Monthly Archives: December 2012

Bookends

One Christmas I bought a set of classy looking, heavy weight ceramic bookends that were shaped like a couple of volumes of books and painted beautifully.  I wrapped them carefully and put them under the tree.  It was a joy to watch my husband, who has always loved to read, open his gift.   These bookends, chipped after multiple moves, have been used for more than 40 years.

I recently learned that Johann Sebastian Bach used two phrases as bookends.   In a devotion from the Prayer Devotional Bible, Ben Patterson wrote,” In a very real way Bach’s works were bathed in prayer.  He often penned the letters JJ near the beginning of a score and SDG at the end.  JJ stands for Jesu Juva, Latin for “Help me, O Jesus”; SDG stands for another Latin phrase, Soli Deo Gloria,  “To God Alone Be the Glory.”

Bookends for life.  JJ at the beginning of every endeavor and SDG at each completion.  JJ for each morning and SDG for each evening.   SDG at the end of each year, and JJ at the beginning of each new one.  “Help me, O Jesus” was at the beginning of my life of faith, and “to God alone be the Glory” will be my final breath.

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A Gift From The Attic And A Gift From Above

My mother-in-law had an attic of  surprises.   As the young wife of a poor pastor, I wanted a creche, although I knew I could not afford one.   When I shared my longing with my mother-in-law, she replied, “I’m sure I have one in the attic.  I’ll find it for you.”  This was even better than a new one.  I cherished the fact this one (the one featured in this post)  was a piece of family history.   My husband and his brothers never recognized or remembered the one she gave me.  We decided it was the creche of Mom’s childhood.  That made it older and  more precious.  I am sure Grandmother was easy going for there are many signs of wear and tear (Mary is missing a nose) by children who must have played with the Nativity figures, imagining what it would have been like to have been there that night when Jesus was born – children who must have been pulled with awe and wonder into the story.  I still set the creche up every Christmas, even when I know my grandchildren won’t be here.   Perhaps like the children who first gazed with wonder on this creche, I have the need to touch the story, up close and personal, to be in it and worship the new born King.

May each of us visit Bethlehem this Christmas in our hearts and wonder anew at the miracle of The Son of God come to earth to be The Lamb of God.

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Christmas Gifts

God the Father gave the gift of his Son, Jesus.   Jesus gave his followers the gift  0f his Spirit. ( See I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.)   The Spirit gives gifts to the followers of Jesus, gifts to be used in ministry to others.   When we abide in Jesus, his Spirit produces fruit in us – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.   These fruits make us a blessing and a gift to others.  These fruits bear seeds that reproduce more of the same fruit in our circles of influence, bringing the Kingdom of God to earth.  These are gifts that last, gifts that keep on giving.

May you discover these gifts this Christmas and joyfully unwrap and share them.  As you do, may the Holy Spirit descend on you, like a dove, and bring you sweet peace.

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Christmas LOVE

The Old Testament book of Hosea is a favorite of mine.   It is the story of Hosea’s love for his unfaithful wife Gomer.  It is a metaphor for God’s love for Israel and the world he promised to bless through Abraham.  In his introduction to the Book of Hosea in the Prayer Devotional Bible, Ben Patterson writes:  “New Testament scholar Anders Nygren described God’s love as “subject-centered” as opposed to “object-centered.”  Object-centered love flows because the object of love, the beloved, is so irresistibly wonderful.  This kind of love is more a reflex than a choice.  This kind of love leads one to “fall” in love.  On the other hand, subject-centered love originates in the lover, not because the beloved is so lovable , but because the lover is.  This kind of love is definitely a choice.  But it does not mean that it is any less passionate.”

God chose to love the world that breaks his heart.  He proved that love by sending his son, Jesus, to earth to show us his heart and to die for our sins.   He has shown us how to love our husbands, our wives, our children, our neighbors – not as a reflex but as a choice, as a sacrifice.  Let us love others as he has loved us this Christmas and all year long, as our gift of profound gratitude to him.

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Bad News For Good News

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:11

I hated getting the bad news that there was more reclamation to be done in my life.   I liked the status quo.   I hated having more sin in my life brought into the light of day.  It was so painful.  The good news was that my Savior volunteered  to be the general contractor and guaranteed that the work would be completed according to his specifications and by his power.

In this advent season, as I am going through another of his painful makeovers,  I rejoice that the completed work will be worth my cooperation and surrender.   I rejoice in The Savior who is Christ the Lord.  He has saved me, he is saving me, and he will save me.   He saved my marriage, he is saving my marriage, and he will save my marriage.   He is the Lord of new beginnings, the One who makes all things new.

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How To Forgive

In the first volume of his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew regarding chapter 6:12, 14-15, William Barclay wrote,  “”Of all petitions of the Lord’s Prayer this is the most frightening, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  The literal meaning is: “Forgive our sins in proportion as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.”  Matthew goes on in verses 14 and 15 to make that quite clear by showing us that Jesus says in the plainest possible language that if we forgive others, God will forgive us; but if we refuse to forgive others, God will refuse to forgive us…To be forgiven we must forgive, and that is a condition of forgiveness which only the power of Christ can enable us to fulfill.””

In 2 Peter 1:3, the apostle wrote,  “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Perhaps I did wisely counsel the young woman I wrote of yesterday.   I pray that God will match her desire to obey with his power to forgive,  his power at work within her.  I pray that, like the other woman I wrote of yesterday, she will experience healing that enables her to lay hold of God’s power to forgive.

I wonder if the healing we need, before we are able to forgive others, is really an answer to the question: “Where was God?”  Where was He when we were hurt or injured or abused.   Matt Maher sings, You Were On The Cross.  That is his answer to this crucial question.  God the Son, The Lamb of God was on the cross dying for my sins and the sins of the one who sinned against me.  We are all sinners in need of salvation.  The soul who sins, dies.  In that context, although there are sins that are more horrible than other sins, the playing field at the foot of the cross is level.

How do we forgive?  How can we describe the work of God’s spirit within us – the movement of our souls toward him and his kingdom.   We stand at the foot of the cross and weep over our own sin – the sin that nailed our Savior to that tree.  As we gaze at that Love, we are changed.  He changes us.   We even extend mercy to  those we believed we would never be able to forgive.

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