Saturday, December 15, 2018

What Shall I Give Him? A Christmas Reflection

There is a song from a poem by Christina Rosetti

"What can I give Him, poor as I am, if I were a shepherd, I'd bring Him a lamb; If I were a wise man, I'd sure do my part; but what can I give him? Give Him my heart"

So here's how it went. I don't know about you, but very often I have a revelation while I am sitting in church even though it has nothing to do with the passage of scripture being read or even the gist of the sermon the pastor is preaching. Sorry, pastor(s) if you are reading this! That Sunday it was in the lyrics to a song we were singing in worship. "I bring an offering of worship to my King, no one on earth deserves the praises that I sing, Jesus may you receive the honor that you're due, oh Lord I bring an offering to you." (Paul Baloche; I bring an Offering)  We had started our Advent sermon series and I was pondering the whole idea of how bringing gifts to the King has been turned by our culture into giving gifts to one another, which in turn makes us focus on the gifts we are receiving. Just like at Thanksgiving culture has us thanking the people in our lives instead of thanking God, but that's another post for another holiday...

O.K. so Gifts. It was at this point where my thoughts focused on how these last few years I had been having a lot of trouble with what God "handed" me by way of my circumstances, and truly, I have had, for numerous years struggled with what I called "waiting for the next thing to be thrown at me" through life's storms.

Now I must back up a minute and mention another song, one which my sisters from CoffeeBreak will readily recognize as it has been used in I don't know how many womens' stories. It is the one that says "What if the trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?" (Blessings - by Laura Story) I just couldn't resonate with the premise of it no matter how many times it was shared.

So on this particular morning, I went in another direction. I thought, what if the trials and struggles that we face were viewed as an offering? What if, when things don't go as we had wished or planned or prayed, we considered it as a sacrifice we are making to give God our heart? This really turned things around for me.

All of a sudden I was not looking at what God gave me and counting it as a poor substitute for what I was asking for, instead I was seeing it as a request from Almighty God to sacrifice my wishes to make an offering to Him.

He calls us in Luke 9:23 to take up our cross, and like you, I had heard this before, but on this day, I put the 2 things together -  suffering various trials (James 1) and taking up your cross (Luke 9).

In addition, Peter talks about participating in the sufferings of Christ. So let's say I am suffering various trials, it's a given. We live in a fallen world. It hurts. It costs. But let's say I put all those things on an altar of worship, not expecting anything to change, just accepting what it is and placing it up there. Isn't it such a relief, in fact doesn't it make me want to rejoice? I found that it did. I have something to give Him, in fact, He picked it out and asked me to give it to Him!

And this brings us to the tie in with Christmas and the poem. If we focus on what we are giving to the King instead of what we're receiving and if we give him our heart, that is, keep faithful and give our trials to Him as an offering, we know that they will be a fragrant aroma (Frankincense and Myrrh) to Him and, like the little drummer boy, make Him smile. We also know that in the end we will receive a heavenly reward for standing firm and enduring and remaining faithful until He comes again in Glory.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Desert Blessings

I have to say thank you to my dear friend from Sunday School class who gave a devotion at our Women's Tea about our Good Shepherd giving us green things to nibble on in the desert. She had these visual aids showing the grazing lands of Israel with little dots of sheep on rocky, sandy hillsides. She went on to explain how evening condensation dripped down the rocks to form little patches of green at the base. (Gen. 37:12; Ps.23; John 10)

But my mind went to another place while she was talking. I thought about what the sheep's perspective was. They gladly chomped away at whatever the Shepherd led them to and when it was gone, followed him to the next spot. Not at any time in this scenario did the sheep look up and say, “What a lousy excuse for grazing land this is!” or “How am I supposed to survive out here in this desolate place?” Aahh wretched heart of mine, isn't that what I do, nearly all the time as I look at the circumstances around me? I question and doubt, even when every single day I have my daily piece of nourishment right in front of my nose. I keep looking up and all around, many times away at the future, and see what's lacking.

I am reminded of the Lord's prayer (Matt. 6; Luke 11) where it says “give us this day our daily bread” because we learn that God's intention is for us to be grateful that he provides every day, what we need without fail. We also learn that we don't need to worry about the day after that and the day after that (also from Matt 6).

I am also reminded of John Calvin who, as an exercise in understanding God's provision, counted every catastrophy he could think of that did not happen to him even though it could have, so he would have a keener sense of all that God provided in the form of protection.

Both of these examples stir me to remember that I can go through life looking at the desolation of the dry desert places, or I can focus on today and the satisfying patch of green laid right before me.

So I got this all worked out in my mind and I shared it over kitchen clean-up with my son, thinking, “I'll keep him from falling into the 'woe is me' trap by sharing this little nugget as a teachable moment.” But boy did I get a surprise. He said to me, “Yeah, I try to stay away from that kind of thinking, and I have to keep myself from scolding my friends when they go there, saying, 'then this awful thing happened and then this other awful thing happened' I don't want to sound mean.” So basically he is already a much better sheep than I am, and that's where I found my most precious morsel of green for that day!

Thank you Lord, for elders and youngsters who can breathe truth into my life as we walk together on the path you have given us. Thank you for guiding us always to green pastures and still waters.