Are You Ready to Receive the Gift of Advent?

One day, the Gift of all gifts was carried into a public space.

Although the Gift could have come with a transcendence too glorious for human eyes,
It came instead in the arms of a young Jewish woman.

No one noticed,
For the Gift was small,
Unexpected.

Besides–
No one was looking for a Gift that day. . .

No one but Simeon.

We don’t know when Simeon’s vigil began or how he discerned that the wait was finally over,
But he was there, standing watch at the Jerusalem Temple.

His life had been lived in anticipation of an arrival, and
His leading was no less compelling than an angel appearance,
For the Spirit was upon him,
Communicating with him, and
Compelling him to take his post.

With roots planted in the thin soil between the Testaments,
Somehow Simeon grew to hear the voice of God.
Did it come with audible clarity?
Or was it more like a raised eyebrow,
A nod, or the lift of a chin to point in a certain direction?

Seeing the Child,
Simeon sang his dismissal from duty,
a new psalm from Jewish lips
with lyrics of hope that moved beyond
the great salvation of Mary’s song;
With a wider circle even than
Zacharias’s anthem of redemption and blessing.

Simeon’s cameo appearance trumpeted
Revelation to the Gentiles AND
Glory to Israel,
A Divine Fiat of both/and,
Intended to rebuke an either/or culture that had all but forgotten Old Testament prophecies of Light to the Gentiles.

“How silently, how silently the Wondrous Gift was given,”
for even now, the Gift of all gifts goes unseen and unheard.
We are out for flashing lights,
Our gifts are mired in the moment, and
The lyrics to our songs get it all wrong.

After all, a message with a sword running through it is hard on the ears.

Mission fulfilled, Simeon was dismissed from his post,
But his shadowy sword-words concerning those who would “speak against” the Babe in his arms came to pass, and the sword would, indeed, flash through Mary’s heart,
Leaving the human race still divided, but along a new fissure–
the line between darkness and light.

Unbelievably, my eyes, too, have seen God’s salvation
And Simeon’s words, spoken over a tiny Baby, have been fulfilled:

Jesus has revealed the true God and the true Way.

The question is, are we
(Am I?)
ready to welcome Christ as He really is?


Celebrating the Season of Advent with Joy,

Michele Morin

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Photo by DiEtte Henderson on Unsplash

 

Advertisements

A Day Like No Other Day

It was a day like any other day in the life-long ministry of Zacharias the priest.  With Elisabeth’s goodbye kiss still warm on his cheek, he went about his business, reporting for duty in his scheduled commitment to serve in the Temple.

It was a day like no other day when the honor of entering the most holy place fell to Zacharias, and his aging eyes found the burning incense eclipsed by angel light. Startling and strange, the heavenly messenger’s words hooked unbelief, earning Zacharias a nine-month sentence of mute pondering.  God’s four-hundred year silence was broken, leaving an elderly couple blinking and gasping at this new way of understanding the word impossible.

“Well stricken in years” is the delicate, traditional rendering, a state that would have made for a challenging pregnancy in any era — even if you are carrying the forerunner of the Messiah.  Like a spavined barn with tar paper siding, Elisabeth’s olden frame would have been covered with skin already stretched and sagging, but with joy she bore the bone-on-bone pain of an aging back and a heavy load.

Did she understand that her glorious passage from barren to fruitful was more a rending of history than a miracle of gynecology?

//

It was a December day like any other.  There was dog hair that needed to be vacuumed.  There were lessons that needed to be prepared.  There were emails unanswered and dishes unwashed.  By my calculation, Advent season includes the routine preparation of at least seventy-five meals on top of all the other holiday baking and decorating.

It was a December day like none before. Sitting at the dining room table with my Bible open to the pages between the Testaments– the ones that follow the scalding prophetic words and precede the red letters of grace–I imagined myself into the sandals of the faithful. Pausing in this liminal space, I wondered about waiting and the nature of a sinewy watchfulness that keeps on trusting in the fulfillment of a centuries-old promise in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

From the outside, I think it must look like everyday life:
–Elisabeth, hands resting upon implausible roundness as she tries to decipher Zechariah’s chalkboard scribbles;
–Mary, silently pondering a secret that would rock her teenage world and send the tongues of Nazareth wagging;
–Anna, keeping her open-ended vigil, not knowing that the waiting would soon be over and her eyes would see salvation in an infant’s small appearance.

Attending to the faithfulness of these women of Christmas puts parentheses around a moment, as I try to identify with the generations who lived their days in the in-between. Sure, God had promised that a Messiah would come, and those who knew the Scriptures seemed to have a lot of details about it. Even so, for those who held the promise close to their hearts, it must have seemed as if God had pressed history’s pause button, and they had been left standing in a freeze frame, waiting for deliverance.

Fast forward over two thousand years from the dawn of Anno Domini, and we’ve lost that connection between expectation and faith. High-speed internet and Amazon one-day shipping are relics of my forward-leaning Religion of Next. I wear my hurry like an ill-fitting cassock, proclaiming by my words and deeds the counterfeit gospel that God is in the slowest hurry I’ve ever seen. In a fast-forward life, anticipation fades like childhood memory and the long-forgotten sound of Christmas bells.

When Christmas becomes separated from Truth, it lands in my December like a burden–just one more thing in the multitude of things that need to be checked off my list. But, if I stay present to the wonder of Word made flesh, my blunted perception is sharpened just enough to hear God’s present-day proclamation in words that bypass angel lips and star song, but land in power on the believing heart:

Nothing shall be impossible.”
God is with us.”

Words spoken into that long ago in-between resonate for today’s waiting.
Simple Truth schools me in the authentic gospel of expectation in which the power and the presence of God bursts through all the shallow frippery and hoopla of a holiday run amuck.
Entering the holy place of the in-between, Truth feeds an advent of belief. For, like Elisabeth, I, too, live in hope for that which is yet unseen, my heart pregnant with anticipation of the Coming that is yet to come.

//

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

This post appeared first at SheLoves Magazine.

Image credit

Wait for the Spirit of Christmas

“Wait,” He said, and locked His gaze with eleven pairs of eyes brimming with question marks.

“Wait. I have been your constant companion for three years, walking long deserted roads, sharing our meager meals, sleeping under the stars. I have answered your questions and rebuked your faithlessness, and now it is time for me to return to the Father. But I tell you this: If you could choose and if you knew what I know, you would choose the Helper I am sending over my presence beside you. Don’t try to go forward on your own. Wait for the Gift.”

Imagining myself into the upper room, in the company of the Acts -One-Faithful, I wonder:  Could I have waited in faith for ten long days between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost? Is it possible that I would have persevered in the cloud of unknowing until the tongues of fire landed and the Wind swept in a new era of redemptive history?
Or . . .
Would I have waffled and sown doubt into the gathering, nervously rehearsing Jesus’ words, calling for conferences in which we’d put our heads together — wondering if we’d heard correctly, or if we had misunderstood His intentions.

“He said Jerusalem, right?”
“What was the word He used?”
“Baptized?”

The record shows they waited, and the promise was fulfilled. The power came down, but not merely as a force or a tingle of energy. Once again, God had sent a Person into time and space to accomplish His purposes and to reveal God-nature to the bumbling race of humanity.

Likewise, today, God the Holy Spirit is a Person Who comes to us, bringing power that holds us in the faith. When the Spirit comes rushing in at the beginning of our following lives, His mission is to initiate an ongoing love affair with God. Miraculously, we become little-Christs, and the Word becomes flesh once again, in our lives and in our deeds.  This is the Gift of Christ to those who “tarry” and are “endued with power from on high.”

A Celebration of Waiting Fulfilled

However, the sad truth that weaves its way through Christmas season 2017 is this:
We’re just fresh out of patience.
The idea of waiting for ten days for anyone or anything is unthinkable. We want to know the mind of God, discover our unique purpose in life, and celebrate Christmas wholeheartedly, dagnabbit, and we want to do it right now. In the impatience of our ceaseless striving, we forget that Christmas is a celebration of waiting fulfilled. It’s the vindication of Old Testament believers who spent long uncomfortable lives clinging to wispy words of prophecy and trusting in God’s good intentions toward them. It’s the season of Mary’s yes to a nine-month obedience and of open-ended journeys prompted by stars and visions.

When I forget the overshadowing Spirit and the power of the Most High, I have lost the Spirit of Christmas. The boundaries between who I am and Who God is become fuzzy and indistinct. It becomes easier and more tempting to arrogate to myself prerogatives that are not mine to exercise. The Christmas Spirit is reduced to a warm fuzzy feeling that can be duplicated by a serving of eggnog or an evening of gift wrapping by candlelight.

Living in “the Interim Time”

Make no mistake: when Jesus promised power from on high, it was a far-reaching offer that spanned the centuries. That’s good news, for we also live in a world of waiting. The only difference is that now Wi-Fi, CNN, the Hallmark channel, and our frantic pace distract us from our true situation, which A.W. Tozer describes as “the interim time”:

“We live between two mighty events — that of [Jesus’] incarnation, death, and resurrection, and that of His ultimate appearing and the glorification of those He died to save.  This is the interim time for the saints — but it is not a vacuum.  He has given us much to do, and He asks for our faithfulness.”

It is the Spirit of Christmas Who will bring about this faithfulness in His people. The same Spirit Who “hovered over the face of the waters,” also seeded life into Mary’s womb and empowered a motley crew of ragtag fishermen to turn the world upside down.   He will show up to guide present day followers as well, even in seasons when pursuing our calling feels as vague as following a star in the East. Our waiting is no more absent of activity and life than a drop of pond water.

Thank you, Spirit of God, for this season of hope in which we celebrate your exquisite timing.
Empower us to view our waiting and our wondering as an opportunity to receive your grace for that moment, to be “endued with power from on High” so that we may become fiercehearted women of Christmas like Anna and Elisabeth and Mary who waited in hope throughout their interim time. May we rejoice in anticipation as they did, knowing that patience is the bridge that joins time and eternity, and Your promised presence is a fresh offering every day.

Amen.

 //

Photo by Joanna Kosinska from Unsplash

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

A Story of Waiting

Twenty minutes on ice.
Twenty minutes on my feet.
Then back to the couch and the ice pack —  and that was how I made it through the early days of mothering.  Degenerative disc disease and pregnancy make for some painful and complicated logistics when they converge, but, oddly, it’s not the pain I remember most. What I remember most clearly is the frustration of being limited and the discipline of resting that was required for healing.  The real suffering seemed to be in the waiting.

Anyone with a chronic condition of any type is familiar with the rhythms of hope and despair that go with waiting.  Ann Swindell was diagnosed at the age of eleven with trichotillomania, defined by the American Journal of Psychiatry as a “poorly understood disorder characterized by repetitive hair pulling that leads to noticeable hair loss, distress, and social or functional impairment.”  It is inexplicable and incurable, and it remains part of Ann’s life as she writes Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want.

Ann lays her own story and struggle alongside the biblical account of the Bleeding Woman in Mark 5.  Remember the story?  After waiting — and bleeding, and consulting experts and spending all her net worth on cures that fell flat — for twelve years, this woman came to Jesus, depleted and out of options.  She was miraculously healed, and this is where her story and Ann’s diverge.  Nonetheless, Ann feels a special kinship with the Bleeding Woman simply because of the shared brokenness of waiting and of clinging to hope.

Waiting Is Part of the Groaning

Paul’s soaring words about hope and redemption in Romans 8 do not bypass the truth that all of creation deals with brokenness in some way — and, therefore, we wait.  And while we wait because of this general and widespread brokenness, it is also true that we are broken because we are waiting.  Underneath all the good that was happening in her growing up years and into young adulthood, Ann struggled with the shame and desperation that centered around a pair of hands that would not stop pulling out eyelashes and eyebrows — in spite of resolutions and wearing gloves and goggles and wrapping tape around her fingers.

There’s a misconception in the 21st century church that we can be “#strong” by ourselves, that all weakness is evil, and that healing is God’s will in every situation.  It’s a pretty insupportable position in light of Paul’s words in II Corinthians 12:9:

 “And [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

When Waiting Is All You Can Do

From experience, Ann offers principles that allow believers to experience the freedom of waiting well:

  1.  Lay down the false notion that you can fix yourself.  Waiting well requires a surrender of the illusion of control and self-sufficiency.
  2. Do not “create your identity around what you don’t have.”  Even though it is tempting to fixate on lack, whether it is infertility or singleness or a chronic condition, the believer’s true identity is tied up in Christ who names and claims and loves. Until Ann stopped thinking of herself as damaged goods, she could not share her burden and receive the compassion of others.
  3. Relinquish what God has withheld.  I was so happy to find Elisabeth Elliot’s wisdom shared in the pages of Still Waiting:  “. . . the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray:  Thy will be done.” (96)
  4. Allow a soft heart to protect you from bitterness.  Making the choice to be offended by God’s sovereign will “puts us in the judgment seat over God.” (105) Ann found that the understanding and kindness of others and the Truth she found in Scripture were key to accepting the will of God in assigning to her this particular trial, this particular chronic condition, this particular set of challenges and temptations to despair.
  5. Scorn shame.  As Jesus took the cross, he silenced shame once and for all.  By confiding in a few safe people and by embracing the strong truth of Romans 8:1, Ann began to live in light of God’s love and acceptance even in the midst of the daily struggle.

Standing with Those Who Wait

Whenever authors share a unique journey of living with and overcoming obstacles, readers come away with insights that make us more sensitive to the pain of others as well as helpful ways of responding.  One of the chief sources of pain in managing a chronic condition is loneliness.  That would have been particularly true of the Bleeding Woman in Scripture, but it is clear from her actions that, somehow, she had managed to keep a shred of hope alive that kept her thinking, “If I can just get close to Jesus . . .”  Encouragement to draw near to God will make it easier for those who are waiting to let Him worry about the outcome.  Our unconditional acceptance and friendship may be the very thing that makes the presence of God palpable to those who wait.

Those of us who live a following life are characterized by waiting.  Although healed spiritually, every believer waits in hope for the gift of full restoration.  We serve an “on time God” — not an “on demand God” and our waiting is best managed through a focused attention on the next step of obedience in the present.  As we come alongside those who are dealing with a painful and open-ended season of waiting, may we find grace to understand that our waiting cultivates longing for all that God has in store for us.  In the meantime,  it’s o.k. to keep on asking God for the healing our hearts long for — as we remind one another that God is trustworthy, even when the answer we receive is, “Wait.”

//

This book was provided by Tyndale Momentum, the nonfiction imprint of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

//

Along with reading Still Waiting, I enjoyed getting to know Ann through listening to a couple of podcasts in which she was interviewed by the host.  

On Living a Redeemed Life, Holly Barrett and Ann chatted about her background and writing career.  It was a delightful visit!

In Melanie Dale’s podcast, Lighten Up, the conversation centered around Ann’s struggles with trichotillomania and her advice for writers in developing a unique voice.

//

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Wisdom for Waiting: Ten Lessons from the Life of Joseph

It’s become a cliché, really.
“Wait on God.”
In the glib heart, it’s an all purpose non-answer.  It’s what we say when we don’t know what to say.

In Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing, Wayne Stiles opens the lens of Scripture to take in the Old Testament life of Joseph and de-formulizes that formulaic phraseBecause Joseph spent so much of his life waiting for God to do something, Wayne helps us to see that “we apply sovereignty by waiting on God,” and that every single fruit of the Spirit can be linked in some way to waiting.  He offers much practical wisdom in every chapter, but I plucked ten fruitful principles for my own heart to remember when I’m waiting for God to act:

  1. Mind the gaps!  What we don’t see in biblical narrative is the large gaps of time between the great moments.  Biblical lives were not non-stop action any more than ours are, and it is during these God-orchestrated gaps that we do our waiting . . . and wondering.  For better insight into Joseph’s life, be sure to follow Joseph’s story found in Genesis 37-50, and available with just a click at Biblegateway.com (#bgbg2).
  2. If you’ve spent a lifetime in a family that puts the “fun” in dysfunctional, it takes more than promises to keep from repeating their failures.  God is at work in this kind of challenging commitment to change.  He rescued Joseph from resorting to unhealthy patterns, and He will meet us in our waiting times to bring about changes that will move our hearts away from generational sin.  (Genesis 37:19,20)
  3. The hunger that gnaws at your heart during times of waiting will not be satisfied by a quick fix.  Don’t short-circuit God’s good plan by settling for Satan’s short-cut.  (Genesis 39:9)
  4. Judah, Joseph’s brother,  left home and used sex as a sedative for a disappointing life.  Joseph’s denial of Potiphar’s wife was a decision NOT to gratify himself, but, instead, to wait.  Like Joseph, we may have to wait (long and hard) for a glimpse of God’s reasoning behind His assignment of waiting,  (Genesis 39:20, 21).
  5. The pit of waiting is God’s stop-light where we build character for what lies ahead.  Deep rootedness is a higher priority than present-day productivity.  (Psalm 105:18,19)
  6. Obscure faithfulness in our daily walk with God is not a path to immediate maturity or success.  Joseph may have felt forgotten for two years, but he did not forget God.  While Joseph’s abilities were on the shelf, God was preparing him for later success.  (Luke 16:10)
  7. While we think of waiting as the problem, God intends the time of waiting to REVEAL the problem.  God used time to create space for forgiveness among the sons of Jacob and also to open their father Jacob’s own heart.  (Genesis 43:14)  Wayne Stiles challenges his readers to “consider the joy you would have if you surrendered the life you want and embraced the life God is waiting to give you.”
  8. God devotes three chapters to the twenty-four hour waiting period before Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers.  It was the climax of a twenty-two year wait for reconciliation.  In his father Jacob’s case, he did not even realize that he had been waiting — the blessing of seeing his son alive again was completely unexpected!  (Ephesians 3:20)
  9. Joseph was quick to give God credit for the plot-line of his life:
    “God will interpret your dream, Pharaoh.”
    “God meant your evil for good, brothers.”
    Recognizing God at work made it possible for Joseph to forgive whole-heartedly.  Reconciliation followed even after all the lost years.
  10. By the time Jacob passed away, the long view had proved him joyously wrong in his lament that “all things are against me!”   Hopelessness has no place in our lives, even in the midst of agony like Jacob experienced.  When his sons buried him, these Old Testament saints died “without receiving the promises.”  We, too, live with continual hope of promises that we have yet to see.

And so we wait.  The Christian life is one of obedience which requires an eternal perspective during the moments when it appears that God is inactive.  Joseph’s story is our story, but it is also true that his hope is our hope.  As we wait individually, in whatever tiny narrative is unfolding on the home front, we wait for the fulfillment of Jesus’ words:  “Surely, I am coming quickly.”
To this, we reply from our deepest heart:  “Amen.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”
And while we wait?  “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing, simply click on the title here, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

This book was provided by BakerBooks, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with these communities on a regular basis:   Looking Up,   Soli Deo Gloria Connections, Inspire Me Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Soul Survival, Testimony Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell His Story, Coffee for Your Heart, Live Free Thursdays, Faith-Filled Fridays, Grace and Truth, Fellowship Friday, Still Saturday, The Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness, Faith and Fellowship, Blessing Counters, Women with Intention, Sharing His Beauty, Monday Musings, Motivate and Rejuvenate Monday, Thought Provoking Thursday, Small Wonder, A Little R & R, Beloved Brews, SusanBMead, Faith Along the Way, Cozy Reading Spot, Reflect, Literacy Musing Mondays, Purposeful Faith, The Loft, Words with Winter, Rich Faith Rising, What to Read Wednesday