Do You Dance?

A tired boy
A tired boy

After my first son was born, the pediatrician came into the hospital room to release him for going home and said as he sat on the end of the bed, “There are going to be lots of people who will give you advice on raising your son. Some advice you’ll be able to use and the rest – ignore. I’m going to give you one word of advice I hope you will use. Dance with your children.”

That was some of the best advice I have ever received as a mom.

In the book of 2 Samuel, chapter 6 in the Old Testament, it talks about King David dancing before the Lord with all his might (verse 14) in celebration and worship over bring the Ark of the Covenant to the city David. And while he danced in celebration, his wife stood and watched her husband and contempt grew within her.

Dancing does something to and for your spirit. Have you ever wondered if dancing is a God-given means to worshipping the Creator? I know I am treading on thin ice with that comment, but think about it. Now, I am in no way talking about the kind of dancing that is so prevalent in society today where its movements and gestures leave nothing to the imagination. I’m talking about the kind of dancing David was doing. The kind of dancing like that of a little child. The kind of dancing that won’t sit still but must get up and move in celebration, in worship.

A child is not taught to dance. A child simply listens to the music he/she hears and will begin to bounce up and down. They respond with their entire being, even before they begin to walk.

In Lamentations 5:15 it says, “There isn’t any joy in our hearts.
 Our dancing has turned into mourning.”

There is something to be said for dancing. Dancing in response to a joy embedded deep within our hearts. When the joy runs out, the dance ceases. Dancing is a response to joy.

I remember one night after dinner when one of my kids, then 22, got up from the table and asked me to dance with them, “…like you did when we were kids.” I was caught by surprise. And then I remembered that one piece of advice from two decades prior.

Dance with your children.

They are never too old. They are never too young. Do it in celebration of being chosen to parent that little one. Do it in worship to a God who thought up the idea. Don’t be like David’s wife and stand looking on with contempt and miss out of the joy the Lord has for you.

Get up and dance.

Something Beautiful

red_tulips_500_750.jpg beautiful Something beautiful… I open my Bible to Philippians 1:6. I need to read it as it’s written to make sure I am not interjecting something that isn’t there. And I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns. (Phil 1:6, TLB)   And it says it – the way I learned it…

He – God – who began a good work in me, will continue that good work until He is finished.

It would fairly easy to let despair and discouragement have their way and swallow me up some days. Discouragement over sometimes feeling I am not making a difference. The days, just rolling one into another and it’s hard to tell one from the last. It seems the same, day after day. It will never change. And I begin to wonder… what am I doing here?

Yes… What am I doing here?

When I measure myself against the world, I will fear I will never make it. I will never be another Mother Teresa, Harriet Tubman, or Mary, mother of Jesus. I will never record the next hit song that touches every soul that hears it. Write the next best-selling book that changes lives. Find a cure for a – presently – incurable disease.

However, when I measure myself against God’s standards, I find I am not such a failure. Sure, I am not  another Mother Teresa. I cannot go to India to care for the sick and oppressed but, I can pray for the sick and oppressed and I can pray for the Mother Teresa’s of the world who do go and care for them. I will never record the next touching song, nor would you want me to. I may not write the next book that changes lives, but I may write a book that encourages some. I won’t find a cure but I can intervene for and come alongside and encourage/help those who diligently are trying to find one.

My purpose, compared to others, may seem slight. Small. Insignificant. But it is the purpose God has entrusted to me and it is not to be compared to what others are purposed for. I am responsible to be a good steward of all he has given to me, including my time and talents and how He would have me use them. Even when it seems I have nothing to offer, I do. Even if it’s ‘just’ a prayer. A word of encouragement. Even just a simple smile.

And the thing is – I can find myself going about, feeling like a failure. I can easily find myself forgetting that, in my (what can often seem) mundane life because of a disease I never expected, God is still in a process of finishing His work in me.

Me.

I am a tapestry with many colors. There are threads hanging where one color ended and another began. The picture often seems hard to identify, but little by little it’s coming together. When He’s finished, all the loose threads will be tucked in or will have been snipped. And He’ll turn it over and behold something beautiful.

Me.

God will, He will finish what He started
No thread will be left unwoven
Nothing will be left undone
Every plan and every purpose
That He has will be accomplished
And God will finish what He’s begun.

(Steven Curtis Chapman)

Dare to Believe

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chilled

hungry

an overactive imagination

or an illusion?

 

Did they really see

what they thought they saw?

 

Running as told to do

as if their life depended on it –

through the fields,

to the valley below –

running,

expecting to find,

what?

 

a baby –

lying in a manger

 

did the angel realize

just how many mangers were in

the little town

of Bethlehem?

 

still they ran

due to unheard of visits from heaven’s messengers

in the middle of the night

to a sheep trough

 

something inside – deep inside

told them to

hope!

 

and so they did

 

three empty mangers

five cows

three pigs

dozens of chickens

and

no baby –

 

their imagination?

a misplaced hope?

 

a baby’s cry pierces the silence

pierces the doom

that had begun to discolor

the hope

that defies understanding

 

stepping in closer

peering toward the dim light

the baby nurses at his mother’s breast

 

finished

his father lays him gently

in the manger

 

cooing has replaced crying

satisfied and soothed

the baby sleeps

as strangers

join in awe and celebration

of an unknown king

precious and perfect in every way –

 

could this really be?

do we dare to hope

do we dare to believe

do we dare to praise this infant

who will save us all

from our sin,

and give us a second chance

to live

again?

That Very First Christmas

image

“Mary – I am so sorry. I feel I’ve let you down. God gives me a task to do and we end up here – in a barn.”

“Joseph, it’s all a part of God’s plan. Remember the scriptures.”

Joseph was trying so hard to make things as comfortable as possible. Who would’ve known she’d end up about ready to give birth in a stable? He chuckled to himself.  ‘Who’, indeed. He was just thankful there was clean hay.

“I don’t understand how having a baby in a barn is part of God’s plan for a future king.  However, I am not going to be the one to tell God that this is a little out of the ordinary.” Joseph then piled some fresh hay behind Mary’s back. He stopped and bent back so that he was able to see her face. “It is a bit out of the ordinary – don’t ‘ya think?”

Mary smiled. “There’s nothing ordinary about any of this Joseph.”

Joseph saw her wince as she positioned herself for the next contraction.

“Are you sure I can’t do anything?  Something?” Kneeling beside her, sweat dripped from his brow.  “Are you warm enough? Is there enough straw behind your back?”

“Jo-seph,” she said, stressing both syllables of his name as the pain increased.  “Please – just hold – my hand!”

He wiped her forehead with a cool cloth.

“I should have listened to Seth when he told me about the census traffic and left a bit sooner.  Then that donkey…  Seriously Mary – that’s the slowest thing I’ve ever seen! I could have carried you faster,” he said, trying to lighten the moment.  “Then – I can’t even find you a decent room here in town.  If I had listened, maybe you wouldn’t have to be smelling the fragrant aroma of this barn.”

“Joseph,” Mary said, breathing normally once again, “You know everything happens for a reason.  We are in the Lord’s hands.” Mary braced herself once more for another contraction.  “They’re coming faster.”

Joseph watched as Mary’s face became the expression of concentrated effort by submitting to the pain inside her body. For some reason, ‘they’re coming faster’ made him all the more anxious than he had already been feeling.

“You know,” he said, as if convincing himself, “It really will be fine.  God keeps His promises. That much I have learned.”

Joseph rested his hand on top of Mary’s shoulder.  “It’s incredible to think about, you know – how this baby is going to be King.”

Joseph’s face shined with excitement and awe.  Mary exchanged glances with the cow a few feet away.  Did they understand what was happening?  Did God let them in on this secret? she wondered.  Were they amused with how nervous Joseph was, as evidenced by his non-stop monologue?

Mary smiled.  “It’s overwhelming, but – could you not think about that right now and just hold my hand?”

Joseph took Mary’s hand as her next contraction started.  She squeezed his fingers tightly as the pain intensified and Joseph wanted to scream. This young woman – the one he believed was meant for him – had been singled out and chosen to carry the Son of God.  Mary had a faith that, on occasion, he found himself envying.

He had watched her begin to care for this baby months ago. He watched how seriously she had taken the role God had given her of carrying this precious cargo – a promise, made hundreds of years ago, about to be fulfilled.  The promise of a King, bringing hope and salvation to the world. He was awed and humbled to be a part of this plan, no matter how unbelievable it seemed and he had to admit – it was pretty unbelievable at first. How many years had his people waited for God to make good on His promise and now, here he and Mary were – key players in the story?

Joseph looked down at his wife.  She was tired.  He pushed her hair back once more and spoke as he held her hand in his.

“You know Mary – I don’t know how, but this little guy’s gonna save the world.  Who knows? Maybe He’ll be able to teach that donkey to move a little faster!”

Mary smiled faintly as beads of sweat ran down her face. “Anything’s possible Joseph.  But for now, we have a baby to deliver.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As Mary rested, Joseph held the newborn in his arms and looked at the baby’s perfect little face so fragile – so innocent. So… miraculous.  Joseph took a deep breath and then he smiled.

“Welcome to the world, little man.  Welcome, Son of God.”

The Chosen One

image
Murray stood as tall as he could, which was difficult considering he was the shortest angel. The meeting was about to get underway. He found a spot in front where he wouldn’t miss anything.

A great announcement was made by the King and Murray wasn’t sure if he would be able to contain his excitement. As soon as the meeting was over, Murray rushed to find Gabriel, his mentor.

“Who do you think He’ll choose?” Murray asked Gabriel. “Do you think He’ll choose an angel-in-training? Do you think He might consider me? Do you think I have a chance?” he kept on, trying to catch his breath.

“Slow down there, young one. There is no need to be anxious. The Lord God will choose wisely the one needed for each task. He knows best.”
“I wish I could have been the one to tell Mary the good news – that she was chosen to be the Baby’s mother or even the one who was chosen to talk to Joseph about not getting all worked up over how things were going in his relationship with Mary.” They took a few steps and Murray continued. “I just hope He picks me to be the angel that sits on top of the stable where He told us He’s going to have the baby be born.” And as an after thought, he added, “I only wish it wasn’t a stable but something a little tiny bit more spectacular.”
Gabriel stopped and turned to Murray. “Son, if your heart is in the right place and you desire to serve for the right reasons, it doesn’t matter where He calls you – to a stable or a stage.”

Murray bent his head low. “Yes, sir.” His head was back up in an instant. “Mr. Gabriel, sir, can you tell me again what it was like to tell Mary the good news?”

Gabriel was amused at the littlest angel’s enthusiasm. He was sure to become a great addition to the army of angels. So much energy and such a willingness to serve anywhere, but still in need of maturity.

“It was humbling to be chosen.”

Murray only heard Gabriel’s story once. Gabriel never talked about it. If I was chosen, I’d tell everybody! Over and over again!, Murray thought to himself. But that was not Gabriel’s way.

“Come,” Gabriel motioned to Murray. “We have been summoned.”

Gabriel did not elaborate and flew with great intensity toward the throne. As he approached, his head was down and his wings fluttered slightly as he sang, “Glory and honor and praise to you, oh King of Kings. Holy are You Lord, my God.”

Murray didn’t need to be told to approach the Lord in worship and awe. No one needed to be told. God’s presence commanded nothing less.

Gabriel kept His head bowed as God spoke.

“Gabriel, it’s time for the multitude of angels to be assembled. Are they ready?”

“Yes, Lord.”

Murray glanced over at Gabriel. Why does he never look at the Lord? , Murray thought as he kept his head down as well, wanting badly to look up into the face of God.

“Have you appointed the stable angel?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“And the kings are taken care of?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Well done, Gabriel. Thank you.”

“Yes, Lord.”

Gabriel stood and before taking flight sang, “Holy are You Lord God. Glory and honor belong to You alone.”

Murray and Gabriel flew to where thousands of angels gathered while waiting for orders. Gabriel immediately set about giving instructions.

“Michael, gather 40 to take with you to the stable. Put 10 at each post surrounding the manger and you stand center guard. Daniel, you take 5,000 and announce the good news to the shepherds. After leading them to the stable, join the other warriors who are already there.”

I have not even been chosen, Murray thought. What’s wrong with me?

Gabriel and Murray watched as the heavenly armies took flight. The force of air that moved at their departure blew Murray back and he caught his breath. How he wished he had been in their company. Just as he was about to question Gabriel, Gabriel was off once again.

“Come,” Gabriel shouted. Murray followed obediently. “We must tell the kings to warn Mary and Joseph about going home.”

“What kings?” Murray asked, somewhat annoyed.

“That’s what holds you back,” Gabriel interjected.

“What do you mean?” Murray asked, softening his attitude.

“Some of your self remains within your spirit.”

Murray flew silently. Gabriel slowed and then stopped in flight, looking at Murray.

“Do you understand what I’m trying to show you?”

Murray looked at Gabriel. Gabriel could see Murray’s eyes open wider.

Wanting to be the one atop the stable. Wanting to be the one to lead the multitudes in song before the shepherds. Wanting to be the one to give Mary the good news and tell Joseph not to fret. Wanting to be the one. Wanting badly to look upon the face of God instead of being content with basking in His glory. All these thoughts filled Murray’s mind.

“It’s been about me, hasn’t it?”

Gabriel nodded. “Self cannot serve for God’s glory.”

Murray took a deep breath. “Sir, I’m ready.”

Gabriel gave Murray an accepting nod and smile. “I know you are. Come on,” he said, “we’ve got work to do.”
Murray and Gabriel came to the Orient where the three kings were sleeping. Having gathered for political purposes, they were now all fast asleep after participating in the day’s gatherings.

Gabriel instructed Murray on what to do and Murray went inside the castle walls while Gabriel stood guard upon the highest peak of the castle.

Murray entered the rooms where each king slept. He stood beside each bed and as the men lay sleeping, Murray told them they must follow the bright star shining in the night sky to where the holy, baby King lay. They would hear of King Herod’s wicked plan and warn the holy Baby’s parents.

When Murray finished his task, he joined Gabriel.

“Did you speak to them in their dreams?”

“Yes, sir.”

Gabriel took a deep breath. “Good.”

“Do you realize what part you have played in God’s plan of redemption?”

“No, sir.”

“You’ve instructed the three kings to find the Holy Baby, and on their way they will learn of King Herod’s evil plan to destroy all baby boys. Murray, you have played a part of saving the Chosen One.”

Murray looked at Gabrielle and smiled. “And that way, He can save the world.”

“Exactly, Murray. Exactly.”

A Child Shall Lead Them

Asher ran quickly through Bethlehem , not even stopping when the sharp stone pierced through the tender flesh on the bottom of his foot. Nothing would distract him, not even the pain that seared up his leg whenever his heel hit the ground.
He turned off the main road into an alley and soon threw open the wooden door to his family’s home.

“Mother!”

“Slow down, my son. You will hurt yourself.”

She was awkwardly pouring water from the wooden bucket, into the pot above the fire. Asher swiftly moved to help her before the water spilled onto the flames below.

“Mother! You’ve got to come back with me. Let’s hurry! It’s incredible!”

He handed the bucket back to her as she thanked him.

“Asher, sit in that chair and calm down.”

Her tone was firm and he obeyed, feeling like a five year old again, instead of the stout, rugged fourteen year old he had become.

“Tell me what you are talking about.”

“The king we’ve waited for! I know it’s him!”

“What king?”

“Mother, quit kidding around and come with me!” He started for the door.

“Asher, where is your brother Aaron?”

“He stayed with the flock.”

“Why are you not in the fields with your brothers and here instead, speaking of nonsense?”

“Mother, you’ve got to come and see for yourself!”

Asher stood in the frame of the doorway holding the door open as he waited for his mother to follow.

“Asher, I don’t know what you are talking about, but you need to be tending your father’s flock with your brothers.”

“But mother – it’s him. I know it! You’ve got to come with me!”

“Asher, get back to the fields with Joshua and Aaron and stop this now.”

Asher’s heart beat so quickly, he thought it was going to burst. Just then, he remembered his father’s stories, the very thing that caused him to find the child in the stable.

“Mother”, he said, certain she would not dismiss him now. “There were men – sent from God – they were all in white and beautiful. They told us about the child just born, so we went. Aaron thought they were a hoax, but Joshua and I are sure they were angels. Mother, please – come with me!”

Asher’s mother stood still, processing what her son had said while he waited.

“Go get Joshua and get back to helping Aaron with your father’s sheep. Now.”

Asher wanted to ask why she didn’t believe him. Instead, he turned and stepped back outside and proceeded back to where he came from.

As he approached the small lean-to behind the town’s inn, he heard the soft murmur of voices. A small fire was burning inside and Asher knew, by the way the logs were stacked upon the bare earth, that his brother had built it for the little family. Cold inside, the heat of the fire warmed up the small space where the family quietly looked down upon the new life before them.

“You can come closer.” The mother didn’t appear any older than Asher himself, and he accepted the invitation, hunkering down right beside the trough.

“Asher!” Standing back in the corner, his brother Joshua whispered at him loudly, as if stopping him short of making a mistake.

Asher looked over at the woman, her kind eyes and smile softening the moment. Then her husband spoke.

“It’s okay. We named him Jesus.”

Asher smiled shyly. Looking back at the baby, he seemed drawn even closer. He sat on his knees and he put his arms on the side of the trough.
What was this new fascination about a baby?, he thought, never before mesmerized.

The child’s eyes opened. There was something different about those tiny eyes that kept Asher staring back.

“Hi.” Asher’s voice was soft as he slid the palm of his hand under the baby’s.

The tiny hand grasped Asher’s finger.

“He’s so beautiful.”

Asher smiled at the mother and she turned to look up at her husband who stood beside her.

“Yes, he is beautiful. He likes you.”

Asher felt emboldened. “Can I come back later?”

“Of course. We’ll be here a few days, I’m certain.”

Asher smiled and looked back at the baby. Lifting himself up, he bent over, compelled to kiss the child’s head. As he did, Asher softly whispered,

“Welcome little king. Welcome.”

I tell you with certainty, “Unless you become like a little child, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:3 NIV