This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary came from his faithfulness to the law, but his wanting to do it quietly shows how he wanted to protect Mary too. By quietly divorcing Mary, not loudly exposing her to the judging public, he may have been intentionally protecting her from being stoned. I can imagine, between wanting to uphold the law and protect Mary, that he must have felt he was between a rock and a hard place. And there was only one option to make the best out of the situation.
But God had another plan, another option for Joseph, beyond the law, and beyond his own rational thinking.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
I tuck behind my ear a strand of blond hair that has escaped my ponytail. I wear no make-up and my feet are bare, my flip flops flipped off as soon as I relaxed in her garden chair.
It’s a warm spring day and although there are still marshmallow mounds of snow scattered in dry, wheat coloured grass, the day calls for flip flops.
It’s a big thing for us northerners, after months of knit socks and snug boots, to bear sun-deprived feet and then don a pair of flip flops.
A piece of heaven on earth.
But I digress.
It’s easy for me somehow, I reply to my friend. Her pink nails tap her coffee cup encased in her palms that cover a Starbucks logo. But then, I elaborate, it’s really not even that brave. It’s actually kind-of comfortable.
Her brown eyes widen.
Yes, bravery to me isn’t solo travel, airline flights to new places, navigating new roads in a rental car, exploring new streets on foot, and figuring out where the Air Bnb is that you booked on line.
Courageous? Maybe. But brave, no.
No, true bravery to me (and some may not agree), is when suddenly there is a call on you, a duty, maybe even unforeseen, with no preparation, and you step in. Bravery is when the call is so strong that saying no feels disobedient, and you say yes even though your life may be at stake.
Bravery is Mary, a young virgin, saying yes to the Lord.
Mary answered, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’ve said happen to me.” Luke 1:38
Bravery is Paul, a converted young man facing those who want to execute him for his past transgressions, on the call of the Lord to speak the good news of the gospel.
“So you know Greek, do you?” the colonel replied. “Aren’t you that Egyptian who not long ago raised a riot and led those four thousand assassins into the dessert”
“I am Jew,” replied Paul. “I am a man of Tarsus, a citizen of that not insignificant city. I ask you to let me speak to the people.” Acts 21:38-39
And BRAVERY is Jesus, the son following the will of His Father even though he knows the cross he will bear will lead to immeasurable suffering.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42
I slip my feet back into my flip flops, lean back in my chair, close my eyes and turn my face up to the spring sun. What I glorious day, I say.
I feel my friend’s hand on my arm, warm and soft. Just be careful, she says.
And I still think you are being brave, she comments.
My eyes closed, the sun warm on my face, my lips curl up in a slight smile.
I sure hope so. I do want to step into action when God calls me to something that I cannot say no to out of obedience.
When called, I want to be brave.
And be a bearer of His light in this world.
Psalm 56:3-4 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
Usually I just scroll by or hit the delete tab, but this time I didn’t. Maybe the picture of an international city on my bucket list to visit or the tag line appealing to my growth mindset were the draws. Regardless, I clicked on the embedded video link in this email from the advertiser that I’d still not yet ‘unsubscribed.’
You know you are loved, she says, this beautiful woman gowned in a dress that flows gracefully to the top of her knees, and wearing such high-heeled shoes that I wonder if she practices walking on stage prior to addressing the few hundred woman that attend her conferences.
The camera spans across the women at white-clothed tables, women eager to better themselves and their businesses, of different nationalities and faith.
Her bracelets dangle as she sweeps her arms up and around as if to embrace someone. You are absolutely loved and it is from knowing that love, that you can give your best to the world, she continues.
“This reminds me,” commented G, “of an 18th century painting where Jesus is knocking but there is no handle. Only the one inside can open it.”
“I wonder where that painting is now?” C questioned. But G was not sure.
We were gathered together, our group of four, to discuss what the Spirit showed us in the scripture passages we’d been led to read, to re-read and to reflect.
It is a cold Monday evening, the temperature just dipping below -20 Celsius and I resisted to take the 10 minute drive to my church to attend the first evening of Solemn Assembly.
The church auditorium is open every night this first week of the calendar year for a gathering of guided prayer and meditation. It’s a time to ‘take an extended pause….to turn to God in prayer’ the printed guide defines.
But I found myself resisting the invitation, this invite to be present in prayer.
What if, I think, He stays quiet, like I feel He has for these many months past?
So many unanswered prayers (at least in my perception) had me discouraged and my intellect mind challenged.
But I gathered up my bible and my favorite blue pens, and drove the snowy roads, grateful for the heated car seats. Yet, in a small act of defiance I see now, (I’ve shown up for you front and center God, now it’s time for you to show up for me!), I slipped into the second row from the back instead of my usual third row from the front position.
A few moments later, on the other end of the pew, G and B take a seat, B being the woman I wrote of here, whose welcoming act and invitation when I first ever attended this church, began the breaking down of my defensive barriers as a single attending a church.
When we move in our seats to be closer together, G, B, C (a lady who took a seat behind me) and I, B asks a question of me, a confirming question that is. And, I ponder, is this an answer to prayer?
And C and I, we learn, have a mutual friend from another church. And our smiles mirror, as we reflect on how lovely this lady friend of ours is, and oh! what a small world it is!
But is it?
Instead of a small world of random chance, could this time be divinely orchestrated by the One who always is there to prosper me, because I showed up?
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8
Maybe, just maybe, rather than waiting behind our gates of resistance, our gates of uncertainty, or our gates of discontentment, it is when we move, take a step in faith by taking a step of action, is when we open the door for Christ.
Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. James 2:21-22
The handleis on our side. Jesus is just waiting for us to open the door so He can come in.
Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty the Lord mighty in battle.
Is there an action of faith you are resisting to take? Are you waiting on Christ to make the move? Or maybe, just maybe, He’s waiting for you to lift open the gate….?
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered for awhile, will yourself himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:1
I started something new today. In a spiral notebook, using my new gel coloured pens, I created the following legend:
Gratitude Miracle Where I am atSuccess Quotes and Scriptures
With my pink gel pen in hand, I wrote today’s scripture verse which is also my verse for the year as it encompasses my word for 2017: RESTORATION
But do you notice the strike-through, the mistake I made when writing? Instead of himself, I originally wrote ‘yourself.’ In other words, I slipped (unconsciously) into restoration by my own efforts.
God sure does work in mysterious ways doesn’t He?
The other day, after opening up to a friend where I am at, questioning, she said, “It sure isn’t always easy during those times when God is silent.”
I stared silently back at her. Silent? I hadn’t even contemplated that God is being silent. I’ve been asking a lot of ‘why’ questions lately, and praying for something, anything to show He works here among us, while in this world of flesh. With my own intellect and reasoning, I want to know and see.
In today’s reading time:
Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3
“The childlike heart is vulnerable, teachable, joyful, creative and filled with wonder. There’s a difference between being childish and childlike. Childishness is a posture of stubborn challenge. Childlikeness is a perspective of hopeful curiosity. Every question you ever ask is one of challenge or curiosity. Let childlike wonder awaken you again as you let go of all offense at the past and fear of the future.”The Creative Way Meditations, Ted Dekker
Yes, I’d say His ways are mysterious but hopeful…
As this year of 2016 comes to a close and if, like me you are in this season where God seems so silent, my hope for you is that your childlike wonder is awakened and that you know God’s grace restores making you, as He has promised, “strong, firm and steadfast.”
Happy New Year, my friend. Thank you for sharing in my travels this past year, and for sharing your perspectives which has ministered and blessed me beyond words. I look forward to our continued awakenings and wonders expressed in 2017.
“And honestly, the loneliness of self-protecting barriers can feel like it will kill you–and the heart-breaking risk of intimacy and vulnerability can feel like it will kill you too.” Ann Voskamp from The Broken Way (2016)
“I wouldn’t even know,” he says, his eyes becoming half moons with his warm grin. “Truly. You’re all heart girl but I wouldn’t know how you feel.”
I pierce my lips, furrow my brow, wondering, his eyes now wide open with chestnut eyebrows lifted. He shifts in his cafe chair, waiting.
“Really?” I finally let out, let my breath release.
“Girl, just tell him. What do you have to loose?”
“What?!” I suck in air, hold it, a faint smell of vanilla and chocolate from our hot drinks dusting my senses. I let it out. “I can’t do that!”
“What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
“Well,” I start, my hands twisting my winter scarf on my lap, “it could mess up the friendship we already have.” I bite my lower lip, my eyes darting to the right and then back again, at my companion whose bronze eyes are once again partly disappeared in half moons.
He shakes his head slightly from side to side, then stills my busy hands with his. “Maybe but maybe not,” he says. “No matter the outcome, you’re still you–beautiful, fun you but more open and vulnerable to allow someone to know how you feel. You’ll take a chance, let down the self-protection walls you’ve been creating. And no matter what happens, at least the walls are coming down and I promise you, it won’t kill you!”
“I’m not sure I like this song. It’s kind of depressing, almost makes one feel less hopeful. I mean, ‘frail and torn’? Sounds like defeatism to me,” I said, turning to my boyfriend at the time, seeing one of his hands leave the steering wheel and move toward the volume dial of the stereo console. But my hand found his, our fingers entwining before he could increase the sound.
“I disagree,” he said, our interlaced hands now resting between us, his eyes still on the road ahead. “It’s all about hope, redemption. That it’s going to be okay.”
Hearing the lyrics ‘My soul feels crushed by the weight of this world‘ did not, though, evoke hopeful bliss within me! Rather it seemed, in my perception, to swell feelings of being too worn to go on.
Wouldn’t it be more valuable to not hear or speak those gloomy words, and instead only focus on the favorable?
Only think and speak the positive, so to speak? In other words, take control and fix whatever feelings weigh me down with a warm blanket made of feel good threads.
Threads of phrases and idioms: This too shall pass. Every cloud has a silver lining. Threads of manuals and instructions: Eat Better, Feel Better. Steps to Better Living.Threads of accomplishments: Diplomas. Degrees. Promotions. Goals Achieved. Threads of comfort consumerism: Pandora Charms. Specialty Chocolate. Coffee Lattes.
Threads of …. so many different threads that come from my spools branded Feel Better By Own Efforts.
These threads are of a variety of colours, strengths and lengths, weaving together a blanket that can be satisfactory and mending, thermal and sufficient.
This blanket tainted by spools of Feel Better By Own Efforts threads that break, entangle, and decompose leave only dust behind. What once comforted me for a moment, a season, is reduced, broken of it’s parts to crumble and decay.
And, if this blanket tainted with threads of Feel Better By Own Efforts has value for a time, yet limited, for it is frail and tears, and eventually passes on, what then can I eternally wrap myself in that does not decompose when weighed down by this world?
And the lyrics of Worn came into my thoughts.
And I know that you can give me rest So I cry out with all that I have left
Let me see redemption win Let me know the struggle ends That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn. Tenth Avenue North
It is only through the blanket weaved in threads of Everlasting Truth that give ever lasting comfort and rest.
Colossians 1:7: And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Psalm 147: 3: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Isaiah 40:31 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.
I do not cross roads with that old boyfriend of a few years back, yet if I did I may just let him know that when Worn plays through my car radio, I now reach out and turn up the volume.
1 Peter 1:3: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead