Maintain Your Desire, Your Delight and Your Defense.

What is it that you desire?

What is it that brings you delight?

What or who do you depend to be your defense when you are being threatened?

Go ahead, jot down your gut-reactions to these questions.  We’ll come back to them.


One August, when I was between the ages of 9-11, my mother introduced me to the Psalms.  I was outside playing and she was on the edge of the driveway sitting on a blue-painted metal rocker snapping beans.  Her bible was beside her and she beckoned me to pick it up and open to the Psalms.  “You can start reading yourself now and use Grandma’s old bible”.

From that day on I would read aloud in my bed every evening from the Psalms, much to the irritation of my older sister who wanted some quiet.  It was in this Hebrew poetic book that my love affair with words began and not just any words, living words and words I could personalize.

The Psalms may be the most read book of the Old Testament and are well loved for many reasons.  Their substance resonates with our lives and experiences.  They may be scenes of rejoicing, despair, confident hope, uncertainty, or solemn moments of profound musings.  The words become our expressions and as the psalmist’s words embody our feelings and sentiments, they also lead us to a better understanding of God and a deeper encounter with Him.

The Psalms come to us today, not in musical scores as many originated, but in the form of one book made up of smaller books (Pss. 1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-16, 107-150).  Psalm 1 acts as an introduction to the whole book.  In addition, the beginning and ending psalm of each of the five books are often considered key thematic transitions [taken from my copy of this wonderful companion that sits on my nightstand]. A

Among God’s gifts to us, the Psalms is one of the most desperately human yet breath-takingly divine ones, a more than necessary walking partner as we journey Home.

It was as a young reader of the Psalms, I found a certain resting place, a theme for my life and the deepest parts of my soul in Psalm 63.   The declariative and yearnful themes in Psalm 63 are all-encompasing. Indeed, some scholars have said that all of the Psalms could fit under just this one cry.  I don’t doubt it.

What is the setting of these words?  David is a fugitive of some kind.  Even though he is King (don’t expect God’s anointing on you to be without threats to your position), he is being forced to flee to the desert.  His own son, Absalom rebelled and tried to overthrow his father’s throne. According to 2 Samuel 15:23 David fled the city, crossed the brook Kidron, and went into the wilderness. This is probably the experience behind the psalm. Now listen:

1 You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
2 I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.

 I have seen you in the sanctuary

    and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
    they will go down to the depths of the earth.
10 They will be given over to the sword
    and become food for jackals.

11 But the king will rejoice in God;
    all who swear by God will glory in him,
    while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

GOD MY DESIRE (vs. 1-4)

David begins by acknowledging the covenant that exists between he and God. O God, you are my God!  It stands, our restored relationship with God. We will endure because He endures eternal. Our allegiance is to no other; He is our King and we are His loyal servants and friends.  Sometimes in the swirl of life, when it seems like we are going under, all we can do is make this cry and scramble up upon this rock.

David then speaks of desire, of an earnest pursuing of God with diligence and intensity.   Yes, desire is thirst, an unfulfilled longing.  Have you ever been thirsty, truly thirsty where water was the only thing your mind could focus on is finding water?

On one of our family trips, we ran out of water in our water bottles.  The kids had just eaten a salty snack against the advice of their parents.  We were miles from no where.  They thought they were going to die.   It was an hour later that we came upon a gas station. They all bolted out of the car as fast as they could and ran for the cold fridge in the station.  They gulped down the water before we even paid for it.  And when we resumed our trip, it was like they had never been thirsty and their desire moved to something else besides what their bodies needed to survive.

Ironically enough, Jesus in the New Testament blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (for the salvation of all) for they will be filled.  He will come to them like a gas station in the middle of nowhere.  There is a power in fainting for Him.  In knowing that even though we know and declare He is our God, He sometimes feels far away.

Desperation means we have need and without sensing our need, we cannot know God. Thirst is a gift.   It causes us to seek more.  And if we seek, we will keep finding there is always more. He satisfies our thirst with even more good thirst.

Of all the people I have met in my life, it is those who have gone through intense seasons of near-dying, fainting thirst for more of God who are people of strength and stability, wisdom and inner resources to meet every crisis.  That rock of God being their God is always under their feet.

A.W. Tozer wrote “Complacency is a deadly foe of spiritual growth.”

David remembered seeing and experiencing the presence of God in the past.  His power and His glory.  His being, not simply His beneficial acts.  His thirst, his desire and his experience caused him to sing out there alone in the desert as a fugitive from his own son, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you!  I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands.” 

What do you desire?   Have you asked God to make you thirsty?

GOD MY DELIGHT (vs. 5-8)

It is after the times of dead thirst when God comes near again and fills us.  It is feasting time.  We live in the tension between fainting and feasting.  Can you see that rhythm in your own life?

We are not poor and unblessed when we are in the fainting phase, we are being prepped to fully enjoy when the feast is set before us as our souls are made full and satisfied. In those gracious times of filling, we find a rest.  We find a peace and a fulfillment, an easy satisfaction in Christ.  We need these times just as we need the times of desperation.

Thanksgiving is a day that is precious to me.  I plan the menu weeks before, we set out my grandmother’s china and silver (brought all the way to Mexico), place a bouquet of flowers on our long table and candlesticks on the side.  The children make place cards and decorations to adorn the table and we invite friends over. The table is spread with good foods and the main event is feasting, remembering that one day we will all feast together at the marriage feast of the Lamb. Our small gathering is a foreshadowing of a day that is coming.  The day feels lifted out of the normal calendar and it brings a filling that enables us to go forward with a new thankfulness and joy.

How much our God wants to give us these times and how non-chalantly we don’t even discern He is wanting to fill us.

David said that he remembered and thought of God and His ability to fill and satisfy, even out there in the stony and cold wilderness through the watches of the night.  In David’s time, the night was divided up into three “watches”, each watch representing a period in which soldiers would be alert and on post.  These would last respectively from sunset to 10 P.M.; from 10 P.M. to 2 A.M.; and from 2 A.M. to sunrise. A person aware of all the watches would be having a sleepless night. It seemed David did, due to his situation, but he did not spend the time in fretful anxiety.  He remembered God. He purposefully chose to reflect and sing.  He announced that his help was God and he clung to Him.

Has God delighted you and satisfied you to the point that even when you cannot sleep, your thoughts turn to Him and all He has done to fill you, like a lovesick man turns to dreaming about the woman he can’t wait to marry?  Do you sing in the watches of the night?  Do you reflect on Him? God, let us not be so willy-nilly we never come to this point and live in this habit!

What delights you?  Have you asked God to fill you?

Oh how I believe that God is jealous for us, that He wants to be both our desire and our delight.  When this happens, a spirit of worship  is unleashed in our lives and in our churches in a way that causes us to lift our hands in joy!  There is deadness in our lives and in our corporate gatherings if there is not desire and delight for God.

GOD MY DEFENSE (vs. 9-11)

David has no qualms about calling on God’s justice and even rejoicing in His justice, even if that means the death of his pursuing enemies (which he views as enemies of God). He is not feeling sorry for evil here, nor excusing it–he is asking for their removal.  He knows his God-given position, he is secure in his relationship with God.

I appreciate his black-and-white matter of factness here.  It is as if he is saying:  God, You are my desire and You are my delight.  Those that distract me from enjoying Your presence while I am in the position You ordained for me, as I cling to You, will be done away with.  I will go on to rejoice in You, as will all those who pledge their allegiance to You, the one true King. 

There have been many times in my life that I have encountered circumstances comprised of difficult people or issues which have so distracted me that my desire and delight in God diminished considerably.  Can you relate?  Perhaps you find yourself in such a place in this moment. Our flesh and our enemy loves to use this strategy against us, true enough? Perhaps you need to take the discerning and no-nonsense approach of David and wage your war in the same manner, echoing the truths of David in these verses and getting back to your focus of desiring and delighting in God.  That is where the peace is found.

What or who do you depend on to be your defense when you are being threatened? Have you maintained your “position” with a determination that nothing disrupt your desire, your desire and your confidence in God? 

Psalm 63:

What do you desire?  

Have you asked God to make you thirsty?

What delights you? 

Have you asked God to fill you?

What or who do you depend to be your defense when you are being threatened? 

Have you maintained your “position” with a determination that nothing disrupt your desire, your delight and your confidence in God?

Our God, make us thirsty so we know what it is to faint for you, to be in need and finally to be filled.  Do this again and again in us so we are delivered from complacency.  And when You ordain Your callings in our lives, let nothing move us. Rather, may we sing in worship in the watches of the night.  Let us discern and identify the threats against us, Your beloved children, and may You be our defense even as our souls cling to You.  Be our desire.  Be our delight  Be our confidence.  Be our lives.  AMEN.

*notes from sermon on Psalm 63 I preached on 1.18.15 in Mexico 

A Scroll of Remembrance.

After the birth of our now 14-year old Larsen, I experienced several years of secondary infertility.  Losing our first babe and then the miracle of our oldest son, we wondered if perhaps we would have only one biological child.  I remember those years.  Lars would lay his little hands on my tummy and pray, with that breath-taking faith of a child, that a brother would come forth.  It got to be so the sight of a pregnant women would cause a pain in me that would start in my chest and radiate out to my fingertips.  I wanted to hold a baby of mine again; I wanted our family to grow.  My husband and I both had the feeling, when we sat at our tiny supper table, that someone was missing.

Every month became a let-down with our desire on the tip of our minds.  It is strange to feel a loss for something you have never had, but the grief was real.

I poured myself into nurturing Lars and to finishing my BA degree.  We believed (and still do) orphans are very near the heart of God, the idea of adopting out of US foster care appealing to us both.  We decided we wanted a Latino boy, not much younger than our son.  Through the mom of one of my husband’s music student’s at the time who worked for an agency, we began to fill out paperwork for our home study.  A little boy we saw online, through the foster care system in Texas, caught our hearts.  The two of us began to pray for Joseph every evening after we tucked in Larsen.  We prayed around the world for this little boy, into his past, his present and future as we laid hands on the computer screen.

One weekend, in the early spring, we visited Wheaton College, past Chicago where we had met back in 1995.  I gathered up information and spoke with professors about attending the next year and earning my masters.  We had it all figured out:  Lars and hopefully Joseph would attend a little school together, Ben would work for the college and I would take classes.  We had a plan!  Our family would move forward!

Ten years later, I chuckle.  Sometimes it is a good thing we cannot hear the chuckles of God.  I’d rather hear His patience and see Him in the circumstances He weaves together.

We came home from the weekend (our old car broke down twice on the road and we hobbled home to Michigan) and that week found out Benjamin had lost his job.  And our medical insurance.  Our home study was scheduled for the next week.

A few days later it was April Fool’s Day.  I went to a dollar store and bought five pregnancy tests.  Driving to the house that some friends had just purchased where Ben was helping with the trim work, I handed him the bag. He grinned, the ever-optimistic man now without a job.  I took them all and, as has been our custom for I cannot stand to look myself at such things, he did.  All five of them were positive.  I looked at them all lined up and did not know whether to laugh or cry.

We had made a plan.  Now, this was not a part of that plan.  I had relinquished pregnancy.  And it was April Fool’s Day of all days!  Now what?

We canceled our home study.  We prayed another month or so for Joseph, but now felt we were to pray  for his future, apart from us.  Prayers are never in vain and sometimes God has an unusual way of calling us into an intercessory assignment and just as quickly bringing us out.

That May I walked the isle in Chicago to receive my diploma.  A 4 1/2 year old boy raised his arms up in victory when he saw me look up at him in the balcony.  Six-week old Anders was nestled and growing, like a wonderful secret in my womb, as I walked with tears in my eyes (this had been a ten-year journey, but that is another story).   I remember having a vision of the long arms of the Lord, rolling up His sleeves and hearing the words, “Oh my child, I have just begun!”

Indeed.

The end of that summer found us riding our 1973 classic tandem bicycle we had purchased on our honeymoon (we had to sell it to move here to Mexico), pulling 5-year old Larsen in our bike trailer.  He held in his hand a sealed enveloped containing a card which the ultrasound technician had indicated if our baby was a boy or a girl.  We stopped at our favorite little Mexican restaurant and sat down to order.  None of us could wait much longer.

Ben opened the enveloped, read it and announced with pride, “Our baby is a boy!”.  Larsen instinctively stood up on his chair, held out his arms wide and exclaimed, “This is the best day of my life!” It was a celebration I have never forgotten.  Dear reader, that is how God feels about your life, about your birth.

I would hold a baby boy again.  My son would have a brother.  My husband would get to yell “C’mon boys” when it was time to go.

Larsen started school in the fall.  My baby went off to kindergarten while a new one continued to grow within me.  I had heard the Spirit instruct me, shortly after I graduated, to start writing a book.  So every morning while Larsen was in school, I drove to a little coffee shop and wrote.  It seemed crazy to write a book when I had no idea what I was doing, only that I was to obey.  So I prayed more than I wrote, listening in to the Father’s direction.

Most of my life I had not known what I am doing, only to listen, to trust and to obey.

We kept our baby’s name a secret, promising Larsen he would be the first one to learn his brother’s name.  And he was, though it took him weeks to remember it.  We had to pin it to his shirt so every time people at school would ask him, he could point to the note and smile.

Anders was due the week of Thanksgiving, the week of my father’s birthday, but he was a week late. We had some help putting up a wall upstairs to make him a little room and to pass the time of the waiting, I had painted bluish-colored fish around the top border of the wall and carefully folded and re-folded every tiny article of clothing that had been given to us.   I remember sitting quietly in that room, in that little house on the edge of the highway that Saturday morning, praying for our new son.  I had not felt him move in a few days.  I sensed the Spirit whispering, “It is time to go to the hospital, go now.”

Strange.  I was not in labor.  I called Ben who was working a job and told him what I believed I had heard from the Lord.  He came home and we drove immediately to the hospital, which was 45 minutes away.  As soon as I stepped through the doors, labor began.  An hour later and a snowstorm hit the area, so bad that no car could have safely driven the distance we had come.

Anders Ezekiel Blycker was born after midnight.  The lights were dimmed in the darkness and snow fell outside the window next to my bed like bits of white confetti celebrating something wonderful.  My amniotic fluid was quite low and the cord was wrapped around Anders’ neck three times.  His heart rate was irregular and falling, so they monitored it with three wires in his little head.  He will never grow hair in those spots.  Benjamin cut the cord and handed me our son.  I remember holding him up and we looked at each other eye to eye.

Love at first sight is more than possible.

When he was cleaned and we were left to ourselves, Benjamin took out his guitar and sat on the bed and quietly sang worship songs over us.  He then took out a small vial of oil, made a sign of the cross on Anders’ forehead and anointed him, telling him what his name means, “Courageous disciple of Christ, strengthened by God” and then bestowed on him his life verse:

As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. 

My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long—though I know not their measure.

 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.

Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.             -Psalm 71: 14-18 

The doctor that delivered him came in shortly after, she also a follower of Jesus.  “I came to pray over this little guy, may I?  I believe the Lord has a special calling on his life.”  I wish I could remember her words, for the blessing moved me and confirmed in me what I had felt I already knew about our son.

So, our Zeker, the only one of us born in the winter, in a snowstorm.  He moved to Florida when he was just one and to Mexico when he was seven; he does not have any memories of snow that falls from the sky and piles up in great cold mounds.  One of his longest and dearest hopes is that he can go back to the place of his birth, where his grandparents and aunt still live, in the winter to make snowballs, taste snow and go sledding.

He told me just today when we were studying the story of Joseph in school together, “Yes Mom, God does work all things for His glory and our good.  Could it be for His glory and my good that someday when I am still a boy I can go to Michigan in the winter, even maybe have a white Christmas?”

Yes, my son.  You just might have to wait a bit.

But it’s all for His glory and our good.

Anders turned nine years old last Thursday.  Meet my Master’s Degree:

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LIGHT.

God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us all from sin (When I live in the light I am aware of my own frailty and avail myself to His cleansing  power again and again. The light and the cleansing are what give me intimacy with God and with others).”   – 1 John 1:5-7

Stars

Light reveals reality. You can see me; I can see you.  Darkness however conceals.  Light enables us to see things that have been there all the time but that we could never see until the lights were finally turned on. Light brings things into focus. Things can be seen for what they are; mysteries we cannot understand will gradually become clearer.  God is the spirit of wisdom and revelation, the creator of true reality.  Everything else is an illusion.

Is there anything I need the light of God to reveal in my life? 

Light measures.  Surveyors use light to measure distances and angels.  Carpenters  measure a piece of wood against a ray of light.  Light is always straight; it provides a point of reference. We don’t set the standard of the light or of our walk; the nature of God does. Artists know that if you don’t train your eyes to see first the light source and what it is touching you can’t understand the dark or the grey areas.

Is there anything I need the light of God to set the standard for in my life, to give me a point of reference to go back to again and again?

Light energizes. This is the most dramatic quality of light!  It imparts life, it activates, it quickens! When the sun rose this morning, it summoned the world to action.  Light intensifies, fulfills, and glorifies the world out of darkness. This is what God does. He takes it and leads it on through the darkness into an ever-growing experience of life and vitality and productivity. Many all over the earth have lost this vision, and for them life has become dead and dull and meaningless, filled with increasing despair and boredom settling for less than what they were created for.

Is there anything I need the light of God to activate to life in me?  

Our One True King.

If God is the Creator, the Saviour and the Judge what does that mean to you as an intentional and missional woman, wife and mother? As I have been diving into the attributes of who God is, this question comes to me from every angle. Who God is matters.  Every other post  over the course of the next 22, I will be looking at a certain aspect of who God and how knowing Him impacts our daily lives. The following serves as an introduction: 

“Tell me about our One True King Mama,” my freshly bathed and pajama-clad boy asked me last week while I covered him with a blanket the color of grass. I flipped off his light and scooted in next to him to lay awhile and talk of all the things that run through the minds of little boys when they are finally still and quiet enough to let them out. Any mother, any father loves the moments when little souls open up and they’re invited to enter, for a bit,  such sacred space.  I would be foolish to walk away in moments like these.

“Anders, I would need to write you a book about our One True King, for he is too extraordinary for some small sentences.  Even still, all the books in the world would not be enough to hold all He is and all He has done across all time.”

 “Yes, that must be true if he is our God Mama. But try to tell me just a little bit about our One True King and I’ll close my eyes and imagine it all like it is true.  Because it is. ”

 We have been talking often with our boys lately about the Kingdom of God, this movement of the reign and rule of God across the earth. We have told them how we live in an unseen and expanding Kingdom.  “In a Kingdom there is a King, there are citizens and there are governing principles.  All of this is because who the King is, what He is like and how he grows in us more of Him, dispelling the evil darkness that threatens to undo the Kingdom busting out of us.”  

So I began to tell him and indeed before I could even really get going, he was snoring like a little bear cub. I slipped out of his room and into mine, still enthralled by his question.

It is in the evening after we get our children into bed, that I often find myself uncovering greater depths about this One True King.  I discover—as many have before me, the distinctiveness of the God of the Bible—a God who is wholly unlike any other. Hindus, bearing the heavy weight of karma, believe in thirty thousand gods, Buddhist, whose basic doctrine is salvation by personal efforts, believe there is no deity. New age followers believe God is present within everyone’s most authentic self. Muslims believe in a powerful but detached god. Many, espousing religious tolerance, believe that essentially people of all faith—Christians, Muslims, animists, everyone—know the same God.

 But Our One True King is set apart. And he is always after our other gods.

 He is a God who is personally reaching out to my heart, to your heart, to the hearts of our children. Tell me, what more could we long for? How could we?  What other god is any other religion blatantly desires an intimate relationship with you and equally so with your children? 

 The more we focus on trying to change ourselves, our families, our churches, our organizations, our communities or our governments the more frustrated and defeated we become.  But the more we focus on who God really is, the more we are changed. 

Our One True King longs for relationship, not simply mere belief.   Relationships usually stop growing when we conclude we have figured the other person out. Have we assumed we have God pegged or do we have no idea where to begin? Intimacy is a growth process.  We are invited to daily increase our intimacy with our One True King. Astounding! 

Dr. Christopher Baders of Baylor University said this after conducting a nation-wide study on the religious beliefs in America: “You’ll learn more about people’s moral and political behavior if you know their image of God than almost any other measure.”  And famous Russian author Fydor Dostoavsky said, “If there in no God, than everything is permitted.” 

J.R. Stott in his timeless classic “Knowing God” talks about three types of knowledge: factual, experimental and personal. To intimately know someone, we must cover all three in a consistent fashion. He suggests we periodically do a “vision” test of how we are doing at seeing God as He really is.  Those who know God have four qualities that swell over time:  Those who are in the process of knowing God have great energy for Him, great thoughts of Him, show great boldness for Him and have great contentment in Him.

Our One True King. 

All-powerful, ever-present, all-knowing, loving, merciful, faithful, unchanging, holy, truthful, righteous and just.

Close your eyes and imagine all of this about our One True King is really true. Because it is.

 

Image Credit: Campus Crusade 

Therefore, We Will Not Fear.

Fear is something common to every man. Still, we shame ourselves for our fears as exposure of them reveals some of our deepest inadequacies and leaves us feeling naked, grasping for our fig leaves yet again.  We are certain that we should know better than to be afraid.  After all, we  grew up to know the monsters in our closets were never there. Or perhaps they are, just having now changed  faces and shapes.  There are strands in each of our souls that are still afraid, yet we stuff that fear down so deeply and so consistently that often we have lost the ability to name it.

I want to give you a chance here in these moments as you read to voice your fears.  But, I don’t want to leave it at that; there is no value in calling something by name and then walking away.  Adam was called to name things in order that he could exercise God-empowered dominion over them, thus being a good steward.  We need to name because we need to recognize who has authority over our flesh, gradually living in the reality that we are not to be held in captivity to our fears.

Before we name our fears, I want to undo any heart or head knowledge we have that believes they are necessary.  Watch television for any amount of time or pick up a newspaper and we are coaxed into the thought-pattern that living in fear (and crisis)  whether it be large or small is “true reality” and “much-needed”. The talk never lets up nor the beliefs that drive them. I am referring to the dread, the what ifs,  the what next, the anxieties in extreme—those nagging senses that cause us to loose sleep or live a life motivation by trying to avoid undesirable circumstances.

In Job 3: 25-26 we see Job has slipped into this when he says “What I have feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.  I have no peace, no quietness, no rest, but only turmoil.” Job lost what is always lost when fear wins: peace.  And peace is not something we can create in our own souls.  It is not packaged with great intellect, talent or sensitivity—it is simply provided by Christ.

This peace comes only as a result of being gripped by the true reality of our source of hope.  Daily we’re assaulted to abandon this,yet God remains.  Psalm 46: 1-3 outlines this.   Look at the “therefore” in vs. 2.

If everything you know is removed (the earth, the mountains etc.) it does not matter because God, our source is consistent.  He is for us!  In verses 1, 7 and 11  the literal rendering in Hebrew is “for us”.  For us!  What is he “for us”?

  1. A refuge: He is a defensive place of protection.  We can run into him and shut the door, sit back and say “ahhh”  and be safe at home.
  2. A strength: This means provision from within, power to endure.  Grace is in the today and it will be there tomorrow.  Moment by moment he’ll be our strength. The now is critical.
  3. A very present help: Once again, present. He is readily available.  He reveals himself where we are at, as we are, with his supernatural presence.

Remember, David is writing here to a Jewish audience.  The Psalms were the songs they sang.  Imagine them singing this! Vs. 4 and 5 would have been very meaningful to them because all ancient cultures gathered around large bodies of water.  Without water, existence was very difficult.  Yet here, David is saying that Jerusalem, which was not located by a large body of water, could indeed thrive if they remembered and allowed themselves to be dependent on God.  He is that river to them and to us.  And in his city—indeed, his kingdom here on earth that is alive and well within each one of us who profess Christ! All of his resources and his presence supplies unlimited protection, provision, security and deliverance even in the midst of the most severe trouble.

Many of us are familiar with the story of Martin Luther.  At the Diet of Worms, Luther was given the choice as to whether he would stand on scripture alone or scripture and tradition. Before he voiced his choice, he meditated on Psalm 46, and then he chose solo scriptura.  Thus, he was sentenced to die.  While on the way to the place where his death sentence would be carried out, he was rescued by some friends. They took him to a remote castle where he hid out here for quiet some time.  While in this fortress he mediated again on Psalm 46 and out of this he wrote the great hymn “A Mighty Fortress in our God.” “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.  Our strength is He amid the flood…” He went on to translate the New Testament into the language of the common man, and the Word went out with power.

He dared to believe that God was for him, therefore he did not fear. He is for us, therefore we will not fear, though…what is your “though”?  “Though what” in your life gives away, though what falls apart, though what roars and quakes?

Let me close with Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Jesus, we chose again to receive your peace as we allow You to name our fears and exercise your dominion over them, proving again that You are our protection and our provision, your supernatural presence in our lives giving us hope.  Enable us to confess our sins to one another in fullness—our anxieties and worries that point to areas where we have difficulty trusting You—that we might healed.  Liberate us again from all that entangles us so we may run unhindered, believing You are who You say You are.

AMEN.

*These are notes from a message I recently gave here at the the Center for Global Outreach.  They came out of time meditation on Psalm 46 and naming my own fears.

Is Unity Essential?

u·ni·ty 
Something whole or complete formed by combining or joining separate things or entities.   “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” –1 Corinthians 1:10.
 
Why does unity matter?  What does it bring about?  Why was Jesus so passionate about it? How does understanding unity shift my thinking about the ambiance I want to create in my home, my extended community, my work? Do I need to be intentional about being committed to this great a harmony when it seems to take such deliberate time and energy?  Is unity an essential component of what it means to be a woman immersed in the pursuit of God? Yes! 
  
Unity reflects the very nature of God (John 10:30). There never was and never will be any division within the Godhead. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit always walk in unity. When sin came unity was lost between God and man.  Follow the bread crumbs of division and most likely sin of some sort will be at the end.  Division is not the same as a different preference neither is tolerance true unity. Division is not to be ignored.  When it is, the trench will become larger and deeper.  Harmony is God’s original intention lived out! I dare say it cannot be reached without clear communication or it is artificial.  This begs us to look closely at our marriages and at our relationships with our children.

 

Unity is Jesus’ answered prayer ( John 17:11, 20-21). I want to be a part of this and if we catch Jesus’ heart here then there is not much, if anything, that we’ll let get in the way.  But I do and you do almost daily.  This realization is enough to bring me to confession and repentance.  It also reminds me of how much Jesus knew we would need each other (Ecc 4:9-12), for without unity there are no established relationships.  Whole relationships defeat the work of the enemy.

Unity is God’s will ( Eph 4:3, 1 Cor 1:10). There is nothing to wonder about here.  According to God it’s a black and white issue.  God already established it through his spirit and now we get to tend to it.  I am not very good at maintaining things; in fact I despise those routines.  My husband adores them and as I watch him daily in this mode I cannot help but be reminded that daily I must check that I am staying the course and walking in humility and not with a sense of individualistic carelessness. 

Unity is all about reconciliation, which is the gospel (2 Cor 5:15-21).  We have entered into the process of setting all things right, unleashing and displaying the power of the gospel.  Whoa to us if we reign this in through keeping quiet when we ought to speak or standing back when we ought to stand up! We’ve been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation, entrusted not to bury it but to use it.  How beautiful it is when we come back to each other! How our Father’s heart must swell up with joy! True reconciliation means we are not gathering around giftedness or personality,  style or sameness, ease or comfort,  but Christ and Christ alone.

 Only with unity can we function as the true body of Christ ( 1 Cor 12:12-26).  Diversity causes any body to be effective.  Our differences within our unity make us more valuable to the rest of the body, not less valuable.  The moment we start contemplating whether an ear or finger or valve or liver are truly valuable is the moment unity starts to slip away (1 Cor 12:14; 1 Cor. 12:20).   I watch my boys do this all the time and I have to remind them that we are all needed and we all have need for each other. How much our children need to know they do not grow into their part in our families, but their part is needed and wanted now!

Jesus is worthy of our unity ( Eph 5:25-27, Rev 19:7).  Jesus died to have the dividing wall be removed (Eph 2:14-17).  Shouldn’t we live like it is true? Blast us if we profess it but don’t live it!  Revelation 19:7 says that the bride (us, his beloved people) has made herself ready. Isn’t part of the readying process  to be taking place now? Jesus is worthy for us to spend our efforts on submitting to this process.

Blessing is promised for those dedicated to unity (Ps 133).  I repeat this scripture to my boys all the time and plan on painting it on a long piece of wood to hang in their room: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”  Unity produces anointing, the very presence and activity of the Spirit of God!   Unity produces provision and unity is to flow from the top down.  When I read this verse I see the responsibility that leaders (we as women) catch the flow and to not hinder the  downward flow of this unity.

Unity is essential for our maturity (1 Cor 3:1-4, Col 2:1-3). Our level of maturity is matched with our level of unity. There is “solid food” that will help us grow up in Christ, that is available to those who walk in unity.  We are to be “united in love” so that “they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.”  If we are going to know more of Jesus then we will need to know more of one another. Our own maturity and chance to know more of Christ  is tied to our choice to walk in unity (thanks to Dennis Fuqua for insights on this in his writings) I think that is why I like to listen to others so often–they hold something about God I do not and I want to catch their revelation and make it my own, therefore becoming truly wealthy.

Unity has everything to do with others knowing Christ (John 17:22-24)! When we walk in unity, Jesus says that the world will know that he was sent by the Father and that he has great love for them.  It lets others know that the love of God just might be possible if we can actually show it in our homes and communities. 

A house divided against itself cannot stand.  May we live truly united!

 

For All the Mothers: An Excerpt.

This is an excerpt from the epilogue of my book, shared in honor of the women whose lives have been transformed through the practice of motherhood.  May this gift of words enlarge the  beautiful vision of your most holy endeavor. 

Happy Mother’s Day.  ~Angela 

Several years ago, Ben and I attended a wedding reception. In a gorgeous glass atrium flooded with light and flowers, the black-tuxedoed groom rose from his seat, waiting for his mother.  She walked down the candlelit isle in the midst of the sound of clanking glasses and soft murmurs.  The room grew silent as the son waited and the mother walked to meet him. 

I wondered if she was thinking of that moment when she first felt the movement of his life within her, first saw his face, or of the wee mornings when he pattered into her room to snuggle with her.  Perhaps she remembered all those rocks she had to take out of his pockets before doing the laundry, the first time he read aloud to her, or her delight when he discovered his interests and abilities.  Maybe it was the years their relationship was tested through the fires of adolescence or when she noticed that he now had eyes for another woman.  Was she remembering herself on her long prayer walks for him and times of listening to the Spirit about how to best partner with God in his growth?  When did she know that because of his life her was so much richer?

God’s gift to her of a son was not just of having a child, but also of having more of Christ.  Now, he stood as not only her son, but also her brother.  She was probably not the same mother that she was all those years ago for she was a woman who had grown while he grew; and they both had been going from glory to glory.  Those moments together on the dance floor as woman and mother, man and son, were more than mere sentiment.  And the dance was to stand for more than a sweet photograph.  They were a symbol of the movement of all the beliefs, all the practices, all the intentions that God has created for all of our spiritual and eternal transformations.  The son led her out to the wooden dance floor, and they moved under the flickering silver ball to the crooning of “What a Wonderful World.”

I thought of my own two sons and all the times we have spun around together through the kitchen and into the living room.  Their hands in mind, their legs wrapped around my hips, twirling, laughing and singing together.  I thought of you, you women of the nations whom God is so passionate toward in his obsessive love. 

You who have chosen to run into Water, all the truth about God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit will be your three-pronged crown.  The enduring exquisite church, the esteeming love of Jesus, the reality of the unseen battle, the source of your significance–it will all be a part of your countenance.  You will know what you believe, for you have devoted yourself to possessing revelation and understanding.  Your immersion into Jesus resulted in your contemplative wonder, intercessory prayer, and the very rest of God.  It will be evident that your body is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, your life being flamboyantly poured out to others because of how much you have been truly loved.  You will be a woman who has kept short accounts and is acquainted well with not only lament and waiting but also forgiveness and mercy.  Your days have been your worship, your wisdom surer than a fleeting horse, and your gratitude for all that is will be your defining feature.  You will have lived out your beliefs with great courage and intellect.  Your guilt is washed away, your imperfections irrelevant, your vision unwavering, and your hope of heaven sure.  You will have been an intentional, intelligent, and heartfelt woman and mother, rejecting stagnancy.  The generations to come, the very nations, will never be the same.

Yes, someday we might dance with our sons, our brothers, and stand beside our daughters, our sisters, who rise to meet the world before them.  It will not at all be the end, but a new beginning as we all will still be running, running into Water.  And one day, we will attend together the wedding we each have been preparing for for our whole lives…

 

My mom and I.  Yes, I am really tall.  Especially in heels.

Aquainted with Waiting.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” – Jeremiah 31:25

It is safe to say that many of you are acquainted with waiting.  Waiting and I have gone beyond the level of mere acquaintances; we are quite intimate.  I waited fifteen years for a certain healing; it came.  I waited ten years to hold a degree; it is mine.  I waited five years for a second child; we have him and another one.  From the time I knew I was to write, I waited about 25 years to hold in my hand a book I wrote; many of you hold it too.  Ben and I have waited together fifteen years to be a part vocationally of God’s global movement; the time has come. Finally.  Easy is not something I am aquainted well with.  If you only knew the stories behind those sentences that are so easy to set on paper, but much harder to live.   These are just a few threads of waiting in my own life that God has demanded and enabled me to have tenacious pit-bullish faith for (faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see- Heb. 1:1).  

It is my personal experience that waiting is not passive.  Great effort is being done in us and in those around us in measure of how we respond to waiting.  Folding our hands in acquiesce is not waiting.  A courageous surrender rarely comes without some measure of needed fighting.  Often much warfare.  The living will not start when the waiting is done; it will only begin in a new way.  A way that we’ll not be ready for if we do not embrace the hard process of waiting.

When the bible speaks of waiting, it always entails an eager expectancy, a longing, a trust, a looking for, utter confidence, patience, hope, rest, tarrying for a time.  It is a waiting prepared for action–an ability to run as soon as the starting blocks are removed.  The training has been accomplished and the race is sure! There is nothing about giving up that which God has given us a zeal to wait for. No, there is not a setting down of what you are waiting for if God has given it to you to hold in the depths of your soul.    

I am also learning the pattern that after this type of deep faith waiting is done and it seems that we have been in tangled captivity for so long, we are weary.  It is a good weariness but our souls are faint from the intensity that was demanded of us for so long.  We need a restoration to receive fully the gift of our longing fulfilled.  We need to learn how to walk without that particular waiting.  We need to learn to receive the benefits of God’s restoration power. 

This is where I am right now.  Maybe this is where you are too.

There is delight in the benefits of restoration.  When the moments are quiet here and the children are sleeping, I like to look out at the scrappy pines and listen to the palm branches clanking in the wind, opening my hands to receive the sweet joys of renewal.  He is “leading me beside streams of water on a level path where I will not stumble”, I am “rejoicing in the bounty of the Lord”, I will be like a “well-watered garden who will sorrow no more”, I will “dance in gladness and be satisfied with his abundance”.  What a foreign land this is to me and what strange new courage it demands to walk through it!

Quietly before the Lord in in the ways He sees fit, my work will be rewarded. 

Yours too. 

See, there is hope for my future. 

Yours too.

 (Jeremiah 31) 

 

What a Healing.

I discovered this in-depth article on Jesus’ healing of the unclean woman in Mark 5.   It connects this biblical account to the current suffering of millions of women in Africa and Asia from fistula.  How much I adore this Jesus who is so tender and esteeming towards us as women!  The writer of this article, L. Lewis Wall, is professor of obstetrics/gynaecology in the School of Medicine and professor of anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

Like maternal mortality, fistula is almost entirely preventable. But at least 2 million women in Africa, Asia and the Arab region are living with the condition, and some 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop each year. The persistence of fistula is a signal that health systems are failing to meet the needs of women.  Jesus cared. 

He still cares.

Eve’s Forgotten Legacy.

I read through this and found it riveting…

” The word theologian doesn’t appear in the Bible. Old Testament writers used a warmer, user-friendly expression, describing people who “walked with God.” A theologian takes a long walk through life with God — living in his presence, going his way, learning to see the world through his eyes, and getting to know his character so that trusting him in the dark stretches won’t be quite so hard. The theologian sees God at the center of everything. She lives with a profound confidence that he holds the whole world (including her) in his hands. Eugene Peterson described it like this: “If we live by mere happenstance — looking at what is biggest, listening to what is loudest, doing what is easiest — we will live as if God were confined to the margins of our lives. But God is not marginal; God is foundational and central. The person who lives as if God sits on a bench at the edges of life, waiting to be called on in emergencies, is out of touch with reality and so lives badly.”  Eve was created to know and walk with God and to make him known to others by reflecting his character in her life. This is a woman’s true path to fulfillment and meaning — the only way we will ever discover who we are and find our purpose. And it is accessible to all of us.

Eve’s forgotten legacy resides in explicit statements God made when he created her. First, God created Eve to be his image bearer — “in his image and likeness” — and second, to be the ezer, or the strong helper. Furthermore, she shared with Adam what theologians call the “Cultural Mandate” — God’s command to be fruitful and multiply, to rule and subdue the earth. This global mandate included the call to reproduce physically and to engage in scientific, technological, and artistic pursuits.

More importantly, the mandate was also profoundly spiritual and theological — the call to reproduce spiritually by multiplying worshipers of the living God and to extend God’s gracious rule over every inch of this planet. This staggering enterprise encompasses all dimensions of life and has occupied the human race ever since. God’s creation design for Eve applies to every woman all the time, from the cradle to the grave.”

from Lost Women of the Bible (Zondervan 2005) by Carolyn Custis James  http://synergytoday.org/FAQ.html

Redemption Is Coming.

My sister, another lover of the nations, called me  just moments after news of the earthquake rocked  Haiti yesterday:  “Death was everywhere in Port-au-Prince. Bodies of tiny children were piled next to schools. Corpses of women lay on the street with stunned expressions frozen on their faces as flies began to gather.”

I wept at this.  And I pulled my children close.  I cannot imagine…

The age-old question of how a loving God could allow such a horrific thing rears its head again.  We cannot help but ask; we cannot help but to be deeply unsettled for we know this is not how it should be.  Nor can we forget that Satan may have had a role here. We attribute God for every calamity that occurs, but the the Word also tells us that Satan can cause natural disasters as well. It’s part of why he is called “The Prince of Power of The Air.”…  The ancient battle continues.

But redemption is coming.

Jesus spoke of the events that would happen prior to his second coming:

“Luke 21:25-28 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”

I keep looking up. 

 

Follow these missionary blogs in Haiti–they will give insight on how to best pray and help: http://www.livesayhaiti.blogspot.com/    http://heartlineministries.org/Blog20.aspx  and  http://www.jarodandjennifer.com/blog 

Women Oppress Women…

A newspaper in India recently reported facts from a UN document which singled out East Asia as a hub for intercontinental trade of human beings, especially adult women.  One of the ironies of this report: Women often traffic other women, former victims become traffickers themselves.  The report went on to say that, “We need to understand the psychological, financial and coercive reasons why women recruit other women into slavery.”

According to the U S Department of State, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year.  Of these,  80 percent are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors.  Subjected to fraud, coercion, and violence, victims of human trafficking are stripped of human rights for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. The International Labor Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations, estimates that there are 12.3 million people who are enslaved in forced labor, bonded labor, child labor, sexual servitude and involuntary servitude at any given time.

The uprising to fight against these atrocities implies that we believe that humans are not to be treated as commodities– that we must have some intrinsic worth and that freedom, somehow and somewhere, must be our birthright.  What a hint this should be of in Whose image we have been made!  We revolt against being enslaved, yet underneath it all we know we are made to serve.  Our natural human selves cannot tolerate either option with our intense need to gratify ourselves through power. 

Is it any wonder that victims turn around to become ruthless dominators?  Sin evokes sin.  Women enslave women all the time (did your words today make chains; did you laugh in mockery at the exploits of a woman in a reality television show; did you think it was cute when your little daughter acted or dressed in a provocative manner; did you not really listen to your sister or give the gift of restorative forgiveness to your mother?)  Evil spreads with ease much like weeds and righteousness must be cultivated and tended to.  Deal with all the psychological, financial and coercive reasons you want and you will come up empty until you unearth the sin nature and the ironic freedom of the enslaved Christ on the Cross. 

I am convinced that we cannot deal with the oppression of women around the world until we look at our own.  It is then and only then that we can shout the loud hope of Christ and the root of lasting transformation can grow.  Women ask me “how can I make even a dent in the global problem of the oppression of women?”  Start with your own freedom.  Own your God-bestowed feminine dignity.  Be discerning of the oppression all around you and how you might bring forth the truth of Christ and his kingdom, releasing prisoners from darkness where you are now.  Be ruthless about sin, your freedom in Christ and your understanding of his kingship in your life. Be deeply concerned with your own righteousness. 

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…” (Galatians 5:1)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

Thoughtful and Biblical Response to “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”.

Yes!  This is an EXCELLENT response to the book  many have read and heard about “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” especially as the Sunday New York times dedicated its entire issue to “Why Women’s Rights Are the Cause of Our Time.”

In reponse to this book and the quotes excerpted from the New York Times regarding this  issue, author Carolyn McCulley writes:

“These are shocking, sinful statistics. They must be challenged and changed. For that reason, I am very grateful for the journalistic efforts of Kristof and WuDunn. For the same reason, I was also very grateful for the attention Secretary Clinton brought to the status of women in Africa during her visit last week. 

But having researched the history of feminism in the Western world for my own book, I am also reminded of the course of our women’s history. In many ways, though perhaps not as extreme, we issued the same complaints. Women in the 19th century complained of men making the same poor financial expenditures on alcohol and prostitutes, that women didn’t have equality in education, and that maternal health was a neglected medical priority. But as women fought for equality, we found the fight remained long after the battles were won. Because men were identified as the problem, the gender war has never been fully resolved. Instead of unifying marriages and families, this ongoing battle continues to fracture them. So my concern is that we will import some of these same values into our efforts to help women around the world. 

SaimaMuhammad In fact, the opening illustration of Kristof and WuDunn’s article in my opinion illustrates this perfectly. It is about a Pakistani couple where the husband is sinning terribly against his wife by beating her and otherwise neglecting her. She is in despair until she receives a microfinance loan, which enables her to set up a small embroidery business. Soon she is the village business mogul, able to employ many others and pay off her husband’s debts. He no longer beats her because she is too valuable, and he has come around to the view that girls are just as good as boys. 

And that’s where the story ends. Yay . . . but only half a yay, really. He stopped beating her, but where is the true partnership? Where is the true repentance? Only the gospel can address sin and redemption. Economic parity can’t be the ultimate solution because it can’t address the heart issues. And this brings me back to why I think Christians need to be involved. If we preach equality because it’s found on page one of the Bible, then we should be leading the charge in this area. But our solutions will be different because our end goals are different. Yes, we want to empower women. Yes, we want women to be educated. Yes, we want families to be healthier and more prosperous. But we don’t want to do this by lifting up one person in the family at the expense of another. We have to help men change, too, by preaching the gospel and teaching them to truly apply the Ephesians 5 mandate to love their wives as Christ loved the church — without concern for cultural practices or restrictions. They must fear God and His word more than the opinions of other men and the way things are currently done in their culture. 

As Christians, we have an opportunity here to help families around the world by both standing against incredible injustice against women and by preaching the gospel of reconciliation. Let’s not lose any ground to lesser solutions. ”

(excerpted from Solo Feminity Blog)

(Photos: The New York Times)

I Am Here.

My new daughter cries in the middle of the night; she is hungry and needs the nourishment only I, her mother can give.  My presence always comes to her before the milk as I whisper “Mama is here, Mama’s here”.  She screams in the car seat the entire time we go from point A to point B; she feels alone and to her it seems as if we are going nowhere.  She knows not my presence in the driver’s seat.  If only she would hush her wails she would hear me saying, “Mama’s here. I am here.” 

 My preschooler does not know how proudly I peer out of the kitchen window as I cook, watching him riding his bike around and around the driveway.  I see that his curve was too sharp and I know he will fall, so I turn to run before he knows how much I am needed.  He falls hard and cries as if no one will save him.  I run out the door and scoop him up in my arms, wipe his tears and instinctively soothe him with the words that come from somewhere so deep within, “I am here, Mama’s here.”

My nine-year old is proud to run the half-mile race.  I see him searching for my face in the crowd.  His eyes find mine and I mouth those words again, “I am here.”  He grins and runs with the confidence one has when they know they are not alone and that their race matters.

These thoughts come to me in the flicker of white lights as at it is nearly Christmas again.  Coming from Scandinavian descent, my little family and I celebrate Swedish-style. I dress as Santa Lucia with a candlelit crown adorning my head, bringing sweet saffron rolls with egg coffee.  The boys set their shoes outside Christmas Eve in hopes the nordic troll will fill them with goodies; and a bowl of rice pudding  is set on the bench for the Christmas goat to devour.  Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce for dinner and delicate rosettes for dessert are ready for us after the fun of gift-giving is over.

My husband and I, with our three children bring forth the splendor of our ancestral nation on that day.  We wave the flag out of this melting pot and recall where our roots began, the land where the name of Christ, the felt presence of God first took root in our family line.  It’s a leaning back of sort to the far end of the present globalization we live in now.

We tend to want to move to the front end of things; those things that glitter and speak of newness.  But Christmas calls us back from it all.   We willingly, on that 25th day of December, go back to the furthest end from where we find ourselves now– that simple and profound day thousands of years ago when a boy was born to a teenage mother and a God proved he would not leave us to ourselves or to the bonds of the oppressor.  The harried world of the day perceived him as unnecessary and irrelevant; now we know him to be the most necessary and relevant One that has ever walked this earth.

He is the coming-down God who did hear and still hears us all crying and hungry.  He could no more stay away from his own than I can from my babies and you from yours.  He could no more disconnect his presence from the provision than any mother could.

My oldest son has asked me what the face of God looks like.  I told him the first glimpse of his features came on Christmas, for Jesus said that anyone who has seen him, how  he lived, how he treated people and what he taught, has seen the face of God (Jn. 14:9). The light of the knowledge of the glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6), for in Jesus all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form (Col. 2:9).

We cry for help to sustain our human needs, not ever sensing the Spirit of God’s brooding presence.

We wail and dissolve into heaviness and fear when the road is too long and the bumps too hard.  If we would just be still we would hear, “God is here, I am here.”

We finally can ride free and clear when suddenly the potholes knock the wind out of us; we never saw it coming.  And the all-seeing God whispers again, “I am here, God is here.”

We marry our sweethearts, bear or adopt our children, write that book, make that speech, get on that plane, chose a new path, start that business, persevere through the drought of unemployment and we look around to find the Face that proves there is validity in what we have done; it was not gold-covered straw but gold indeed.

All of this is Christmas to me, best recalled in the needs of my children and the God-like love of their mother who wants nothing more than to be with them.  Just another woman who wants to see her own rest in her small presence so they someday might learn to rest in God’s great one.

Shhh…He has whispered, oh He has roared through the lips of Christ throughout all the nations and all time, “God’s here, the great I AM is here.  Jesus, Immanuel, . . . God with you (Is. 7:4)!”