Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Hope To Come...

The house is quiet this morning. I sit in my comfy chair having just finished my quiet time, still sipping my coffee. A few minutes ago a bird was singing outside my window. It sounded like spring. I wish it was spring. We are predicted to received multiple inches of snow within the next 24 hours. I can live without the snow-one showing of it a year and I am good. Maybe that little bird was there from God to remind me of "the hope to come".

I also just heard a light falling of rain on the house and the clap of thunder. Everything is so dreary outside. Winter shows no color. The trees are bear of their foliage, the grass is turning brown. My rose bushes are covered with hay. Yet the rain is just a part of events preceding spring and "the hope to come".

And in front of me is our Christmas tree, lights on, and the smallest amounts of gifts under it since we have owned it. It has been a rough year financially. There is little to give with. Yet, I am okay with that. There is "hope to come" even in this.

I have struggled to get into the "holiday" mood. I put very little decorations out and cut down on how much I even put on the tree. It's a simple Christmas in the Arnold/Mansell home this it should be. Simply put, Joe and I have one binding goal of unity for this family..."a hope to come".

A few post ago I wrote about the loss of our friend and camp ministry partner Lois. Yesterday her husband wrote these words and I feel inclined to share them with you. They remind us that for those of us who have struggled in whatever way that fell before us, it can be connected spiritually to the birth of Christ and what we have in Christ. Jim Wrote...

"The birth of Christ was not a time of sentiment with warm fuzzy feelings, hot cocoa, a nice orchestra, and lots of food. Joseph and Mary were under the King’s orders to travel to Bethlehem and it was a grueling journey. For three to five days Mary – who was about to have a baby – walked, rode, and stumbled along a path.
There were no Super 8 motels along the way, no paved road, no rest areas with toilets. They must’ve stopped often looking for a tree or rock Mary could lean against to urinate. Most likely they looked in vain for clean, fresh water using only what they carried in old, stinky skins or moldy jars. The risk of thieves, storms, and cold only added to the discomfort of the impending labor and birth of Mary’s first child.
Was her mother there? A sister maybe? Probably not since Mary got pregnant out of wedlock and brought shame on her whole family, they most likely stayed away as if she’d had leprosy. We know there wasn’t a hospital; instead they found themselves in a stable. No running water, no electricity, no space heater to chase away the chilly night air. There were “meadow muffins” and “cow pies” on the ground and some of them were fresh enough to throw off steam – the smell must’ve been overwhelming.
The whole situation was untenable. None of us would’ve stuck it out. We can’t even begin to imagine the pain and disappointment and loneliness. Mary and Joseph must certainly have wondered where God was in all this. Why now? Why here? We could go on to describe the poverty, hardship and rejection that Joseph and Mary and Jesus endured in those first few days but nothing we can imagine comes close.
This year God is allowing me a new appreciation for the incarnation. It was far from romantic, nostalgic and sentimental. The events surrounding the birth of Jesus were difficult and full of disappointment and pain. Christmas has taken on a new, deeper meaning. If Mary and Joseph and even Jesus as a baby were not spared hardship and difficulty, why would I expect anything else?
I can’t explain away the reality of grief or the myriad of ways I miss Lois but I do know that God is more real than I have ever experienced. His presence and power shove the clich├ęs out of the way and strengthen my resolve to “come near to God “so He will “come near to” me. (see James 4:8).

When Paul wrote in Romans 8 that nothing will separate us from the love of Christ – not "trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword" – he was writing to me and you. Yes, he was also referring to struggles that were dangerously real to him but those words are for me. We are more than conquerors in hardship and sorrow, not because it isn’t painful, nor because God will somehow make it vanish, but because none of these things can take away what we have of God through Jesus Christ. God’s love and presence and comfort is more permanent than famine or suffering. It’s stronger than death, as unyielding as the grave. How do I put this in writing without tears and trembling? How do I explain this new appreciation of Christmas?"

What gift will you give God this season in appreciation of His Son? I plan to give a new gift. I have purchased a special journal for 2010 in which I plan to log 365 days of praises and trust. I plan to record a piece of scripture that correlated with praising Him or trusting Him. I then plan to record how I have carried that out each day. It may be a challenge but 365 days of praises and trust is what He seeks from us, is it not? I have not been good at doing this in the past. What can you give God in your 365 day gift?

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
~ Ps 25:4-5

A hope to come...the promise we have as we settle in to honor the birth of our Savior. The gifts under that tree seem so meaningless. May we embrace our circumstances. Even more, may we embrace Him.

Merry Christmas friends and blessings for "a Hope to come"!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The New Year is upon us...what is your spiritual goal for 2010?

Each year I choose a piece of scripture to carry me through. It will hold a theme of an area I am trying to improve on or in. Last year, I wanted to build on my prayer life and it has been a beautiful journey and by no means is complete.

God has laid on my heart my need for two things to work on in 2010, two things that go together like chocolate and peanut butter or like a man and a women.....faithfulness (trust) and praise (thankfulness).

This will no doubt be a challenging year ahead of me. To be faithful enough to trust God in all circumstances is a life-long commitment but I recognize my need to focus on it. And God has been so good to me over the years and has brought me out of so much. He should have walked away, even ended my life due to my rebellion yet He CHOSE me and has continually loved me through the years. He is even using me in His ministry to others-totally Him, not me.

His patience, tolerance, forgiveness, mercy, and grace are more than I can comprehend. It is amazing. It is humbling. Yet, if I am honest, I have not acknowledged Him enough nor truly given Him the praises He deserved.

He is showing Himself to me so clearly these days. I am honored as I am not worthy. Faithfully seeking Him, a stronger prayer life, scripture memorization, and continual Bible studies have grown a deeper hunger in my soul to know Him and love Him more...

1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 2 I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God. ~Ps 84 (NLT)

So this morning He took me to Psalm 85 and revealed to me my goal for 2010. The whole chapter is my life and the testament of how He took me out of the pit of despair I had fallen into and redeemed my life. His redemptive grace has yielded a peace that has allowed me to walk differently and to live differently. But one verse in this chapter was a sweet aroma of His love....verse 10 (NLT):

"Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed!"

His unfailing love and the truth of who I am in Him have indeed met. His righteousness and the peace I now live in is indeed a heavenly kiss! The following verses depict how this comes about....

11 Truth springs up from the earth,
and righteousness smiles down from heaven.

When we live and walk by His truth, based on His righteousness, we are promised to experience His goodness in all situations....

12 Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings.
Our land will yield its bountiful harvest.

His glory will shine upon us, His plans in our life will come forth, His mission will yield fruit in the ministries He has called us to....

13 Righteousness goes as a herald before him,
preparing the way for his steps.

He is the model of right living. He has paved the road before us, written down the instructions, created life maps for us to follow. The fuel we need is faith, trust, and praise. The more we trust Him, the more we will see Him. The more we praise Him, the more He will show Himself to us.

These past 6 years have been spiritually transforming and yet it continues. I see a new transformation of my heart beginning in 2010. Daily I will seek Him, daily I will strive to trust Him like never before, and daily I will praise Him...even when it is difficult and satan is marring my vision. A trusting life, fueled by faith and nourished with praises of God in our everyday will remodel any heart.

I am up to this spiritual challenge.

Heavenly kisses....that is what I am seeking in 2010...what are you seeking?

His Maidservant ~ Pamela