Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advent's Joy{{how to unwrap it for yourself by wrapping it up for another}}

" ...blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment 
of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” *

Can you imagine it? 
The sudden and explosive joy which filled her as her niece walked into the room; 
joy so powerful that her baby jumped {not kicked, turned, or rolled - but jumped} inside her womb, and her Spirit-filled heart overflowed with tumbling-out words of big joyous blessing!
What a gift of confirmation this must have unwrapped for her, soothing the isolation, uncertainty, and discomfort that unexpected pregnancy in old age inevitably brought. {not to mention the suddenly deaf/mute husband}.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior..."*

Can you imagine it?
The joy that must have flowed over her very soul to hear her Aunt acknowledge, affirm, and speak worship over the small baby growing inside her belly?

To have another human unwrap and even rejoice in her divinely parented pregnancy as the gift that it was; soothing the isolation, rejection, uncertainty, and even danger that she had suddenly found herself living under.

Elizabeth's words to Mary... Mary's response of echoing praise...
These were more than the customary greetings, or the cultural tradition of blessing one another...
These were words authored by The Joy Giver; filling both women to give and receive to give again with a joy unlike any they had ever known. 

Advent's Joy.
It is the very presence of Christ with us. 
His Spirit filled both the older and the younger; giving them eyes to see His work in the other and words to pour out joyous worship over it all. 
And here it is; the recipe for a big joy given and received and multiplied infinitely....
To lift our eyes off of ourselves, our cares, our plans, our needs....
To so closely cultivate our souls in the very glory of Jesus with us, that we cannot but see His work in the lives of others, and here is the secret wonderful....
This is where our hearts will leap, and we will bounce for joy, and our mouths will pour out blessing...
This is where the big and real and true joy of Advent comes to life...
Because it is in the beholding of God with us, revealed to us, that worship is born. 
And it is in the blessing of His work in the lives of others, that true joy is received. 



A tended-soul filled with His presence...
Will you wrap up this gift of yourself for others? 

Spoken words of joyous blessing over His work...
Will you unwrap this gift in the lives of others?


The giving-and-receiving-to-give-again nature of Advent Joy...
how will you share it today?

*{Luke 1:39-55}
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
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.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Conception of a Radical Joy{{reflection on Advent's third week}}

It's the third week of Advent; the JOY week. 

My advent guide directs me in focus surrounding the Shepherd's reception and response to announcement of Jesus' birth, and that has been rich, but for some reason, I've been drawn back further....
My Bible page flipping left to right and my heart drawn to the cascading strands of joy in an earlier, although equally glorious, announcement. 

And this, this is what has gripped my heart; 
The conception of a radical joy in ageless gospel plans.



There is this incredible, untouchable, unconditional, and unending joy 
found right there in Luke 1:30.
"Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God."

These words flowed from an angel's lips and landed with purposeful comfort and hope on Mary's heart right before her world would be turned upside down
by a working-the-impossible God. 

In receiving God's favor, she held what every human soul is created desperate for. 
She received it spoken audibly, clearly, right there into her human ears. 

And yet I've wondered if there isn't so much more wrapped up in these eleven words strung out on the tissue thin page of my Bible?
More than the mere narrative documentation of a historical conversation, 
as vital as that is....

The Angel declared it. He spoke it right out as a declaration of absolutes..

The Father had set His favor upon her; 
His choosing, pursuing, enabling, life-giving love.
Jesus, the Christ, formed inside of her and born from her 
would be the rescue of nations...
The Holy Spirit as the divine conduit, hovering, filling, 
working-out this glory. 

Oh what incredible joy is iridescently mirrored in these words,
{ where even down to the declaration of Jesus' conception in Mary's womb}, 
there is a brilliantly bright reflection of Yahweh's ageless gospel plans.
My salvation, your salvation, the soul-rescue of every heart made alive through faith...
The Father sets His choosing-favor.
The Son rescues, makes-new, and flows through to others.
The Spirit fills, speaks into, and enables...

This is our salvation; our soul's hope and life.

After the angel declared it, Mary responded...
"Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."

And I wonder if her response doesn't hold more than the surrender and obedience which is often, and rightly, portrayed?
Does it not hold those things as strands interwoven with incredible joy, excitement and even desperation? 


For to truly hear God speak this stuff of gospel favor and promised rescue into one's soul cannot but ignite sheer wonder, bliss, and confident entreaty for it's fruition. 


And herein lies the recipe for a fear-killing, game-changing, life-altering, outrageous joy in this third week of Advent:
It is a gospel-desperation leaning hard into the declaration of His filling promise which births joy.

To bend our ears low over familiar words; tuning the channels of our heart's love and soul's joy to the waves of His choosing, calling, redeeming, giving, pursuing, always-near, never-leaving, full-to-overflowing love.
Hear his words, O soul of the filled-up-on-joy people. 

He has set His favor upon you!  He is birthing His likeness in and through you! He fills you!

And may all of us, the joy-full people, jump with a giddy joy, clapping hands, and happy shouts...
desperate for His glory above  any. other. thing.  
because....
"...of His kingdom, there will be no end."


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.”

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Synagogue, a Scroll, and The Full-filling WORD{{an advent worship post}}

"...and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.
He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written..." *

Here it was, the before-ages-began intentions of benevolent grace, 
your pursuing and saving love, 
strung out on words formed by Deity's vocal chords and resounding in real time to humanity's ear.
This was your custom, and I wonder...
Could this somewhat rote and habitual moment have been any more powerful?
Could these words, otherwise familiar and expected, have been any more profound?

This was your custom, and I wonder...
Were your sandals dusty as you entered that place?
Was there a certain spot in the room where you always sat?
What had you eaten for breakfast on this day when you would stand before them and unleash proclamation of your identity pounded out in a prophet's words fulfilled?


This was your custom, but on this day it was to be different.
After you read the familiar words of good news, liberty, healing, and unending favor; 
the stuff of which all who heard you were soul-desperate for, 
you rolled up the scroll and found your seat.
But this time there would be more words...



Words, sacred and divine, just like those in the scroll returned to the attendant but still warm from your touch.
These words would flow over your lips, not read off of a scroll, 
but from the very pages of your heart; the very heart of God.


"Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." *



These words transformed a scroll's rich prophecy into flesh and blood reality.
The workings of Isaiah's pen from hundreds of years before, were now all wrapped up in skin and dusty sandals and just standing there before them. 
You held their eyes, their minds marvelled at your words, 
but did they see? did they worship?
Did they see that as you read it, 
the very words of their only hope were read by the very One who was all of that hope fulfilled. 

Do we see? Do we worship?




You came for them, and you came for us.
We are the favored people, a rescued people, the proclaiming people. 
Your good news is our eternal story.
Your liberty is our forever living.
Your favor is our unending feast.

On that day, in a Nazareth Synagogue, 
and on this day, in my soul, 
you speak Your very Self, the Full-filling Word
in my hearing.
And here it is, 
your before-ages-began intentions of benevolent grace, 
your pursuing and saving love, 
stringing out on words formed by Deity's vocal chords and resounding in real time to my soul's ear.
And here is worship.

*Scripture referenced from Luke chapter 4:16-21

"And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. 
And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, 
and he stood up to read.
 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. 
He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. 
And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
 And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words 
that were coming from his mouth..."


Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Gift You Can Open Early {{waiting's hidden surprise}}


It's resting there on our tree skirt, beneath twinkling lights and an eclectic compilation of ornaments hanging.
She tucked it there yesterday when she arrived home from school.
A white envelope-turned-beautiful-packaging with the art of her 4 yr old scribbles. 
"But Momma, it is for now. We need to open this present early.
It is something I made..."
her voice took on an urgent whisper, 

"It is to go on the tree."

I realized I had just been entrusted with a secret of the deepest sort, and we decided together that the gift would indeed be opened early, this evening after her daddy has returned from his business travel. 

It rests there alone, the first gift to be placed under our tree this year. 
The others still reside in tucked away, secret crannies and corners; the mysterious labyrinth of gift-storage that only a momma can carve out of a home, at least until little people grow smarter and sneakier.
For this year, I still have my hidden treasure nooks, which will soon yield up their secrets to be wrapped in tissue and paper, labeled with a name, and placed around our tree. 

I love those moments as much as, or even more than, the moments of unwrapping Christmas morning.
To see my little people; their faces bright as they spot packages under the tree, their eyes searching the glitzy labels, and then the twinkling of giggles and cries of, "look, this one says your name."
It is in those moments that one of the sweetest gifts is found and opened; opened early 
because the waiting itself, holds the hidden surprise of it's greatest gift, anticipation.

Like my little daughter's special package, 
amongst all of the other gifts being stored and prepared, 
this one is to be opened now. 
"It is for the tree".
Anticipation is for the journey.  

It decorates, beautifies, and brings joy to the process.



Yes, waiting holds this hidden surprise.  
The stuff of hope, desire, confidence, and longing all stirred together in an overflowing brew of delicious grace. 
The assurance of future, unfolding goodness gifts itself to our struggling, not-yet-ness with the beauty and twinkling delight of hope tasted and savored. 

Like my daughter's early surprise, anticipation's grace must be unwrapped.
Waiting can be a cruel companion if it's Giver is not known; 

if His presence is not received and practiced and treasured. 
To not yet have...
To not know what...
To not know why, or where, or who...
These can be of deepest soul-torture if held apart from the One who has wrapped them up for us.

One must position, and reach for, and guard, and linger over communion with The Giver. 
In doing so, the tortures of waiting are transformed into packages, not yet unwrapped, 
but beautiful, labeled with our names, and filling our hearts with hope.

The joy-filled excitement that my littles have over presents waiting comes from their knowledge of our Daddy and Momma love; 
their confidence in our plans to bless their sweet socks off.
In knowing our love, they have found and unwrapped the early gift of anticipation. 

Anticipation unwraps the waiting into a joy-filled hope. 
Anticipation is found in being with the giver. 

To not yet have...but to have The Giver.
To not know what...but to know it's Giver.
To not know why, or where, or who...but to know their Giver.
These become of deepest treasure, as in their very nature of not-yet, 
their anticipation unwraps for us deep treasure troves of His presence. 


Tonight, our little family will gather to open the gift that is for now. 

We will joy in the sweet surprise of our daughter's creativity given for upwrapping early.
We are the waiting people, but we are also the knowing-Him people.
While we wait, our souls commune with The Giver in all of His merciful goodness....

Anticipation is for now. 
And waiting's hidden surprise is opened early. 


"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God."  
Romans 5:1-2

"And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." 
Romans 5:5

"For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, 
and to the one who knocks it will be opened...
If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?"
Matthew 7:8,10

"To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust...
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame...
All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, 
for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies." 
Psalm 25


Friday, December 5, 2014

Tracing His Name{{a post about practicing His presence}}


He spoke His name to me this morning. 

{I'm wishing for time that I don't have; time to tap out a polished blog post because my soul feels it may burst for want to spill out words.}

He spoke his name to me this morning. 
Words I have lingered over all week long, but suddenly my heart landed, and my ears heard.
He told me to write it out, 
to write his name over and over; 
For every hard thing my heart holds.
Because there is all this hard that my heart holds. 
•••••••••••••••••••••••
Them, fighting cancer's sudden aggressive return. 
Him, with his job eliminated. 
Her, with empty arms longing to mother.
Him, bravely embracing the next difficulty of his increasing impairment.
Us, with this waiting long into an unknown certainty. 
There are others. You have your's. 
••••••••••••••••••••••••••
And as the Advent candles flicker to light 
and our hearts anticipate his glory bright…
Here in the dark of early morning, 

He spoke his name to me anew, 
and showed me how to write it. 
{As a big hand covers a small one in tracing out the letters, 
Abba showed me how to write it
;}
Right there; straight out over the ache of this place.
•••••••••••••••••••••••
Each waiting, wondering, needing,
Every aching hard in suffering,
Every terrible horrible hurt... 
All perfectly met and powerfully covered by the ONE who came to fill every promise and heal every heart; 
to give us a hope unwavering and a confidence strong.

To fill us with a JOY INDESCRIBABLE 
and a PEACE INEXPLAINABLE.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Our hard is real. 
But look at that NAME !!! 
{Isaiah 9:1-7}