Minuit Chretiens (Cantique de Noel)

O Holy Night

by  French poet Placide Cappeau (1808-1877)
from which the lyrics to our beloved “O Holy Night”were birthed

Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour
When God as man descended among us
To expunge the stain of original sin
And to put an end to the wrath of his father. 
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night which gives us a savior.
People, on your knees, attend* your deliverance.
Christmas! Christmas! Here is the Redeemer!
Christmas! Christmas! Here is the Redeemer!
(*) added by hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com to help some meaning was lost in translation

The ardent light of our Faith,
Guides us all to the cradle of the infant,
As in ancient times a brilliant star
Conducted the Magi there from the orient.
The King of kings was born in a humble manger;
O mighty ones of today, proud of your grandeur,
It is to your pride that God preaches.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!

The Redeemer has broken all shackles.
The earth is free and heaven is open.
He sees a brother were there was once but a slave;
Love unites those who restrain the sword.
Who will tell him our gratitude?
It is for us all that he was born, that he suffered and died.
People, stand up, sing your deliverance!
Christmas! Christmas! Let us sing the Redeemer!
Christmas! Christmas! Let us sing the Redeemer!

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Realistic vs Despondent

Those of you who follow me, or have read any posts of mine, know that I am very transparent in my feelings with you. This post is going to be as open and vulnerable as I have ever been in hopes that, as I allow God to work in me through these words, it will also touch many of you who are in need of a new perspective that I feel has been revealed to me.

I haven’t written a post in awhile…and for good reason. Life has been quite hard and emotional over the past several months due to my father’s health steadily declining. He did not suffer with pain and slipped gracefully and peacefully into eternity to meet his Jesus on Sept 7th.

However, loss is loss…and I have found myself in a bad place emotionally. This is not entirely due to my father passing away. In fact, it really has very little to do with that because, although I miss my father – I would not wish him back on this earth. He would have been 96 on Nov 2nd! He lived “large in life” up until the last year living for others and for God. He began to lose more and more ability to move independently and at the end of the summer became bedridden. It was not my wish to keep him in that state just so I could still have my father with me.

My “loss” began when my mother had her first stroke, now nearly seven years ago. We watched her lose the loss of one side of her body along with struggling to speak clearly.  She and my father should have had more help for everyday activities to help her and spell my father, but they refused. I tried to be OK with their belligerence, knowing it was because they were proud people who still wanted to be capable. Still I would often leave their apartment in tears knowing that I was leaving them in a state of neglect. My mother passed away a month after suffering her second stroke three years ago this month.

That means that for seven years I have been in the midst of watching my parents, other elderly relatives, and residents in the assisted living facility where my father lived, lose every ability they had when they were younger and become “the child” who depends on their children to care for them. I labored to maintain my father’s dignity amidst him losing the battle to having control of his bodily functions. I listened to endless stories (many re-told over and over) by this aging population as they re-lived times gone by…times that were filled with accomplishments, activities, family responsibilities and travels.

I know that many of you can relate to most, if not all, of what I am writing. Anyone with aging family members experiences this loss that I am speaking of. It is a loss that has to do with facing the reality that we too shall traverse this path. Our youth slipped away somewhere a few decades ago and middle age is fast becoming a memory also. We grieve the loss of abilities, energy, accomplishments and much more.

Facing this reality is hard, but necessary. If we face the truth of reality we can find comfort, strength AND HOPE in Jesus as believers, but, it became apparent to me after my father died that I was verging on despondency.

I believe the best definition of despondency is a combination of one from the dictionary plus the italics which are mine: hopelessness and despair from a distorted reality.

I am, by nature, an optimistic person – seeing the good in things and believing that the best will happen. But, when I entered the second half century of my life, I also became much more realistic than I had been prior to turning 50. As I said in the last paragraph, I believe it is necessary and good to be realistic about life and it’s hopes and dreams. However, somewhere in the process of becoming more realistic, I began to get a distorted view of that reality. I was unknowingly listening to Satan’s lies that he subtly whispered to me in my “weakened state”. Every difficult thing in life became enormous in my eyes. I knew something was terribly wrong, but it wasn’t until about six weeks ago that I was able to realize the despondency I was headed into.

So, now that I was aware of what I was dealing with, how could I begin to turn back to truthful reality? Comprehending that I had been listening to lies telling me I had good reason to be self-absorbed with my loss of expectations, placing my entire focus in the wrong place…on me and my circumstances – was a HUGE step forward. I had become morbidly dissatisfied. This dissatisfaction had spread like thick, sticky molasses over most every part of my life, and I needed to share that with my husband. (Until then I had not even been able to describe to him where I was at emotionally.) Once God revealed this distorted reality to me I was able to share with him and gain incredible support and love from him.  What a wonderful blessing he is to me!

I am a “fast twitch muscle” gal and I want everything to move fast, but this will be a slow, daily struggle as I focus on walking in truth with God, my husband, great family and wonderful friends encouraging me.

Our pastor spoke this past Sunday on “The God Who Sees” and this statement especially spoke to me: “I have to change my expectations to accept ‘God sees’. …I must trust despite mystery.” I do not like to think of myself as a control freak, but I must admit I don’t like the mystery that life often is. The question that I must answer every morning as I step out of bed is: “Will I trust God and believe that He sees in the midst of the mystery, or will I fall into a distorted reality focusing on what I know and see?”

My answer is a resolute: “I will trust God and believe Him because he IS the source of life. I will live in a God-focused reality.”

 

 

Prayer Anyone?

I have had the privilege of praying with three good friends this past week over the phone. Each time I am allowed to go before the throne of God on behalf of another I am blessed beyond words!

Here is the irony… My mother was a real prayer warrior and I always rather resented it because I felt it took time away from being with my sister and me as we grew up.   I admit my mother, as a prayer warrior, looked very different than I do. She was quite ill and unable to do a lot outside the house and so she spent hours every day in her bedroom chair praying and reading her Bible. I am overcommitted most of the time, so when someone asks me to pray for them or about something they are facing, sometimes I only have a moment to breathe a quick prayer as I drive or head back to work on the computer. As I am writing this post, I realize that perhaps it was not mother being a prayer warrior that I resented, but rather the fact that she her health didn’t allow my sister and I to experience life with our mother like most of our childhood friends got to. But I have lived a long time really not wanting to ever be a prayer warrior because of these memories.

I have a daily devotional book by C John Miller titled Saving Grace. A few days ago the daily reading scripture was from Matthew 6:9-10 where Jesus says: Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Halfway down the page C John Miller writes, “Prayer is partnership together and with the Father. It’s the most daring thing you can do. The devil wants to convince us that it’s boring, routine, and doesn’t accomplish much, if anything. This is a lie. Prayer is where we… ask God to transform the hearts and lives of us an those around us, and ask Him to reshape the world into what He’s design it to be.”

What incredible words! Praying is the most daring thing we can do because we are partnering with the God of the universe in agreement regarding every potential situation humankind can experience and asking Him to show up and do something supernatural! If the devil can keep us from using this most powerful weapon then we are rendered helpless in the face of life’s challenges. No wonder we are called upon to be prayer “warriors”. We are fighting a war that wages in our hearts and minds telling us not to pray for a multitude of reasons. You and I who dare to pray are prayer warriors!

If I can pray with you about something, please write “pray for me” in the comment section of this post. I will respond to the comment with how you can get in touch with me for prayer.

Let me close with the words to a song we sang in Sunday School when I was growing up. “Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone; dare to have a purpose firm, dare to make it known”. Daniel was known from the time he was a teenage boy as a man who prayed.

He DARED!

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“My spirit faints…breathe and infuse me with encouragement, Lord!”

This is my ongoing prayer during this chapter of my life. I am quite certain that many of you can identify with the need to pray this also.

“Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.” Psalm 143:4

This verse comes from a chapter where David is being pursued by an enemy. He is literally, and figuratively, at the end of his human strength. I would not presume to believe that my situation is nearly as dire as his because my personal safety is not at risk…but the fact still remains that ongoing major stresses in life can cause my spirit to faint. I have had many times when my throat tightens, tear well up, my heart begins to race and I just want the situation to pass as quickly as possible.

Fainting is a temporary thing! That is the first good news. As believers in Jesus, our souls may faint in the moment – but they do not expire.  …take some time to take that in fully.

The Lord is our encouragement when our soul faints. We do not have to conjure up the strength to encourage ourselves. I can attest to the fact that self-talk to encourage myself it rarely successful. However, when we allow God to breathe and infuse encouragement into us, it is always successful!

How is “breathe” different from “infuse”?
Breathe in this context is not inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. Rather it is a transitive verb meaning “to send out”, as in God sends out His encouragment and we are the recipient of that encouragement.
Infuse is also a transitive verb meaning “to cause to be permeated with something (such as a principle or quality) that alters usually for the better”.

So, although “breathe” is a beautiful word that brings to mind relaxation, joy, peace and – in this case – encouragement… I believe “infuse” gives a better word picture of how God brings encouragement to you. Since infuse means to permeate or be saturated with something outside of ourselves – an infusion of God’s encouragement ALWAYS alters us for the better. It is a literal taking over of our faint spirits via permeating encouragement!

Join me as I pray to – speaking figuratively – wallow (indulge in an unrestrained way) in God’s mud puddle until our spirits are revived!

 

God’s Timing

one-o-clock-12596455I have a confession to make… I still get puzzled and frustrated with God’s timing in my life!  It shouldn’t surprise me that I get puzzled because, as a created being, I will never fully grasp His consummate timing. And, the reason I get frustrated with His timing is because I often think more of myself, the creation, than God my creator!

“Sometimes God will make you wait on purpose, not only so you will know it was His favor, but so all of your critics, friends, relatives and coworkers won’t be able to deny what God has done in your life.”

This quote was recently shared by someone I follow on Instagram and it spoke to me, because most of it is true. I was definitely disappointed to find out that this is something Joel Osteen said, because I don’t agree with much of anything he has to say, but there is truth in this quote and that is what I want to focus on.

I have only two choices possible when God says “wait”. The first is to whine and wimper and act like a spoiled little child whose daddy has told me I can’t have a toy I want at the toy store. The second is to stay on my knees before my heavenly daddy in humbleness welcoming His answer… whether that be “wait”… or “no”. (This is part of the quote that is not truth, because God doesn’t always only make us wait. Sometimes His answer is a definite “no” but even that answer is His favor!)

Favor refers to “an act of kindness beyond what is due”. The creator of the universe, and my creator, take the definition of this word to a new level because His favor toward me is not just acts of kindness, but rather acts of mercy and grace unmerited by me. Sending His one and only son to die and pay the penalty of sin for me is the greatest of all these acts, but He shows me ongoing mercy and grace everyday. Sometimes I am not aware of His favor and other times I am so aware of His favor that I can only cry out “God thank you!”. So, my re-write for the first part of this quote would be “Sometimes God will make you wait, or ask you to accept His “no” response on purpose, not only so you will know it was His favor, but so that…”

The rest of the quote is spot on, but knowing Joel’s teaching I am presuming the focus is in the wrong place. God knows that every part of His plan for your life will be a witness to God’s glory to everyone in your life.

However, to see the glory of God, the focus needs to be on GOD and what HE has done in your life – not on YOU and what he has done in YOUR life.

Last week our pastor spoke of the encounter Mary and Martha had with Jesus after the death of their brother, Lazarus.  In John 11:40, just before He raised Lazarus up from the dead Jesus said “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” The focus at this point in the story was definitely not on anyone except God and what He was doing.

When God is at work in your life “… our critics, friends relatives and coworkers won’t be able to deny what Almighty GOD has done, is doing and will do in your life.”

Glorifying God is our chief mission according to the Westminster catechism. God will be glorified in us, despite us.

Sometimes God will make you wait, or ask you to accept His “no” response on purpose, not only so you will know it was His favor, but so that… your critics, friends relatives and coworkers won’t be able to deny what ALMIGHTY GOD has done, is doing and will do in your life.” – re-written by Carin Hansen

May this bless you as much as it has blessed me to break this apart and digest each part. What A God We Serve!

Christmas Anticipation

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I have been enjoying/benefiting from a sermon series our new teaching pastor, Shawn Peterson, has been sharing with us. The series is titled “Anticipate the Miracle”. The second week of the series one of his points was that Mary humbly accepted what the angel told her.  “The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  that she was going to have a baby who was holy – as the son of God.” – Luke 1:35 and 36

As I wrote that this point in my notes, my mind went two directions. By now you know that I love to look at the definitions of words and use those to see old truths in new ways. Mary was told that Jesus, her baby, would be the “holy” as the son of God – but the angel could have also said that Jesus would be the “wholly” the son of God.

The two words mean something totally different, but each of them have importance in the Christmas story.
Holy means dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred
Wholly means entirely; fully

Jesus was BOTH “Holy the Son of God” and “Wholly the Son of God”. This isn’t any earth-shattering revelation or even a new insight. It is simply another way of picturing our Lord and savior Jesus Christ coming as a babe in the flesh.

It increases my joy and anticipation of Christmas as I think upon the fact that the babe in the manger, with no crib for His bed – was dedicated and consecrated to God, sacred (set apart with an identity that could not be messed with) AND entirely, fully God also!

We, who have accepted Jesus as our savior, are holy and sacred to God too. That is our sacred identity. But, we are not wholly God – and never will be. He ALONE is GOD, God the trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is our heavenly Father and we are His children. Children of the God of ALL!

Anticipate the celebration this time of year brings for Jesus coming as an infant -and then anticipate the celebration that will be ours when He comes to earth again; this time not as a babe in a manger, but as the King of Glory!

Jesus: “Holy the Son of God” and “Wholly the Son of God”.

Resposturing According to My Sacred Identity

sacred-identity-logo-best     Why is it that every few days I am reminded of my word for 2016 “reposturing” and realize that, once again, I have improper posture? Today, during a quiet moment, I was praying and thinking about how great God is. The next moment I realized that, although I KNOW deep within my spirit that I have a sacred identity (as a Christian) with God – I had once again slouched in my chair, as it were, instead of sitting up straight in THE JOY OF THIS IDENTITY!

So, this post is a review for ME, but I trust it will bless you also.

What does it mean to have a sacred identity with God? Let me break the two words apart and look at them separately. That is the best way for me to understand it.

If some thing is Sacred it means:
It is worthy of respect because
1. it is Holy and has a special connection to God, and
2. because it is regarded as too important to be changed or interfered with

Identity has three great definitions:
1. a set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known. This “set of characteristics” is defined by its uniqueness because the same set of characteristics is not held by any other person or thing.
2. a relation that holds only between any entity and itself. In this case the “entity” is me, and “itself ” is God.
3. the condition of being asserted, declared, made known or openly avowed.

I have many “identities”. I have gender identity, a personality identity, a financial identity a familial identity – and the list goes on. AND, in each of these identities I have a sameness of essential character because I am the same person, just in different arenas of life. As a Christian, I also have a sacred identity.

My sacred identity means that I have a special connection with God that is too important to be changed or interfered with!
And, God has openly declared or avowed that I have this connection with Him.

Why then do I so easily move away from the reality of this identity and begin to slouch in my chair under the daily stresses, concerns, responsibilites and relationships? Because I am human! Now that is profound, isn’t it? But, no really – it is because I am frail human, whose humaness oozes out all over things on a regular basis.

It is only as I meditate (stay my mind) on this identity and desire God’s spirit to work in me during all moments of life, not just the quiet ones that I can sit up straight knowing it is Him and not me who is doing the supporting.

Life is ongoing reposturing! May I hunker down in my sacred identity with God my father, the savior of my soul and the comforter of my spirit! My sacred identity is ALL I NEED!