Friday, December 12, 2008

Prepare the Way for the Lord

Here is the second advent devotional I was asked to write this season:

John the Baptist Prepares the Way - Luke 3:1-6 (New International Version) In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.'

John the Baptist was called from his desert dwelling place to “prepare the way for the Lord.” What a tremendous responsibility fell upon this man; yet we are called to do the same. In the midst of our desert, we are called to prepare for God to use our pain for His glory. This is a conscious choice we make. John was called from the desert, but it was only by making the choice to heed the call and begin his ministry that John made an impact on the world. Through John’s obedience, the world was prepared to accept the Messiah.

When my spouse of 24 years died suddenly, leaving me widowed at 43 years old with two sons to rear; I entered the desert of my life. My identity changed in the blink of an eye. I was no longer married, no longer someone’s spouse and the secure identity I possessed for 24 years, was no longer mine to claim. A new identity defined me. I was a single parent; a widow and found these identities awkward and uncomfortable. Wandering the “crooked roads” and “rough ways”, I questioned whether life would ever be straight or smooth again.

In the midst of my hurt and disappointment, God began to call me out of the desert; urging me to prepare the way for Him to work through my life. I couldn’t change my life history. I couldn’t change my circumstances, but with God’s help I could change how the story continued. Making this choice freed my life to have new meaning. Pain no longer defined me, temporal titles no longer mattered; the mountains became low, the crooked roads I had been traveling grew to be much straighter and the rough ways became smooth.

It is while we wander in the desert of life that God often calls us. He calls us to prepare the way for His Son to work through our pain and be glorified in our surrender. Through our obedience in the desert place, God can use our circumstances not only bring healing to our soul, but to lead others to Jesus and his love for us. Just as John the Baptist was called to prepare the way for the Messiah to come and dwell among us, so we are also called.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

No Vacancy!

The NO vacancy sign is lit in front of our home. We are officially at full capacity. When I purchased this house three years ago, I had difficulty justifying the need for five bedrooms, but I always wanted a “study” and thought it was important to have a “guest room” for occasional visitors, so I was able to justify the purchase. Now I am sure why I “needed” to purchase a house too big for us at the time—to fill it up.

Two of my stepchildren came to live with us this past month. Though temporary, it has been an adjustment for all of us. I know that I have looked upon this new state of affairs pragmatically. I understood it would be difficult at times. I understood that there would be adjustments. I understood that everyone would have to be flexible. What I underestimated, but should not have, was the many blessings that often accompany graciousness.

One manifestation of generosity is evident in the loving nature of my family. They have accepted, valued, and even loved my new step family. My mother, as the matriarch, has covered our situation in prayer. Dad has been encouraging; always accepting as usual. The brothers have done what they do best—created opportunities for the Z and J to connect, with the family, with friends and with the church, of course this is accomplished through playing board games, but it works.

The outcome of embracing the boys into our lives has been that, though cumbersome at times, the transition has been smoother than I anticipated. Do I think this is it; that now we will live in some euphoric commune with little struggle? Not a chance. I recognize that we will be unable to circumvent frustration, irritation and confrontation. What I am hopeful of is that when confronted with these circumstances we will act in a loving manner that strengthens our character and fortifies our faith.

I have heard it said that when we become closer to God, we do not become more spiritual, we become more loving. Delving into the quintessence of God and who he is, radically transforms us and creates within us a less selfish, more generous, more productive and more loving spirit—the essential qualities that sustain us through ANY life circumstance--especially those that stretch us and those which call us to a sacrifice beyond what we ever imagined.

As a retrospect---this I know for sure...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Tuesday Triviality - Book Meme

I have been tagged by my brother Evan. This meme is unusual in that it doesn't follow the "normal" meme pattern.

Here's the way it works. Apparently, I grab the closest book to me, which happens to be Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups Edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith (sounds more theological than it really is). I then turn to page 123 and find the fifth sentence. After that, I post the three following sentences. Here goes...

"He was well versed in Greek philosophy, notably Platonism and Stoicism, but the basis of his thought was rooted in the Bible.
Gregory believed that the main use of the Bible was not for historical reflection but rather for growth in virtue. He and the other Church fathers used the Bible and its characters to teach us how to grow closer to God, how to "elevate" the soul to God."

This was an introduction to the author Gregory of Nyssa (331-396) and his collection of devotions. What's more--now I have to look up: Platonism and Stoicism in the dictionary. Maybe Wikipedia will do...
I am more of an "arm chair theologian".

I am not sure what the point of this meme is, but...

Now I am tagging: Tanja, Annie, Shelly and Rob