Thursday, December 31, 2015


Trust

Scripture says:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  Proverbs 3: 5

The KJV Dictionary defines trust as:
Confidence; a reliance or resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship or other sound principle of another person.

Therefore,
let’s make 2016 the year we completely rest our minds in the confidence that The Lord is truly reliable and will not abandon us…regardless of our understanding or lack of thereof, of our circumstances. 


December 31st, the day we wrap up the year behind us, is also the day that for many, a roller coaster of emotions may overtake our souls. For some of us the holiday blues has begun to settle in. In the midst of the New Year’s glitz, often, some of us experience overwhelming feelings of loneliness, loss and sadness. For some, the date sparks fear and anxiety. The unknown road ahead seems scary from our vantage point. It is a time that inevitably submerges us in the melancholic waters of endings as well as in the stressful currents of beginnings.

The child of God is not exempted from this madness. The difference is that we are able to find our footing when we feel we’re slipping since we stand on solid ground…we stand on the Rock!

This New Year’s Eve I want to close 2015 with my word for 2016: TRUST! The Lord has been teaching me for years how to trust Him. He has been and continues to be hard at work on pointing me into the road to true trust…but I’m not there yet. I keep falling behind in my homework and I keep losing the way in my walk. That’s why I would like to make a new beginning here, and focus on Trust right from the start of the year.

In order to seek His trust I will begin a new series on this topic and I hope you can follow along in your own walk on the way to trusting Him! Have a Blessed 2016!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Waiting Continues



There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 
Luke 2: 36-38


As we wrap up the Advent and Christmas meditations for this year, I think back to my first comments on the action of waiting. I mentioned how I despise waiting and that one of the reasons I dislike it so much is because it usually involves a significant amount of fear. However, after reviewing the lives of some of the people surrounding the birth of Christ all those many years ago I see also that for those who waited in faith, waiting also meant hope.

They all went through their waiting periods by different routes, but they all got to experience a good measure of hope along their way. For instance, remember how Zechariah and Elizabeth each encountered different struggles with doubt, but at the end, they both were able to rejoice in the hope of a son. Also, we saw how Mary accepted her fate with humility and hope flourished in her heart with each flutter in her womb, while Joseph accepted his fate with hesitation but then felt hope grow in his soul as he ushered the Light into the world. The shepherds in the fields of apparent hopelessness, resigned to their fate as they continued to keep watch, until one night they were rewarded with seeing Hope born in the shape of a baby boy.

Today’s reading brings us Anna. Her life as a perfect illustration of faithful waiting in the Lord…she lost it all very early in her life, but continued to fully rely on God as she waited and served Him in His house all the days of her life. Finally, hope materialized in front of her eyes in the presence of Jesus the Christ. She recognized Him and immediately began to give thanks and praise, but also to tell all who would listen about this child being the hope of all Israel.

For Anna, the years of paying attention, the years of staying close to the Lord, the years of watching, the years of waiting made her stay aware and guided her in the discernment of the presence of God in that baby she saw the young, unknown mother carry in her arms. The promise of hope was fulfilled the moment she saw the eyes of God.

Like Anna and Simeon, we too have received the promise of Jesus coming back,


“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. Matthew 24: 30-31

Therefore, we also ought to wait in Him for the glorious day of His return. Like Anna, who dedicated his life to the Most High in prayer, fasting and obedience, like Simeon who trusted the promise and revelation that had been entrusted to him, we too have been commissioned to expect Him…to be prepared to receive Him. He will come at an hour that no one knows, but we had been warned not to be like those in the times of Noah who “were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.” (Matthew 24: 37-39) We do know, therefore, we need to be prepared as we wait in faith and in hope.

I pray that 2016 would be a year in which our waiting periods would be flooded with hope…the hope of the Emmanuel, for He is always with us regardless of our circumstance…for He is the Savior and He is coming back. Now we wait for His return in faithfulness and hope, for He who promised IS Faithful and all His promises are true.

Linking with: Rosilindjukic.com and Wholeheartedhome.com

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

May We See His Revelation



25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,

you may now dismiss[d] your servant in peace.

30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,

31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:

32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and the glory of your people Israel.” 
Luke 2: 25-32

Talking about waiting…Simeon was an example of trust and faithfulness in waiting. We don’t know how long he had waited for since we don’t know how old he was, but we know he’d been waiting pretty much all his life. The Lord had revealed to him that he would not leave this earth without seeing the Messiah in the flesh…what a revelation! And the Lord´s promise came true, of course. Simeon got to even hold the baby Jesus in his arms as he proclaims the faithfulness of God as well as a tidbit of prophesy that pertains us today.

Simeon called Jesus “A Light for revelation to the Gentiles.” That´s us. God had inspired Simeon to say how Jesus had come not just for the Jews, the people of Israel, but for all who would see His Light and receive His revelation among the gentiles of the world…mankind in its entirety.

Praise be to God! And may we have eyes to see and follow His Light!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Let Us Make Room for HIM!



…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. Luke 2: 7

Today, after all the presents have been opened, the breakfast dishes sit in the sink, and we are getting ready to meet the extended family, I begin to think, of all the people involved in the events of the birth of Jesus, who was NOT waiting? Who was caught not ready?

Well, I imagine most people were neither ready for nor waiting or expecting the Messiah would actually come during their lifetime. However, I’m thinking specifically of one person. I’m thinking of a person whose door was knocked on and he was unable to accommodate for being already too full. I’m thinking of the Inn Keeper, of course.

When Joseph and Mary desperately needed it most, the owner of the inn did not find any room for them to stay and for the child to be delivered safely. His house was already full…and he sent them to the cave that served as a stable to keep the animals. The Highest of Kings…born in the lowliest and most humble of places.

How many times have I sent Jesus to the caves of my soul because my life was just too full to make room for Him? Too full with the things of this world…too full to make room for the things of Heaven…



I pray that this Christmas I can learn and cheerfully declare that my heart belongs entirely to Christ so He can fill it up with His presence as He empties it of the worldly shaft that clutters it …and I pray that such becomes a reality for my loved ones as well.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

In the Silence of the Night



And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Luke 2: 8

Out of all the people involved in the birth of Jesus, the shepherds are the most intriguing to me. I don’t know the first thing about being a shepherd. I don’t know the first thing about sheep. I don’t know the first thing about protecting a flock of anything. But I do know a bit about being lonely. I know a bit about what it feels like to be “living out in the ‘figurative’ fields” of the desolation of the soul.

I know what it feels like to be alone …alone because you don’t know where you belong.

I still remember the first few years after I moved to the United States…I didn’t get to go “back home” for Christmas for a while, so the season represented a reminder of all I’ve left behind. Just a couple of days ago, while riding in the car with Grant, the song “I’ll be Home for Christmas” came on and I told him how there was a time, before he was born, when that song would make me terribly sad. My heart was split in two as the ties to the home of my youth were still too strong. I resisted change. I didn’t want to let go. It was the pain of transition. I was torn. I was lonely.

However, that was also the time when God grabbed firm hold of me. I’ve always counted myself among His sheep. I knew that He had been always speaking to me. But I’m not sure I’ve really ever heard His voice. I didn’t know what it meant to seek Him first. But at that time of loneliness, pain and transition, I was finally ready to truly listen to Him. I had nothing, so my eyes were finally turned to His face. I had nothing else to notice, so I watched for Him.

Like the Shepherds, who kept watched over the flock at night, I finally became alert of God’s hand in my life. I was able to still my constant rush and hush the deafening noise of the world, to keep watch in the silence of the night.

The story of the shepherds doesn’t end there, however. For in the silence of their night, these solitary men, who kept watch, who in their condition as outcast and unclean kept waiting for the hope of a gift, turned out to be the chosen ones to receive the greatest news ever revealed,

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2: 9-12

The story of our lives doesn’t end where we now are either. There is hope for the lonely, for the brokenhearted, for the outcast, for the rejected ones. Emmanuel is here. He is near those in need. He mends the brokenhearted. As we keep watch for Him, He appears and all His glory shines around us, bringing His good news and His light to all who have been waiting alone in the dark.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Worship and Offering



On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2: 11

The Magi, whoever they might have been, and wherever they might have come from, left us with four great tips on how to be a follower of Christ:

1. Keep your eyes on things above.

2. Follow the Light.

3. When you encounter the Living God, bow down and worship.

4. Give of yourself as an offering.

Yesterday we saw how points 1 and 2 place us on the right track to meet and experience a personal relationship with the Living Christ. Today, points 3 and 4 show us what to do when that track brings us to Him, to Jesus, Our Lord and Savior.

The Magi kept their eyes on the Star and did not get distracted by the schemes of Herod. They followed the Light until it brought them face to face with the One they had been looking for. And what did they do when they found The Messiah? They bowed down and worship Him.

What else can we do? There is really nothing else…the awe of the divine encounter moves us to our knees and opens up the floodgates of praise and adoration, for even the stones cry out in worship when facing the Divine.

Like the Magi, He leads us to Him so we can have a personal encounter with Him.

In my life, I have experienced these types of encounters particularly when navigating the choppy waters of a storm. Then, there comes a moment in between the tossing and twisting of my boat when, if I have kept my eyes on Him and off the waves and the wind, I’m able to discern the Hand of God guiding me through the tempest. At that moment of realization, I’m struck by His Power, Mercy and Love, and there is nothing else for me to do but to bow down and worship Him.

Even if things don’t resolve the way we want them to…seeing the perfection of God’s plan in the middle of our struggle to accept it, gives us a sense of the magnificence of His designs which leaves us bent at the waist, head down on the ground.

That’s the moment when we give ourselves as an offering, as “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship.”(Romans 12: 1)

That’s the moment of surrender … that’s the moment we say: My Lord and My God. (John 20: 28)

May the fast approaching celebration of our Savior’s Birth bring us down to our knees in worship and adoration…and may each gift under the tree be just a pale reflection of the greatest offering: the giving of oneself.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Magi



“…We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2: 2b

There is another group of people surrounding the Birth of Jesus who also waited: the Wise Men or the Magi, men from the east. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about whom these people were or where exactly they were from. The Bible doesn’t even really tell us how many there were or their names. The things we say about them are purely sprung out of tradition from the early church. And while it’s fun to speculate, none of it really matters. What truly matters is that there were people who had been waiting for the birth of the King of the Jews, and when they saw the Light, they followed. They waited for the sign that would signify His arrival to this Earth. And their wait was fruitful, for they did, indeed, get to see the Star!

The funny thing is that the Magi, who came from the east, as Matthew 2: 1 tells us, knew more about the King of the Jews than the current king of the Jews himself! Herod had obviously, not kept up with his studies of Scripture because he didn’t even know how the prophesy went. He had to call in “all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law,” (Matthew 2: 4) to tell him. Herod, who was sitting on the throne in Jerusalem at the time, did not know that the Shepherd of Israel was to be born in Bethlehem.

As we can see, Herod was not waiting for the Messiah. Actually, the Messiah was probably the last thing in his mind at the time. Given his response to the significance of the visit of the Magi, and of the possibility of prophesy being fulfilled during his reign, we can see how Herod was more preoccupied and concerned about the material than about the things of the spiritual realm. His ambitions and greed kept his vision short and centered on the temporal power that vanishes, rather than on the eternal. He was so worried about the things of this world that he forgot to look up, and he missed the star.

The star in the sky was not only visible to the Magi. I’m sure such a star was there for all to see…for all with eyes to see. But Herod and his type never saw it. Immersed in their selfish pursuits, many were in the fog of darkness, blinded by their circumstances. They were so closed to it, that they couldn’t discern it.

The Magi, on the other hand, were intentional about seeking the Light…the true Light, the One that never extinguishes. That same Light is still there for us to see and to follow today. May this Christmas season be a reminder to us, here and now, that our eyes need to be fixed on things above. Let us not be blinded by our surroundings and our darkness. Let’s look up and focus on following the Light!

Monday, December 21, 2015



When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Matthew 1: 24

Joseph wakes up from his troubled sleep, maybe a bit shaken and confused, but certain of one thing: something big was unfolding… something bigger than himself, bigger than his feelings, bigger than his pride, bigger than his current circumstances…

He couldn’t explain it, but he was sure it was real and he knew what to do. He was going to take Mary as his wife and parent the child she was carrying the best he could.

Joseph knew better than to dismiss the vision. So he disregarded society’s conventions and trusted God’s word. He took Mary with him to his town of origin to register in the Census as a family unit. While doing that, as God would design it,

“…the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2: 6-7

Prophesy after prophesy was becoming fulfilled in a matter of months.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 
Matthew 1: 22-23


“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,

though you are small among the clans[b] of Judah,

out of you will come for me

one who will be ruler over Israel,

whose origins are from of old,

from ancient times.” Micah 5: 2

And Joseph was at the center of such transcendental events. Had he decided not to go through with it and divorced Mary, he would have missed the whole experience and would have had to be no more than a distant spectator rather than one of the main characters.

Joseph stopped waiting for an ordinary life, and instead began to witness extraordinary events. God´s irresistible grace sought him out and his willingness to obey took him into a new life. And what a life! Joseph got to receive the new born King into his hands to present Him to the world. He ushered the Light into the darkness. He protected Him by fleeing to Egypt. He saw Him grow up in stature and wisdom. He taught Him his trade. He saw Him develop into the Messiah.

Though far from easy and quiet, Joseph’s life was an adventure along God’s undecipherable roads. May we, like Joseph, be willing to trade the ordinary for the extraordinary as we too walk along the path that God has opened up for us.



Sunday, December 20, 2015

You Are to Give Him the Name Jesus



But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1: 20-21

Well, after the whirlwind that went on in Joseph’s head following Mary’s announcement, I imagine him retiring to the most private place he could find…I imagine him lying on his bed, hands on his head, trying to figure out what he should do now…when, out of exhaustion, pain and worry, he falls asleep. God’s Mercy giving him a way out…a moment to rest…a time to find peace…in his sleep, God’s Mercy, again, gives him a divine message: do not be afraid.

The Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph. That shows the magnitude of the moment. It isn’t every day that your girlfriend says she is miraculously pregnant. For a man, any man, to believe that, it would take a divine encounter…the most divine revelation to corroborate it as truth. So God did just that by sending Joseph His Angel.

God does not forsake His faithful ones (Psalm 37: 28). The same way He did not abandon Mary, He did not abandon Joseph in his hour of despair. God’s plan included Joseph to be the adoptive father of His own Son. It was going to work out, regardless of how improbable it seemed.

The Angel greeted Joseph by his royal lineage. “Joseph, son of David,” a clear reference to the validity of the claim that the baby Mary was carrying was, indeed, the Messiah, “a shoot from the stump of Jesse.” (Isaiah 11:1) And he also told Joseph to take Mary to his house…and most significantly, He told Joseph to name the child… “you are to give him the name Jesus…” By giving him the authority to name His Son, God gave Joseph the authority to be His father.

It isn’t easy to be an adoptive parent. Much doubt comes to mind and the feelings of inadequacy that you experience when having a biological child, multiply when expecting to parent an adoptive child. And in the long list of the challenges of adoption, naming your adoptive child is among the top ones. Does the child already have a name? Do you keep that birth name? Do you change it completely? Do you give him/her a family name? Do you give him/her a totally new name?

At least Joseph didn’t have to worry about that. God told him what to name his adoptive child. In our case, we had to make the decision on our own. Dylan had a birth name when we adopted him. His name was Carlos Antonio. We thought about it. We pondered it. We prayed about it. Finally, we decided that since he would grow up in the United States, it would be better for him to have a more English-sounding name. We knew we wanted a name starting with a D. We knew we didn’t want it to be Daniel since we wanted the child to have his own identity.

So out of all the English-sounding-D names we could think of, we kept coming back to Dylan, especially because singer-song-writer, Bob Dylan had been such a permanent companion in our relationship since Dan and I were dating. I tell you, Dan could sing EVERY Bob Dylan song ever written…and if you have ever heard a Bob Dylan song, you know that is not a skill to be taken lightly. I have to tell you that I hated Bob Dylan at the beginning of our relationship. I just couldn’t get past his chipmunk voice. But over the years, he grew on me. Listening to Dan sing such intricate songs with such gusto endeared the music and the style to me and I ended up being a closeted-Bob Dylan fan…don’t tell Dan!

So, after some consideration, we decided on Dylan. Then, we knew we wanted him to keep some of his birth identity, so we kept Carlos as his middle name. I pray the Lord will bless his name, as I know He does since He knew his name would be Dylan way before he was born…just as He knew Jesus’.

As any adoptive parent can tell you, Joseph didn’t have it easy. Despite the fact that the Angel of the Lord came to him in person to confirm that everything was OK and that he needed not be afraid about taking in Mary and her unborn baby to be his family, Joseph’s life was not going to be easy. But one thing it was, indeed, as any adoptive parenting would also tell you… it was miraculously wonderful!

Friday, December 18, 2015

My Favorite Joe



This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. Matthew 1: 18-19

As we continue to take a look at the people around Jesus’ birth and how waiting played an important part in the unfolding of God’s plans for their lives and for humanity we meet Joseph. For our look at Joseph, the adoptive father of Our Lord, we will review the Gospel according to Matthew, which gives us more information about our favorite Joe.

Remember how we talked about Mary’s hour of great anguish when she found out she was going to have a baby while she was pledged to be married to Joseph? Remember we talked about how bad that must have been for her, and how terrifying the whole thing had to have been? Well, now, let’s look at the other side of the coin. Can you imagine how it might have been for Joseph to receive the news?

I always find it a bit hard to put myself in the shoes of a man. I remember, when I was a little girl, I would go into my parents’ bedroom and go through their closets when they weren’t there. I know…how terrible of me! But, honestly, didn’t you also? Not even once? Anyway, maybe you didn’t, but o well, I did, and I’m sorry, but it was fun!

I digress…

The thing is that I’ve always been a shoes and bags lady. I don’t have any money to indulge, but I’ve always admired shoes. So back then, I would try on my Mom’s shoes. They weren’t the cutest because she was not that young anymore…I was a winter baby…you know? She had me at 43 years old. Now that’s not old, but back in the 60s it was.

I digress again…

I tried on my Mom’s shoes, but then I also tried on my Dad’s. I did not like his shoes at all. They were WAY too big and boring. There was nothing about them that would qualify them as cute whatsoever. Now that I have two sons, I feel the same way. It is SO BORING to go shoe shopping with them. I mean, it is easy, because all they both want is Converse shoes, so I just go to the store, find the right size and pay the bill…done! But I feel bad for them. There is NO variety. I mean, you can go to the men’s side of the shoe store and they might have hundreds of shoes, but they are all the same! Big and boring…

My point is that I have a hard time relating to what a man goes through when it comes to picking shoes and enduring life. However, due to my experience dealing with people of the male persuasion, I can imagine Joseph’s reaction when Mary told him about her miraculous pregnancy. I imagine it went something like this:

Mary: O, Joseph, we need to talk.

Joseph: umhmm

Mary: I have to tell you something really important. Are you listening?

Joseph: yeah, what?

Mary: Well…I mean, it is REALLY huge! And you may be mad.

Joseph: just tell me!

Mary: mmm…well…you know? The other day…the funniest thing happened! You wouldn’t believe it! It was SO RANDOM…it was crazy! You know? It was like, LOCO!!!!

Joseph: Mary, what is it?

Mary: Here it goes, the other day, I was just minding my own business, you know, like doing some errands for my Mom and then, all of the sudden, I don’t even know where He, She, IT came from, I’m not even sure if it was a dream or what? But it wasn’t, because…I mean, really! An Angel came to me, you know? AN ANGEL, Joseph! REALLY, an ANGEL, and then, he said this crazy stuff, like I am blessed and highly favored, and then the best part! Are you ready? The most unbelievable thing, he said that I would have a baby, that I’m pregnant by the Holy Spirit of God and that the baby is the Messiah, so I’m pregnant and I’m having the Messiah and…

Joseph: wait…what??? What did you just say?

After that, this is just speculation here, I think Joseph might have broken into hives and cold sweats as he experienced sort of an out-of-body moment with a mixture of confusion, anger, disbelief and fear that moved him to make the decision to quietly divorce Mary, out of the love he still felt for her, so she wouldn’t suffer the full impact of the consequences of what everyone thought was an unpardonable offense.

Joseph had been waiting to finish the house he was building to share with Mary after the wedding. He had been waiting for the day his bride would become his wife. He had been waiting to start a family and raise sons of his flesh and bring them up in the knowledge of the Lord to pass on his name and his trade. He had been waiting for a nice, quiet life…when the unthinkable happened. His world was shaken and he found himself looking at things from an up-side-down position.

Like I said earlier, I have a hard time fitting in a man’s shoes…they are not easy to fill…

Tomorrow, we’ll see what happens with Joseph as God’s plan continues to unfold in unexpected ways. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

And Mary Said...



“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. 
Luke 1: 46-56

I’d like to conclude my thoughts on Mary during this Advent Series by taking a look at what many call “Mary’s Song.” I grew up calling this portion of Scripture, “El Magnificat” because it is the expression of a soul magnifying the Lord. It is the Holy Spirit-Inspired poem that came out of Mary’s mouth in a moment when her whole being could do nothing but to praise the Lord! By the way, I have always considered this collection of verses a prayer not a song or even a poem. And it is because I grew up saying it as a prayer.

Back in my youth, I did not have many pieces of Scripture memorized. I still do not, but at least I can paraphrase more now : ) However, the one thing I did have committed to memory, other than the Lord’s Prayer was “El Magnificat.” My Mother had it memorized and she believed the words to have great power. Of course they are powerful words, they are Scripture, and any part of Scripture contains the power of the Breath of God in them, and once we speak it, it never comes back empty. (Isaiah 5: 11) So I memorized this portion of Scripture as well and I have been reciting it for as long as I can remember, particularly in my hour(s) of great need.

These are the words I say in my mind while I face a time of waiting. They are my “waiting words.” And of course, I don’t mean wait as at the grocery checkout line. I mean wait as in the doctor’s waiting room, whole body scans, test results type of wait. These are the words I repeat to bring peace to my anxious soul in my moments of great fear.

As I go through each verse, I recount, as Mary did, the great things the Almighty has done not just for me, but for His beloved, among whom I count myself. As I say the words, I do try to focus on glorifying and magnifying Him for He has cared about His lowly servant who can’t do anything without Him. I don’t think the generations will call me blessed, but He has done, indeed, great things for me in His Holy Name. And His mercy does reach all who love Him, and for that, we are blessed. We find refuge in the shadow of His wings and we trust His promises that he made to our spiritual ancestors for He is Faithful and His Word is True!

The same way the Holy Spirit gave Mary these words as a powerful anthem to march on to the many battles she will face ahead, He gave them to us as well. What do they call it in Marching Band? I should know that by now! The Fight Song, yeah! This is my Fight Song. This is the song/poem/prayer I recount whenever I face the battles I encounter on this side of Heaven, and I pray they become yours too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Humility of Mary




“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1: 38


This statement pronounced by young Mary over a couple of thousands of years ago continues to be one of the most profound affirmations of faith and one of the most powerful examples of trust spoken by a mortal that we find in all of the Scriptures. Mary’s simple words show the complexity of accepting God’s will in our lives. They show that for God’s will to be done, to be fulfilled in our lives we must surrender…we must first become the Lord’s servants…

That’s the revelation of true trust…we trust that God’s will is good…that it is perfect rather, so much so that we are ready to submit our own will to His. We do it because, even though we can’t really understand it, we know it is the best plan…it is the plan that will bring Him the glory…so we surrender to it…for the joy of our Lord is our strength. (Nehemiah 8: 10)

Mary’s words of acceptance are also a perfect example of humility.

Surrender takes an incredible amount of trust, confidence and reliance on the character and integrity of the one we are surrendering to. But it also takes a great amount of humility. We must be humble enough to accept the fact that this other person’s plan is better than ours even though it seems not just different but at times contrary to ours. We must be humble not just to accept it, but to submit to it. We must be humble not just to submit to it, but to become a servant for the fulfilment of the plan.

Mary’s words are truly convicting to me for often I have a hard time surrendering to God’s plan for my life and for the lives of my loved ones. I don’t have the patience to wait for the plan unfold, and then I panic when it begins to take an unexpected turn. But most of all, I lack the humility to accept His will cheerfully and see its deviations from mine not as punishment, but rather as an adventure I get to experience with Him. I lack the humility to accept the fact that His plan is better than mine. I lack the humility to accept the fact that He is in control. I don’t have the humility that takes to wait for God’s will to shine as it matures in me with every step I take.



After Mary expressed her humble acceptance of God’s designs for her life, she went to visit Elizabeth and prepared to wait for such designs to unfold. She had an idea of what was coming; but I believe most of it might have been a constant surprise. May we have the strength of Jesus to go through with God’s plan for our lives and the humility to accept it as perfect.

Linking with:  wholeheartedhome.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mary, Did You Know?




But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

"How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

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. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
Luke 1: 30-37

The song “Mary Did You Know” by Mark Lowry is probably among my top two favorite Christmas songs ever! (It’s between this and O Come, Emmanuel). Anyway, I just love this song because it reveals Christ through a series of imaginary questions the singer asks Mary. Growing up Catholic, I always thought of Mary as this celestial being that was not really mortal. This song, however, brings up Mary’s humanity. She was just a young woman that found herself suddenly expecting a divine baby miraculously conceived. I mean, how mind-blowing would that have been?

But I can’t help to wonder…how much did she really understand? What did she really, truly know?

As a good Jewish girl, she most likely knew the implications of the Angel’s words. She knew the magnitude of the announcement involving her unborn baby and how “He would receive the throne of his father David and that he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever…and that His kingdom will never end…” That’s a reference, a clear reference to the Promised Ruler from Bethlehem the prophet Micah prophesized about some centuries earlier. She certainly must have studied that. The words of the angel must have ringed a bell in her mind. However, her question…her reply to the angel’s magnificent words about the divinity of the event…was very mundane, very mortal.


“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

Mary showed her humanity in her question. She was concerned with the direct implications of this news into her life. The practicality of her concern bypassed the spiritual content of the revelation. I don’t think there is any way a person could grasp the magnitude of such words in their entirety in just one moment. God understands our minds, He created them! So He knows how much we can take. He knows the right dose, and He knows what we can process at any given time. Out of all the things the Angel said, she perfectly understood one thing: “I’m in trouble.”

That’s why part of God’s message included the tidbit of information regarding her cousin Elizabeth. There was no Facebook back then, so it is quite possible Mary did not know about Elizabeth’s pregnancy yet. After all, Elizabeth was only closing the second trimester. Those who have dealt with fertility issues usually tend to not announce their pregnancies to the world until they are farther advanced in fear something may go wrong during the early stages. So my guess is that Mary did not know and the Angel’s instructions were to tell her so she would have a place to go to, to hide while she gathered her thoughts and began to digest the idea of the new life ahead.

Even though, it is pretty certain that nobody else has had to receive the news that we are going to carry the Living God in our wombs, not so unlike Mary, often, we too face life-altering news that leave us scared, confused, paralyzed. In many cases, when confronting such types of news, there are a million things going through our minds, but only one takes precedence. It is impossible to process everything at once. We have to do it one at a time. And, we usually start with the most practical and work our way up to the more abstract implications. Ask anyone who has gone through a cancer diagnosis…they can probably relate the overwhelming sensation of overload that goes on in the brain at first, until you begin to sort things out and discern the first steps to take.

Mary did know. Of course she knew. An Angel came and told her! But in God’s endless mercy, He provided a way for Mary to process the information so she would not become overloaded. God allowed Mary to digest small bites at a time as He guided her to a place of refuge in the warmth of her elder relative who was going through something similar in a way.


We too, know. In our hour when unprecedented news arrives, we too know. But The Lord holds us by the hand and leads us to a place of refuge where He can minister to us and calm our fears long enough for our brains to begin to process what’s ahead. Let’s trust that He who has been Faithful before, will be Faithful again and forever!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Mary at a Crossroads



In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”  Luke 1: 26-28

Waiting is not an easy thing. We all wait for something. We wait for the water to boil, for the school bus to arrive, for the kids to come back home after school, for the phone to ring, for news about test results or job interviews to come in, for inspiration to enlighten us, for health to be restored, for things to work out, for due dates to be up…there is always something to wait for…waiting is just part of living. Sometimes, however, while we are waiting for something, something else comes up that takes precedence, but that also involves waiting some more. It’s no wonder the popular saying goes: “life happens while you wait.”

Something like that happened to Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was pledged to be married to Joseph. They were more than just engaged. It was kind of a contract. They were almost married in every sense, except physically. They did not live together or were allowed to have physical intimacy, but they were a legal marriage in waiting. While they waited, what typically happened was that the bride would prepare herself to be a wife and the groom would build the house they would share after the wedding.

Therefore, as pointed out, this was a period of waiting for Mary. If she was like any other young bride, she was probably distracted with the preparations, whatever they might have involved back then. When, all of the sudden…out of the blue…literally…this entity shows up and turns her world upside down.

The magnitude of the event was such that it merited God to send the Angel Gabriel, whose name means something like, “God is my Strength” to announce it. The strength of God surely was needed to bare this news! Especially for a young woman…I mean, really…if I know anything about being a young girl, Mary must have been royally confused when this celestial being appeared to her. I imagine her like: “Do I know you? I don’t understand! Can I get back to my Bride’s Magazine?” JUST KIDDING!!!

Anyway, I imagine Mary must have been just dumbfounded. As the passage reveals, she “was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” (Luke 1: 29)

I remember a time in my own life when I was waiting for something big to happen when something bigger came up. I had just begun my first round of fertility treatments, when I got a phone call from my brother - whom back then I used to lovingly refer to as the “angel of death, bearer of dark news,” (NOT kidding…). He called me from Panama to tell me that our Mom did not seem to have long left to live, and that I should come home to be with her.

I was greatly troubled, to borrow Luke’s wording. I had to make a decision. Whatever I decided was going to be painful, but there was actually only one thing I could do. I dropped the fertility treatments and I went to Panama to be with my Mom during her final few weeks here on earth…to wait with her for her departure. It was only about three weeks, but those were the longest, harshest three weeks I could remember back then. It was a painfully short-long wait that drained the life out of my heart.

I was devastated and I wanted to hide. I wanted to hide from the world. I wanted to find a place where I would be able to find joy again…a place with no more sadness.

Mary’s troubles had just only begun. The announcement the Angel brought to her transformed her plans and altered her life forever, but not just hers...that Celestial encounter meant that humanity itself would never be the same.



Tomorrow, let’s see how Mary dealt with the news, what she did and how she incorporated the added wait into her transformed life. For now, let us just consider our own lives and examine the moments that have brought us to where we are today…the moments when while we waited, something else happened that caused us to wait some more, for something else…moments of decision, moments of transformation, crossroads…and how we dealt with those.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Elizabeth Part 2 - Blessing Upon Blessing



Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Luke 1: 39-45

Today’s Bible passage keeps us still on Elizabeth and her handling of waiting and silence. We saw yesterday how she spent most of her life aware of God being her Oath and her Abundance. That promise contained in her name fully came true not only in her soon-to-be-born son, John. I believe God kept His Oath to Elizabeth mostly in this moment…the moment she received Mary in her home at the time of Mary’s greatest need.

God revealed to Elizabeth the truth even before the truth was known to anyone else. There is no real indication in Scripture that Mary might have told anyone yet about her encounter with the angel. The annunciation was kept in the safety of Mary’s heart as she, basically, ran away to seek a time of refuge in the warmth of Elizabeth’s embrace. At the sight of Mary, Elizabeth already knew the Savior was in her young cousin’s womb.

God gave Elizabeth a blessing upon a blessing. The time of waiting and silence and hopelessness dissipated in Elizabeth’s matured soul as the child she was carrying, the miracle she was holding inside of her, recognized the divinity shaping into human flesh inside of Mary.

I believe that, contrary to what society might have thought, God’s favor was with Elizabeth all of the time, not just now. God’s favor was with her throughout the endless wait and the deafening silence…but now it was just gloriously manifested. Now, the wait was over for the Messiah was already there! Now the silence was over for He was speaking through silence.

Have you ever experienced a blessing upon a blessing? Have you ever discovered how after a long period of waiting and silence the glory of God is manifested in ways that are hard to express?

I know that life seems, at times, unbearable. I know how hardship can drill a hole in our soul through which hope leaks out, leaving us running on empty. I know how sometimes all seems lost. But the glory of God is always revealed at the end…even if it is not on this side of the shore. Even if the wait takes us directly into His arms, the time will come when the tears will be wiped away and joy will fill us up again! There will be a day when angels will sing of us: “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Elizabeth



Today, December 8th is Mother´s Day in Panama. As I think of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, I can’t help but notice how fitting the day is for such meditations.

A descendant of Aaron, a righteous woman, the wife of a priest, a mother in waiting…Elizabeth bore the stigma of childlessness in prayer. Not knowing if the will of God would ever include the fulfilment of her dream to become a mother, Elizabeth relied on the Faithfulness of the Most High. How do we know? We know because she carried with her a permanent reminder in her own name. The Greek Elizabeth is derived from the Hebrew, Elisheva which means: "My God is an oath" or "My God is abundance".

I imagine that at times, her longing and her waiting must have felt as if God had retrieved His favor from her. She must have fallen into despair and hopelessness after she realized that the possibility of carrying a child was all but gone. But then, she would hear someone calling out her name, a visiting neighbor greeting her, a passer by waiving goodbye, and the sound of her own name might have re-ignited the flame of hope in her heart again. “My God is an oath.” “My God is abundance.” And He will not forget about me…

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1: 23-25

She praised the God who is an Oath and who is Abundance!

I can’t help but think of my own experience. After years of infertility struggles, heartaches and disappointment, the Oath of God was fulfilled. My God who is Abundance showed His favor to me and gave me two sons, two precious sons…and I too praised Him then and continue to praise Him every day for, after what seemed like an endless wait, He remembered me and took away my disgrace and my despair.

Elizabeth waited until the point beyond hope. She waited in all her neediness and helplessness, only to see the power of God made perfect in the impossible. It could not have been any other way. The child that she carried was the one who would paved the road for the Messiah…he could not have had an ordinary birth story himself. The miraculous is always surrounded by hardship and impossibility…otherwise it would not be a miracle.

Let’s continue to wait in the Lord as He transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary…as He makes all things new.

Happy Mother´s Day to all my friends from Panama!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Silence



11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” Luke 1:11-18

Even though Zechariah was a faithful man who remained in prayer over the years as he waited for God to give him and Elizabeth a child; I’m sure the long wait was hard…so much so, that hope turned into doubt. That’s why, when the moment came and the angel announced that God had, indeed, remembered…Zechariah questioned it.

Doubt happens. It happens to the best of us…it happens to the most faithful and righteous…

It certainly happens to me, more often that I’d like to…but the Holy Spirit is able to turn each period of doubt into a season of discovery.

I remember how I too went through a time when I had lost almost all hope to ever having a child. I remember been told of the impossibility of ever conceiving “naturally.” And I remember how I sank into what felt like a bottomless pit…

Though not nearly as strong, committed and faithful as Zechariah, I did pray constantly. And I also went through a period of silence as well. It was not a radical silence, like Zechariah’s…it was more like I shut myself down for a while. I shut myself down from all the maternity talk that went on around me. I became silent to my surroundings and rejected anything that had to do with women getting pregnant and babies being born. And in my silence I harbored resentment against life and against God.

The Holy Spirit, however, turned that resentment into an opportunity to discover my deep longing for motherhood and to prepare me for the road ahead. I needed to be sure that I really wanted to be a Mom. I see now how My Loving Father in Heaven didn’t just want me to jump into parenthood with a lukewarm heart. He needed to make me all hot for the task…otherwise, I would not survive J

I can look back at those years now and appreciate the struggle, the wait and the silence. At the time, however, it was hard to bear.

After the encounter with the messenger of God, Zechariah entered into a period of silence. I don’t really think it was punishment. I think God assigned silence to Zechariah as an opportunity to reflect and contemplate. I see it as a time to go back and revisit the faithfulness of God in his life. I believe this time of silence was a sort of gestational period that would bring about the re-birth of his faith.

Like with Zechariah, sometimes our Heavenly Father puts us in a temporary place of silence so all the noises from our worldly existence can be hushed and the sensory overload can be dimmed. I believe He does that so we can focus on Him and discern the re-direction of our path.

As we sit and wait on our Christmas Couch, let’s not be afraid of the silence that often comes with waiting. Instead, let’s use it to seek Him more and to hear His voice.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Zechariah



As we continue digging into the Advent theme of waiting, I think of another person surrounding the Birth of Jesus who also had to do a great deal of waiting. I’m thinking of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist.

Apart from hearing about him as a sort of secondary character in the Nativity story, whose 5 minutes of fame were certainly short-lived, I have never really thought about Zechariah all that much. Today, however, as I collect my thoughts around people who experienced periods of waiting during that glorious time of Jesus’ arrival here on earth, this old priest’s story pops into my head. And you know what I found out? Zechariah means, in Hebrew, Jehovah has Remembered. Isn’t that just perfect!

Anyway, who is this man? Most of what we know about Zechariah is found in Luke chapter 1. We know he was a priest from the division of Abijah in the time of King Herod of Judea. Abijah was one of the 24 divisions of priests instituted by King David to serve in the temple. They were descendants from Aaron, Moses’ brother, and they were very high up in the hierarchical ladder of the Jewish society back then. Zechariah was married to Elizabeth, who was also a descendant of Aaron. In other words, they were a power couple.

Life seemed to be good for Zechariah and Elizabeth…that is, however, if you overlook the fact that they were childless and well beyond the years of possibility. Childlessness was not a good thing for anybody back in those days, especially not for a man of God. Inability to procreate was seen as something terrible…as lack of God’s favor in your life…not a good thing for a priest.

Zechariah could have very well divorced Elizabeth and moved on with his life and a younger, non-barren wife. But the fact that he didn’t is very telling. It makes one think he was a man of his word. It makes one think he was a man in love.

They both were people of good character. Like Luke says: Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. (Luke 1: 6) They were not cursed like most people might have thought. They were devout and rather than giving up, they continued to pray…at least we know Zechariah did.

I imagine Zechariah as a young man, filled with hope and pride as he took his bride home to start a family. I imagine him disappointed as the years went by and he still did not have a child. I imagine him on his knees praying day and night for God to make him a father. I imagine him crying as his hair kept growing grayer and grayer each day. I imagine him looking at his beloved Elizabeth bearing the burden of barrenness and feeling a deep sense of helplessness and the beginning of hopelessness sinking in. I can almost imagine the moments of despair, when doubt would filter into his brain and anger would bring the unanswered “why” to the foreground…leaving a faint taste of bitterness into his soul.

Year after year Zechariah kept on praying and waiting…until he began to sense the answer change from “wait” to “no.” But one day…but wonderfully, fateful day…The God Almighty, the One Through Whom All Things Are Possible, finally delivered him in such a mighty way!

God made good on the promise of Zechariah’s name… He remembered!

The good news is that God didn’t only remember back then. He doesn’t only remember important people or people of high rank. From the lowest to the highest; from the beginning of time to this very second, God remembers all of His children, all the time. The fact that He remembers doesn’t mean, however, that the wait is any shorter or that there aren’t any periods of trial, hardship and silence. As we will see in Zechariah’s story tomorrow; the angel brought to him the announcement of the fulfilment of God’s promise; but Zechariah’s reaction to the news caused the unfolding of a lesson that was as good for him 2,000 thousand years ago, as it is for us today.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Silence



As we get comfy on our Christmas couch, let's enjoy one of my favorite verses for this time of the year: Galatians 4: 4-7,

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

I love reading about how we are adopted into God’s family and as such, we are His heirs. But I also love considering verse 4…”when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son…” In that verse advent is contained. These words reflect the fact that there was a time that was NOT full. There was a time that was not appropriate, not right. There was a time of wondering where God was. There was a time of silence. There was a time of waiting.

After Prophet Malachi received God’s last revelation to him, he became the last prophet of the Old Testament. Malachi’s statements in chapter 4, warning the Israelites that “surely the day is coming…” the day of judgement and renewal, concluded God’s Word at the time. And the only thing the Jews heard from God during the next 400 years was His silence. There would be no new, “hear, you Israel.” There would be nothing more revealed…until the Word became flesh. God was silent until the time became full again on that silent night, in that little town of Bethlehem.

That night, the Son was given unto us, for the salvation of the world. The Messiah who was long expected finally arrived wrapped in swaddling clothes. He came as a baby, but He grew up to be God’s perfect Lamb and True High Priest, and with His resurrection, His Spirit came to dwell among us to change our relationship with God so He could become our Abba…Daddy.

But before all that came to be, there was silence. God’s deafening silence left the people of Israel lost and confused. This makes me think of my own life. How do I deal with silence? How do I deal with those periods of time when God seems to be distant and I am left down here to wait?

I can tell you, I don’t deal with any of that very well at all…

Silence scares me. It makes me uncomfortable, maybe because it makes me feel inadequate. As a teacher, I have heard about the power of silence in the classroom. I have heard experienced teachers talking about how much of an impact a teacher’s silence has in students. I have been encouraged to implement it as a powerful tool…but I keep resisting. Lately, however, I have, though timidly, begun to intently apply drops of silence here and there in my lessons especially in my more advanced courses…and I have to say, the results are telling.

I have chosen to do this in my advanced courses because I think they can handle uncertainty better. So rather than spoon-feeding them answers, I throw in a subject, a questions, and then I pause…I walk away a bit, and I silently look at them for what seems like a long time. What I see could be a reflection of my own experience dealing with those moments when God is silent in my life. My students look at me, expectantly. At the beginning, I can see on their faces that they are not really thinking, but rather they are just passively waiting for me to formulate my answer. Then, when time lapses and I say nothing, they begin to get a bit restless in their sits. Their gazes shift from me to an unknown void inside their minds. Of course, some just don’t care. But those who are intrigued start to get nervous. They begin to think. It is as if a different level of communication emerges in a more abstract dimension, transported not by sound-waves but by something deeper, something not of the physical realm.

Hmmm…

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 1 Corinthians 13: 11

Like the Master Teacher He Is, Our Holy Father knows when to apply silence in our lives. He knows how to take the conversation to another level, to a spiritual level. He knows when we are “advanced” enough to be able to, with His help and guidance, handle His silence and the wait that ensues.

As a people, Christians, like the Old Testament Israelites, wait for the Lord. But unlike the Old Testament Israelites, we don’t need to become lost and confused. We know that even when He is silent, He still speaks.

As we prepare to celebrate, the advent of the living God, The Emanuel, the God among us, let’s remember that, though He might be silent in the traditional sense of the concept, He still speaks through the completeness of His Word and through the voice and actions of His beloved as they are enabled by the Holy Spirit, the God with us who lives in the heart of every believer.

The silence of God is, therefore, a way to hear His voice through the discernment that only His Holy Spirit can provide. May we know how to listen to His whispering as we anticipate His coming.




Friday, December 4, 2015

The Christmas Couch



Though I pretty much knew that this year I wanted to write an Advent series leading up to Christmas, I did not have a clear idea as to what I was going to write about. One day, though, browsing through Facebook, I saw it! One of my very talented photographer friends, Nataly Williams, had posted a most intriguing picture. It captured me right away. It was a picture of one of the sets she was going to use for her Christmas portraits. I don’t truly know what it was that captivated me so, but the empty couch sitting outdoors with a background of pine trees and a simple white garland hanging over top seemed to somehow speak to me.

I do believe that God has mysterious ways to grab hold of His children when He wants to communicate a message. Perhaps it was the perceived silence of the still shot. Maybe it was the gentle serenity of the scene. It might have been the unspoken implication of something worth waiting for. I don’t know, maybe it was all three, but I do think He called me and pulled me to that frame to give me a theme.

The theme is waiting...

I tell you one thing, I do not do waiting really well.  Waiting is, perhaps, one of those things I'm the worst at.  I absolutely dislike it.  The whole idea around it gives me the creeps.  I think it is because I like to be in control and because I'd like to think I know what's going on.  And, when we wait...we wait precisely because we are NOT in control and because we do NOT know what's going on. Those two concepts combined terrify me. Therefore, it is not so much that I hate waiting...but that I am scared of it.

Waiting reminds me of being at a doctor's office.  Results all up in the air...not knowing whether or not life is going to completely change or if we get another pass for now...The funny thing is that regardless of what happens when the wait is over; it is irrelevant.  It is irrelevant because, in the end, we DO know what's going on.  It is irrelevant, because, no matter what the doctor may say, it doesn't change the fact that we know how the story ends.  It is irrelevant, because our hope is not on good test results.  Our hope is in the Maker of the Heavens and the Earth!  It is irrelevant, because we live by faith and not by what the doctors say.

What I have to realize is that life consists of a series of periods of waiting, and it is while we wait that life truly happens.  It is then that we discover who we really are.  What we do during our time of waiting counts towards the shaping of our characters.  It is then that the Holy Potter molds us like clay in His Divine Hands and makes us into a new creation.  

I need reminded of these things often, since I forget quickly...

So from now until as close to Christmas as I can push, I will be writing my musings on waiting by using different examples of people of the Bible and their experiences with waiting. They all revolve around the time of Jesus’s birth. We’ll explore how from Israel as a people to the shepherds on the field and the prophetess in the temple, all the way to us here, Advent of the 2015 Christmas season, we all wait…we all wait for our King! Since I truly dislike waiting, what do you say we get comfy on this couch and keep each other company as we wait together?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent is Here



I can’t believe the Christmas season has officially started. I don’t know about you, but I truly enjoy Christmas! Call me a sap, but the sound of Christmas carols in the air helps me lift the heavy weights I carry around my shoulders all year round, and for a moment, I seem to walk a little lighter. This is not to say that I am happy about the commercialization of the season and about the fact that in order to squeeze the most possible profit out of the Christmas shopping spree, businesses have entirely discarded Thanksgiving and jumped right into Christmas the day after Halloween. By any means, I don’t think that’s right at all. But there is something about the idea of getting Christmas decorations out the attic or wherever we store them for the year right after Thanksgiving that brings joy to my, so often troubled mind.

This year, I’d like to write a series of Christmas posts that I pray reflect not only my love for the season, but the importance of keeping our eyes on the One who Became Flesh to walk among us and be our Emmanuel. For this purpose, I’d like to start with some thoughts about Advent.

For starters, growing up in Panama, I never, really celebrated Advent. At church, of course, they did follow the liturgical, Calendario de Adviento or Advent Calendar. But we never did anything special at home to commemorate this part of the season. There was no Advent Wreath, or candles or readings…nothing really. I knew it was the weeks preceding Christmas and that it was a time to prepare for the arrival of the birth of Christ, but this time really got lost in the hustle and bustle of dreaming about presents and of concocting the best strategies to get them…yes, even in a place like Panama, the kid-year revolves around the hope of a bounty of toys for Christmas.

Once here in the States, for years I still didn’t pay much attention to Advent. Now, however, I want to be more intentional about this period of time. This is why I want to start my Christmas meditations focusing on Advent. The secular definition of the term, according to the dictionary, among other things, is arrival. It is the action of coming into being. And that’s exactly what it is! It is the time we celebrate our Almighty God coming into being in human form. It is the moment we set aside to deeply contemplate the truth of the God Incarnate…the God in the flesh. It is His arrival on this earth.

For us, however, besides it being a time to celebrate and contemplate, it is also a time to wait. Advent is the time we set aside to wait not just for Christmas, but for that other day, hopefully not too far away, when we’ll see our Lord come back again…triumphant, crowned with many crowns, to reign and to rule the world as its Rightful King.

Though waiting is in itself a rather passive action, it IS an action. It requires a number of activities such as active listening, active communicating, and often times, a whole lot of sitting. That’s why I love the picture that is going to anchor all my posts about Advent so much. This wonderful picture of an empty couch in the middle of a Christmas tree field was taken by my very talented photographer friend Natalie Williams and she so graciously allowed me to use it for my Christmas series for free.

I fell in love with the picture because the image of the couch reminded me of waiting, and that is not something I do adequately. I am not a patient woman and waiting is not among my virtues. But so much of life is spent in waiting. Thinking of it as an action, however, brings me comfort. It appeals to my control-freak nature and it makes me feel like time is not a waste. The more I surrender to God’s plan and accept the periods of waiting as part of it; I realize I’ve done my best thinking while in these periods. So why not embrace them!

When I saw this picture, I imagined myself safely reclined on this beautiful couch, covered by a comfy blanket, under the watchful eye of my Savior, listening to His voice while reading His Word. There’s no other place I’d rather be…and that’s what I’ll do this Advent, I’ll wait…I’ll wait for Him to speak to me…I’ll get out of the way and surrender to His designs for my life, which I know are the best…I’ll curl up on this couch in my mind and wait for Him to show me His glory, to show me His face…perhaps you’d like to hang out with me…waiting is always better when done in the company of those we love.

I hope you come and visit me through the season. Enjoy every minute of your days. Hold your loved ones close and wait for the arrival of Our Emmanuel.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Breaking




“God has to break you in order to build you.” That was a post I saw in Facebook a while ago, which, of course, kept me right on track with the thematic lesson the Divine Teacher has been intently feeding into my soul for the last few…years of my life!

The breaking…sigh…

It is the next step to a life that could be used by the Most High.

Peter went through it, more than once. Let’s look at one instance. The following passage shows Peter boisterously proclaiming:

“Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”( Luke 22: 33) 

Peter said this right after the Lord had just told him how he was going to get sifted like wheat. Peter’s problem is one of pride. It runs way too high. He thinks he can take matters into his own hands. He thinks he is strong enough to do what’s coming. He believes he’s got what it takes to solve whatever… but, does he really get it?

I’m sure he still doesn’t get it, even after Christ tells him this:

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” 
Luke 22: 34

Peter only began to get it the moment this prophecy came true,

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22:60-62

Merciful Lord…right on cue…

This passage never fails to give me the chills. He hadn’t even finished speaking when the rooster crowed…and the worst part…”the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.”

He then, did the only thing anyone in this situation would ever be able to do … he wept bitterly… Shattered…broken…

I identify with Peter so much that every time I read this; I want to weep bitterly myself as well.

The next step to a life that is re-shaped, re-built by the Hands of the Maker is brokenness.

The sifting of the wheat is only the beginning. It gets the grain out of the shell; it cleans it and separates it from the chaff, but for what? Well…so it can be pounded and grinded by the millstone until it becomes flour…until it becomes dust…

I don’t have much experience with wheat flour making, but I have witnesseed the ancient process of making corn meal. And I think it is sort of the same. Since before the Spanish, British and other Europeans came to this continent, the inhabitants of the Americas treated corn as their main staple. For some groups it was even currency. But mostly, corn was used to make their bread, tortillas. In order to get to the tortillas, dry corn had to be pulverized first. And, of course, they did it by pounding the golden grain with a stone, against a stone base to break it out of the bran until there was nothing but corn dust. Somehow, I imagine the process of wheat and all sorts of grain milling as following the same basic principle. And, since the current metaphor indicates that we are the grain…the only way our lives could be used to create the bread of life on Earth is if we first go through the mill.

I think that’s exactly how Peter felt at the sound of the rooster’s crow. At that moment, the millstone came down heavily on him like a blow from nowhere. I think that’s exactly how Peter felt when his soul burned at the sight of Our Lord’s eyes piercing his. The memory of each denial pounding on his head, stone against stone…little grain caught in between. Every time he moved his sight away from the Lord, another pounding of the stone. Every doubt, every missed opportunity, every moment of pride crushing him, breaking him until all he could do was cry bitterly…until he realized that Christ is the Only I AM.

For the child of God, the breaking is not meant for destruction. It’s meant for re-construction. Of course we are afraid of the stone that grinds us. But in our fear, we ought to trust the love of the hand behind the millstone. In our fear we need to concentrate on the good that comes after the pounding. In our fear, we look ahead at the glory that we bring to God every time He can use our lives for His Kingdom. In our fear we rejoice because we are becoming the bread that feeds His beloved.

As we enter the Christmas season, let’s think about our Lord Jesus and how He too went through the grind for us even when He was already the Bread of Life. He did it so we would know and follow His example and so in our moments of fear, we would trust He is near.

This Advent, let’s anticipate the coming of Our Emmanuel. Though the stone may crush us, it will not destroy us. It will transform us. Come Lord Jesus, come…don’t delay.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What Are You Thankful For?



I can’t believe Thanksgiving came and went…I tell you, I had serious intentions to write a post before, but life got on the way. However, it is never too late to give thanks! As a matter of fact, Thanksgiving Day is just that, one day. It is only one of the 365 days we are to give thanks to our Lord for the infinite mercies of His blessings. So here’s my Thanksgiving story for this year.

The Sunday before, we were at church and the Elder who was leading us in prayer asked the rhetorical question: What are you thankful for? However, it was not rhetorical. He actually wanted people to answer, right there and then, aloud! After a brief pause, the congregants began to shout out single word answers. Family, health, friends, church were among the first ones. It was moving to hear people expressing, though shyly, their thankfulness to Our Lord in a public manner. Of course I did not say anything…but I looked at Dylan, sitting by my side as always, and I asked him the same question:

“Dylan,” I said, “what are you thankful for?”

He looked at me, and immediately said: “Love.”

I have to admit that I was taken aback by his lack of hesitation. His answer came right from the honesty that only a child can muster. Although also a one word answer, Dylan’s succinct reply encompassed a world of meaning. His spontaneity expressed a world of sincerity.

“Love…”

I look at that child and I’m inundated by it. He drives me crazy, moves me to desperation and impatience, makes my hair grow grey by the second and gives me headaches like no one else…but love is what fills my soul when I’m around him. No matter what…love conquers all other feelings and love moves me to embrace him time and time again.

At that moment, I got a glimpse of God’s love for us. We sit by Him, day in and day out. He is with us always. And even if we ignore Him, give Him only a passing glance or at times even shush Him away, He is surely with us… always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

This Thanksgiving I had the blessing of spending much quality time with my family both immediate and extended, by marriage and by blood…and found or rather confirmed what I am most thankful for…like my son, Love is what I am most grateful for. Love in the presence of God…Love in the Blood of Jesus…Love in the Sacrifice of the Lamb…Love in the Emmanuel…Love in the eyes of a child…Love in the company of those I call my own.

I hope you also were able to answer the question, what are you thankful for?