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"!


Anonymous said...

I love this challenge. I want to join you in praising God each day by recording in a journal who He is, what it means to be His, to be called by His name and to live with and worship the great "I AM". More of Him Less of me.

You asked me the other day did I have a life verse and I did not. But I couldn't stop thinking about that. God gave me a verse I think will be my life verse: Galations 6:14 "For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate." The message Bible. I didn't think I could pick just one verse because the Bible is so rich, but this verse is what I desire. To boast only in one thing my Lord crucified. Nothing I attain here will mean anything only Him and who I am in Him.

much2ponder said...

This is a very good post. In keeping things in perspective. I know all too well the feelings you speak of here and it seems many people I know have encountered similar feelings, though circumstances may be different.

Your words and the words of your friend have led me to ponder some things concerning finding ways to really appreciate the Lord regardless of our circumstances. I don't pretend to know what the Lord is doing in our midst, but I do feel he is calling us to a new awareness of Him in our daily lives. One where we begin to realize he is our only hope as you so honestly speak of with your words.

I am sorry for your hardship and for the loss of a dear friend. I pray that in your daily writings you will find Joy again and be able to gain insight as to what the Lord has purposed you for and that it will open doors that will add dimension and breath to your walk with him.

Journaling to the Lord has proven to be a bridge that has helped me to communicate as well as listen to the Lord especially when I am seeking his comfort.

I feel blessed to join you on your journey.

Jackie said...

Hi Pam,
Just reread your blog Challenge for 2010. I had to tell you I went out and puchased a special journal to join you. Your Ohio sister will be struggling with it also but knowing others are trying to stay faithful to it may encourage each of us! I have to say, I really like the little journal I found. It has several beautiful Arabian horse heads on the front and back cover with a metallic look, and it was half price!! I can't wait to get started, might even break it in tomorrow for New Year's Eve Morn! Let us Praise the Lord! Please continue to pray for my daughter in law Janelle, who is on bed rest. Thanks!

Pamela (His maidservant) said...

I'm sensing 2010 being all about Him and what better way to get closer than to praise Him daily!! Of course this involves a little more than words but praying back scripture. We must share t/o the next year!!

In His Graces~Pamela

Pat said...

Belated Merry Christmas pamela and Happy New Year. The heart of your friend should be an example for us all right? Somethings just seem too heard to bear. My heart is with you all.
God's Peace as you step into a New Year,