Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Picture of Winter

“Winter preserves and strengthens a tree. Rather than expending its strength on the exterior surface, its sap is forced deeper and deeper into its interior depth. In winter a tougher, more resilient life is firmly established. Winter is necessary for the tree to survive and flourish.” (Richard Foster, Prayer, p 66)

Can you relate? Maybe this is true for you at work or in a relationship. Either way, its core is the picture of our soul. When the beauty of a good relationship at work, home, or with God is pealed away, who I really am is revealed.

Last night I was working late on an article for a Christian writing course – and hopefully a Christian magazine. I’ve struggled all week with this article. Finally, it was flowing. Then an interruption comes from little feet. It was a wintry scene. Cold and bare. Howling wind from me, precipitation from the eyes of the little one.

In the past, I would have felt like a total hypocrite from the experience. Somewhat like the speaker at a writer’s conference who confessed he wrote an article for a men’s health magazine from a donut shop. But I’m learning something from this winter freeze I’m having in my soul these days.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

In the past when I’ve prayed “God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, I think that part of eternity in my heart thought that if everything wasn’t just right then God’s will wasn’t happening on earth as it does in heaven. I don’t think I really believed that prayer was possible in this world as it is. I thought I was praying for a future event.

Not so! Psalm 24 says the earth and everything in it belongs to God. We already have a little of heaven on earth. As Steve Robbins spoke at Vineyard some time ago, each time we pray for healing or for anything in God’s will, we are praying for a little more of heaven to be experienced on earth right now.

My quiet times have become more important to me in this frozen time. I’m realizing that in those moments I can have a peace that my heart longs to experience for eternity. And for just that little bit of time – whether it is 15 minutes or 2 hours – I am experiencing heaven on earth.

I encounter a bit of hell through the rest of the day. But I am reminded that the earth is the Lord’s. Because of my short periods of heaven on earth, I’m confident that He will restore all creation completely one day.

I’m not a hypocrite. My green leaves get blown off once in a while and the truth of my imperfection is revealed. But it is in that nakedness that I learn to rely on my source of strength. Without those naked moments, I would never have the beauty of the emerald covering.

“Dear Lord Jesus, in my better moments I want nothing more than to be like you. But there are other moments…Help me to see how good conformity to your way really is. In my seeking for you may I be found by you. I love you, Lord. Amen.” (Foster, p66)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Manger Scenes and Holidays

After reading about

  • the melting of Arctic ice - as if the scientist concerned know all the cycles throughout the billions of years they assume this earth has existed;
  • six Las Vegas high school students shot after getting off the school bus; and
  • threats posted online between Denver shootings of Christians;

it was nice to read the surprisingly sensible wisdom of Ohio Governor Ted Strickland via spokesman Keith Dailey regarding the manger scene in state parks. “The governor believes that Nativity scenes are an appropriate part of our traditional holiday displays,” said Dailey.

As people argue about Christian displays on state property, I often wonder, what do people think the legal holiday is about? What would happen if we truly separated all things related to the Christian tradition surrounding Christmas from all public and government venues?

Oh, the United States is that strange country that spends astronomical amounts of money and takes a day or two off to live out the fictional story of a man in a red suit who lives at the North Pole. Oh no! The ice at the North Pole is melting. What will Santa and the reindeer do? We must start a fund to help Santa – after all, a major part of the economic health of our nation depends on this guy.

Maybe we should do away with Christmas as legal holiday all together.

Sorry for all those who already have to work on Christmas Day – no more holiday wages for you. That goes for all the plumbers and house repair people too. You can no longer charge me more if I call you to repair my drain on Christmas Day. Charging me a higher rate might be discrimination against my beliefs. I’d feel like you were trying to push your beliefs on me. Heaven forbid, oh wait, earth forbid you would take a strong stand about something you believe gives meaning to all creation.

If we throw out Christmas, we have to throw out Easter. And, well, all this makes July 4th and New Years questionable too. They are not Christian holidays but, you know, I just don’t like all the noise. It interferes with my spiritual quiet time. [Just kidding]

I like City Council member Chris Rodriguez comment about the nativity scene, “Personally, I think people should get over it and stop being so smug about their rights. It’s freedom of religion, not the freedom from religion.”

If you don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God, then the decorations including a celebration of his birth should be no different to you than decorations of Santa Claus. Oh, sorry, that is unless your religious convictions are somehow tied to that guy.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems there would be no Christmas holiday if Christians weren’t celebrating the birth of Jesus. So even if you don’t like it, may I suggest you worship that manger scene for the paid day off or holiday wage it gives you and the philanthropy of all people this time of year.

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger." At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him. ~ Luke 2:8-14 (MSG)

The good news is for all people. That’s why I celebrate His birth.

Click here to read the Biblical account of this baby we celebrate.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Team Development Part 4

Work with What you Have

Do you have big dreams, visions maybe, for the potential growth of the women in your church? But when you share those dreams, you receive only blank stares and no volunteers. That doesn’t necessarily mean those dreams are not from God.

For the visionary developing a team, “a day is like a thousand years” takes on new meaning. If God has given you the vision, why isn’t everyone jumping for the chance to be part of this great plan?

Change is generally exciting for the visionary. Not so for everyone else. But change is inevitable and visionaries are the ones cutting the path. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” This is the mindset of a visionary.

Even so, we can’t create that path alone. I love the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. This is just after his display of confidence against the prophets of Baal in which he greatly impressed King Ahab. Queen Jezebel, on the other hand, was not impressed. She planned Elijah’s death.

In chapter 19, Elijah is crying out to God “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” God proceeds to show Elijah his power along with his protection and asks Elijah again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah, impressed by God’s power but now turning his thoughts back to his circumstances, cries out again “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

From there, God gives Elijah direct instructions and assures him that he is not alone. Let me assure you, you are not alone. God has not manifested his power in your midst without plans to carry out the vision he has given you.

Look around you. Who is God bringing into your path? Instead of trying to make them fit the idea you have for God’s vision or, even worse, rejecting them because they don’t fit, take time to get to know them. What gifts has he given them? How does God want them to participate in this adventure with you?

Be a leader, not a task master, and watch God blaze even greater trails before you.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Why the Cross?

“Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching… I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.’” John 14:23, 30-31

Have you ever tried to make contemporary sense of the crucifixion? I can give you plenty of “Sunday school answers.” You know them too. He paid the debt for my sins. There had to be a blood sacrifice greater than the animal sacrifice of the Old Testament. I don’t doubt those responses but I found in the above scripture something that makes sense for today’s culture.

Although the prince of this world is making some advancement otherwise, basic human nature values life above anything else. Our instinct is to protect our life.

Jesus chose death not because he devalued life but because he wanted us to learn how to trust the Father completely.

Does the prince of this world have a hold on you? The Father will ask few of us to go through death like Christ but none of us have seen the glory of the Father like Jesus had. Many of us have, however, experienced the peace that passes understanding.

I’m not currently in that state of peace. I’m in the garden asking if there is some other way. I feel the sweat even as I type. I’d like to return to the place of peace. I know it is worth the agony. Will I follow the example of Christ and trust the Father by doing exactly what He commands?

If I am to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ, I will.

the mission:
PROCLAIM the good news; HEAL the sick and oppressed; BRING JUSTICE
~ Luke 4:16-20

Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing (John 14:12)
~ Jesus 

Copyright 2005-2010 Lisa Biggs Crum
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