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This Christmas…

Christmas-tree

I came across a Christmas card this year that I truly like. Instead of the traditional scenes, verses, or holiday metaphors, it was simply words. Words crafted into a set of actions that transform the one who would invest the time and heart to actually live them out. Take a moment out of your busy Christmas schedule and breathe deeply…ask God to speak to you, then slowly read through the Christmas message.

Merry Christmas,

Monty

This Christmas…

mend a quarrel…seek out a forgotten friend…write a love letter…share some treasure…give a soft answer…encourage youth…keep a promise…find the time…forgive an enemy…listen…apologize if you were wrong…think first of someone else…be kind and gentle…laugh a little…laugh a little more…express your gratitude…gladden the heart of a child…take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth…speak your love…speak it again…speak it still once again.

~anonymous

God In The Doorway…

As Christmas is approaching, I find myself indulging in a story that always re-centers my soul, and reminds me that the scenarios my mind creates often need adjusting! Each year I re-read God In The Doorway, which is found in Annie Dillard's book, Teaching A Stone To Talk." Sit back, and absorb 🙂

MC

***********************

Teaching A Stone To Talk
God In The Doorway

One
cold Christmas Eve I was up unnaturally late because we had all gone
out to dinner-my parents, my baby sister, and I. We had come home to a
warm living room, and Christmas Eve. Our stockings drooped from the
mantle; beside them, a special table bore a bottle of ginger ale and a
plate of cookies.

I had taken off my fancy winter coat and was
standing on the heat register to bake my shoe soles and warm my bare
legs. There was a commotion at the front door; it opened, and cold
winter blew around my dress.

Everyone was calling me. “Look who’s
here! Look who’s here!” I looked. It was Santa Claus. Whom I
never-ever-wanted to meet. Santa Claus was looming in the doorway and
looking around for me. My mother’s voice was thrilled: “Look who’s
here!” I ran upstairs.

Like everyone in his right mind, I feared
Santa Claus, thinking he was God. I was still thoughtless and brute,
reactive. I knew right from wrong, but had barely tested the
possibility of shaping my own behavior, and then only from fear, and
not yet from love. Santa Claus was an old man whom you never saw, but
who nevertheless saw you; he knew when you’d been bad or good. He knew
when you’d been bad or good! And I had been bad.

My mother called
and called, enthusiastic, pleading; I wouldn’t come down. My father
encouraged me; my sister howled. I wouldn’t come down, but I could bend
over the stairwell and see: Santa Claus stood in the doorway with night
over his shoulder, letting in all the cold air of the sky; Santa Claus
stood in the doorway monstrous and bright, powerless, ringing a loud
bell and repeating Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas. I never came down.
I don’t know who ate the cookies.

For so many years now I have
known that this Santa Claus was actually a rigged-up Miss White, who
lived across the street, that I confuse the dramatis personae in my
mind, making Santa Claus, God, and Miss White an awesome, vulnerable
trinity. This is really a story about Miss White.

Miss White was
old; she lived alone in the big house across the street. She liked
having me around; she plied me with cookies, taught me things about the
world, and tried to interest me in finger painting, in which she
herself took great pleasure. She would set up easels in her kitchen,
tack enormous slick soaking papers to their frames, and paint
undulating undersea scenes: horizontal smears of color sparked by
occasional vertical streaks which were understood to be fixed kelp. I
liked her. She meant no harm on earth, and yet half a year after her
failed visit as Santa Claus, I ran from her again.

That day, a
day of the following summer, Miss White and I knelt in her yard while
she showed me a magnifying glass. It was a large, strong hand lens. She
lifted my hand and, holding it very still, focused a dab of sunshine on
my palm. The glowing crescent wobbled, spread, and finally contracted
to a point. It burned; I was burned; I ripped my hand away and ran home
crying. Miss White called after me, sorry, explaining, but I didn’t
look back.

Even now I wonder: if I meet God, will he take and
hold my bare hand in his, and focus his eye on my palm, and kindle that
spot and let me burn?

But no. It is I who misunderstood
everything and let everybody down. Miss White, God, I am sorry I ran
from you. I am still running, running from that knowledge, that eye,
that love from which there is no refuge. For you meant only love, and
love, and I felt only fear, and pain. So once in Israel love came to us
incarnate, stood in the doorway between two worlds, and we were all
afraid.

*Taken from…"Teaching a Stone to Talk" by Annie Dillard

Powerful Prayers (vol. vii) “The Magnificat” ~Mary

The-annunciation

As we wind through the season of Advent, it reminds us that the darkness will not last forever, that God did and does intervene in our lives, and that the story isn't over yet…I thought it would be good to look at the prayer that erupted from Mary's soul when she received a message from the angel Gabriel that would forever change her life and ours.

The Magnificat… Luke 1:46-55 (ESV)

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

___________________________

Rumination…

As I look at the average 14 year old-ish person today, I wonder if God could have found someone who could be torn away from their cellphone long enough to realize that God was inviting them to experience something beyond their wildest imagination.

Mary was most likely 14-15 years old when Gabriel entered and ultimately turned her world upside down.  She wasn't from a highly wealthy, political or even spiritual family. She was like us, and that is what makes the Incarnation so powerful. It's not about superstars or perfect ones…it's that good uses the unexpected ones to do unexpected things!

Beneath the urgency of the angelic visit, the bottom line of Gabriel's message to her was not only would she a portal for the Divine, but that her reputation was about to be destroyed… her fiancee' would soon struggle deeply with his sense of what was right… the Yentles of the village would begin to spin their tales of the newest unwed mother… and imagine what Mary's own mom and family would assume at the news that she was pregnant…

Who would really believe this unexpected truth?

In fact, Mary would carry this cloud of faith and pain all her life about the identity of her son. Her own soul was pierced as she stood at the foot of the cross, but she was vindicated when Jesus rose from the dead proving He was who she had said he was…but by that point, Mary really didn't care about vindication… because an encounter with the messiah changes the way we see and view all of life.

Here are a few things that Mary's prayer reminds me of:

1. Even when our circumstances are dismal, if we live with God in our soul, we can still be happy.

2. No matter what political, cultural, economic, or intellectual value we have or don't have, we are all highly valued and loved by God…that's the point of the Incarnation…God came on a rescue mission, not a condemnation mission.

3. God always responds to those who are seeking Him and His ways.

4. God is faithful to His promises…don't give up too soon!

5. God's kingdom is an upside down kingdom…

    If you want to be first…be last

    If you want to lead…serve

    If you have needs…give something away

    If you want to be blessed…admit that you are not in control of that blessing…

In this prayer, Mary taps into the truth that God is sovereign over everyone whether we acknowledge that or not…He is currently at work, and we each have our part to play in the Meta-Narrative of life. The story is not about us, it is about Him…however, how awesome it is to have a role in the greatest story ever written,

Dei Gratia,

Monty