found that His goodwill was sufficient for me. Because of my weakness I was able to experience His strength in a more perfect way.

As I drew near to this source of strength, I found that He had drawn nearer to me. Leaning towards this grace when I felt so in need of something other than myself, I experienced a spark of joy. There is a sense of rejoicing even in the suffering because, if I  didn't suffer with this depression every year, I would be able to be self-reliant. But I'm not. Instead, year after year I have had to patiently endure and lean towards grace. But something happens when you are in close proximity to the light. You are changed. So I choose to rejoice when year after year I face my weakness, because I don't face it alone. Because of my Savior, when I am weak I become strong--because He is with me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Seeing the Unseen

"You will only be able to do this if you close your eyes. You will need to visualize the muscles around your mouth working independently from the rest of your face." These were the directions I received from my physical therapist. After my brain surgery my face was paralyzed for several months. This trauma caused my facial nerves to rewire so that even after the paralysis was gone my face was permanently altered.

Because of the rewired nerves, the muscles around my mouth are connected to the muscles in my cheek and my eye and my neck. The therapist told me that I could retrain my brain to overcome this misfiring of the muscles. Looking in the mirror and trying to do the exercise she had given me seemed utterly hopeless, and I would have just given up if I had not talked to others whom she had helped. If I was ever to get better I had to close my eyes and believe that things could be different from what I saw in the mirror.

Recently I have been suffering from spiritual paralysis. This sometimes happens when I become overwhelmed by the suffering and hurt I feel and see around me. To overcome this paralysis of spirit and soul I have to fix my eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. I must look beyond the temporary and focus on what is unseen and eternal.

My physical therapy involves not only believing that healing can take place in my face, but also doing the exercises prescribed. In the same way, in order to overcome spiritual paralysis I have to act on what I believe. By faith I choose to rejoice in hope because I believe that God is at work. Focused not on what I see with my earthly eyes but what I perceive with my spiritual eyes, I rejoice in suffering knowing that the testing of my faith produces endurance. Endurance must do its complete work, so that in the end I may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

One of the reasons I was willing to even listen to the therapist was that first I had talked to someone else she had helped. In the same way my faith is strengthened when I read about the heroes of faith. Some were miraculous spared others were not, but what they all had in common was that their focus not on what is seen but unseen. Because I am surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses who chose to live by faith and not by sight I too choose to lay aside the doubts and not let what I see cause me to be discouraged. I choose instead to fix my eyes on Jesus.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Seeing the Unseen

"You will only be able to do this if you close your eyes. You will need to visualize the muscles around your mouth working independently from the rest of your face." These were the directions I received from my physical therapist. After my brain surgery my face was paralyzed for several months. This trauma caused my facial nerves to rewire so that even after the paralysis was gone my face was permanently altered.

Because of the rewired nerves, the muscles around my mouth are connected to the muscles in my cheek and my eye and my neck. The therapist told me that I could retrain my brain to overcome this misfiring of the muscles. Looking in the mirror and trying to do the exercise she had given me seemed utterly hopeless, and I would have just given up if I had not talked to others whom she had helped. If I was ever to get better I had to close my eyes and believe that things could be different from what I saw in the mirror.

Recently I have been suffering from spiritual paralysis. This sometimes happens when I become overwhelmed by the suffering and hurt I feel and see around me. To overcome this paralysis of spirit and soul I have to fix my eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. I must look beyond the temporary and focus on what is unseen and eternal.

My physical therapy involves not only believing that healing can take place in my face, but also doing the exercises prescribed. In the same way, in order to overcome spiritual paralysis I have to act on what I believe. By faith I choose to rejoice in hope because I believe that God is at work. Focused not on what I see with my earthly eyes but what I perceive with my spiritual eyes, I rejoice in suffering knowing that the testing of my faith produces endurance. Endurance must do its complete work, so that in the end I may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

One of the reasons I was willing to even listen to the therapist was that first I had talked to someone else she had helped. In the same way my faith is strengthened when I read about the heroes of faith. Some were miraculous spared others were not, but what they all had in common was that their focus not on what is seen but unseen. Because I am surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses who chose to live by faith and not by sight I too choose to lay aside the doubts and not let what I see cause me to be discouraged. I choose instead to fix my eyes on Jesus.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

When I'm On My Knees

When I'm on my knees before the King of heaven, all of life is translated according to His glory. The roar of angry voices is hushed by reverent silence. The clamor of those who want to dominate others ceases because of the presence of His Majesty. The truth can be clearly seen. The Most High God is ruler over the kingdom of men, and He alone places over it anyone He wants and He sets over it even the lowliest of men.

When I'm on my knees I recognize that the Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all. The inhabitants of earth, though puffed up with pride, are counted as nothing. The Lord of Hosts does what He wants with the army of heaven and with the inhabitants of the earth. There is no one who can hold back His hand or say to Him, "What have You done?" The King of heaven is able to humble those who walk in pride.

In His presence I hear the roar of crashing thunder, but when I'm on my knees the sound of thunder becomes the gentle voice of my heavenly father inviting me to call on Him, to come and pray to Him. With the invitation comes the promise that the Most High God will listen to me and that when I seek Him with all my heart I will not be disappointed. The King of heaven resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

On this side of eternity there is so much I cannot understand and often my eyesight is dimmed by tears. But when I humble myself and bow my knees and look at life through the lens of faith, I recognize that though the way is dark to me Light dwells with Him. When all of life is translated by His glory I can at last see He never makes a mistake.

When I was young I thought of God as though He was a secret ingredient that I could add to the recipe of my life to make it more pleasant. But now in awe I realize the truth: The same God who is sovereign over the kingdom of men is also sovereign over the details of my life. When I'm on my knees before the King of heaven I can at last see that He humbled Himself and became a man so that I could become a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Mystery

In a time of turmoil. I lift my eyes to the One enthroned in heaven. The curtains of heaven are pulled aside and I see Him, the Ancient of Days. He reveals the deep and hidden things; He alone knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him. He is seated on a throne of flaming fire. A river of fire flows out from His presence. Thousands upon thousands serve Him; ten thousands upon ten thousands stand before Him. In a time of turmoil I lift my eyes to the King of Heaven.

Humbled by His glory, my soul at last finds rest in the presence of the One to whom I give my sole allegiance. He is the God of gods, He is the Lord of kings, He is the revealer of mysteries. The secret things belong to the Lord and yet He in His kindness has chosen to reveal His mysteries in His word.

With the eyes of my flesh I see the instability of the times in which I live. There is great disturbance, confusion and uncertainty. Nature itself seems to be reflecting the disorder I see around me. But when I listen to the thundering voice of the Most High God, I realize the truth. His kingdom is the only eternal kingdom, and He alone has dominion from generation to generation. With Him there is wisdom and power. He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings.

The nations with prideful wrath seem to raise their fist to the One who sits enthroned in heaven. In rebellion they take their stand and cry out with one voice, "We are free from Your restraints! You have no power over us!" But the King of Heaven only laughs and ridicules them. He knows the truth. The Most High is ruler over the kingdom of men. He gives it to anyone He wants and sets over it the lowliest of men.

There is more to the mystery that has been revealed. As I open His book I see the vision given to Daniel. I too see One like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. I see Him approaching the Ancient of Days. He has been given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom; those of every people, nation, and language will serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.

I fall to my knees and add my voice of those who cry out, "Even so come now, Lord Jesus!"