Returning to Bethel

I heard rumblings from the laundry room several times that morning and wasn’t overly suspicious.  We have these kittens, you see.

The dryer wasn’t on and I knew the dryer door was opened, so I wasn’t afraid, just mildly amused that they must have been wrestling (again) and bumping up against furniture and appliances (again).

But it wasn’t the kittens.  It was my son, who apparently was awake and moving without me knowing.  He had tossed through the clothes upstairs in his dresser and couldn’t find his new favorite shirt.  So, he’d slipped down the stairs unnoticed, snuck into the laundry room and was hunting through the clean clothes in the dryer.

When that failed, he headed back upstairs again and finally started crying in rage.  That’s when I ran upstairs to find him standing in a mound of clean clothes that did not include the shirt he wanted.

I had put his shirt in the wash when I started laundry around 7:30 that morning.  It was soaking wet and still spinning around in soapy water.

It was a rough start to the day.  Sometimes you can just roll with the punches and sometimes your favorite shirt is in the washing machine and you just can’t handle that kind of disappointment.

The day improved, of course.  He shook off the disappointment eventually and later the treasured shirt came out of the dryer, not just clean but warm and cozy, too.

I’m a “favorites” kind of person also.  I have favorite socks , sweaters, flavors of tea and mugs to drink my tea in. I re-read favorite books (five and six times),I order favorite meals from restaurants, and listen repeatedly to favorite songs in my car.

When I have to do hard things (like go to the dentist), I deck myself out in cozy socks, comfy shoes, well-worn jeans, and my fuzziest jacket.

Sometimes we just need to go back to what we know and some days are simply better with your favorite shirt.

I’ve been reading  about Abraham’s journeys recently and treasuring the reminder that he “traveled in stages.”  He didn’t bolt from calling to fulfillment, from vision to completion, or from home to the Promised Land overnight.

This was a process, a long step-by-step movement from one place of faith to the next place of faith and then onward again.

Abraham’s journey looked like this:   Arrive at a new place, encounter the Lord, receive God’s  promise, and build an altar.

He responded to the Lord in every place and every season with sacrificial obedience and worship.

May this be me.

In hard places and comfy places, in every season, in each situation my response should be an altar:  A commitment.  A laying down.  An act of sacrifice.  A devotion to worship.

So I do this: I seek out mementos and build memorials, choose a Scripture, write a prayer, repeat a song.  I set my heart on re-dedication and re-commitment to follow the Lord wherever He calls me to go.

Here’s something else I see about Abraham, though–he returns.

In Genesis 12, it says:

The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent…. He built an altar to the Lord there, and he called on the name of the LordThen Abram journeyed by stages to the Negev (Genesis 12:7-9 CSB). 

From there, Abraham encountered some difficulties.

There was a famine, so he left the land of Promise and headed to Egypt.  He was afraid. He lied to Pharaoh about Sarai and said she was his sister.  After Egypt,  Abraham is plagued with family drama.  Lot’s servants and Abraham’s servants couldn’t work together anymore, so they separated.

So much had happened since Bethel:  fear, sin, wandering,  strife, separation.

That’s when Abraham goes back:

He went by stages from the Negev to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had formerly been, to the site where he had built the altar. And Abram called on the name of the Lord there (Genesis 13:3-4 CSB). 

Maybe sometimes a favorite mug with my favorite tea is a pick-me-up for a dreary day….but also a favorite verse, devotional, worship song, prayer practice, or spiritual discipline helps to pull my heart back to the Lord.

It’s because I wander or get lost or grow weary.  I certainly am forgetful.  I sin.

So I travel back to my “Bethel,” the place where I’ve encountered the Lord.  And I seek Him there again.  I call on His name once more.

 

Bible Verses about Putting the Past Behind You

  • Genesis 41:51 ESV
    Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.”
  • Psalm 25:7 ESV
    Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
        according to your steadfast love remember me,
        for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
  • Psalm 51:10 ESV
    Create in me a clean heart, O God,
        and renew a right spirit within me.
  • Isaiah 40:1 ESV
    Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
    Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
        and cry to her
    that her warfare is ended,
        that her iniquity is pardoned,
    that she has received from the Lord‘s hand
        double for all her sins.
  • Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV
    “Remember not the former things,
        nor consider the things of old.
    19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
        now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
    I will make a way in the wilderness
        and rivers in the desert.
  • Isaiah 43:25 ESV
    “I, I am he
        who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
        and I will not remember your sins.
  • Isaiah 65:16 ESV
    So that he who blesses himself in the land
        shall bless himself by the God of truth,
    and he who takes an oath in the land
        shall swear by the God of truth;
    because the former troubles are forgotten
        and are hidden from my eyes.
  • Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
    The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
        his mercies never come to an end;
    23 they are new every morning;
        great is your faithfulness.
  • Luke 9:62 ESV
     Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
  • Romans 6:4 ESV
    We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
  • Romans 8:1 ESV
    There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 ESV
    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
  • Galatians 2:20-22 ESV
     I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
  • Ephesians 4:22-23 ESV
     to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds
  • Philippians 1:6 ESV
    And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
  • Philippians 3:13-14 ESV
    Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 2:13-14 ESV
    And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
  • Hebrews 8:12 ESV
    For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
        and I will remember their sins no more.”
  • Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV
    Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
  • 1 John 1:9 ESV
    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • 1 John 3:2 ESV
    Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

When Jesus Sees How Long We’ve Waited

My son hopped in the minivan at 8:20 a.m. with his sneakers on, his jacket zipped up, and his backpack next  to him.

He was ready for school.  Ready to go . Ready to leave right this minute and not wait another second before getting on the road, Mom!

The thing is, we don’t need to leave for school until around 8:50.  So he was a tad early, as in half an hour early.

But I’d already been putting him off for 20 minutes,  so I finally just gave up and drove to school.  While we waited, I ran errands around the church building and answered his questions every few minutes:  “Mom, what time is it?  Mom, how many minutes?”

Waiting was just….so…..hard.

Part of me loves that he’s so excited about school, of course.

And part of me feels for him.  I connect with all that desire to get going already instead of lingering relentlessly.  Can we just drive? Can we just move?  Can we just start?  Why all the waiting, waiting, waiting?

The Bible talks about waiting patiently and waiting silently, and I can do that happily for maybe a few days or weeks.  But after a few months of persisting in prayer and standing on the promises, I’m about ready to get a little real with Jesus in my quiet time:

Lord, you know we can’t wait forever, right?  Have you forgotten about little ol’ me?  We have these things called deadlines and due dates on earth.   Please just do something already!”

I know I’m not alone in this because I can read my own increasingly desperate prayers echoed in the Psalms:

“But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me” (Psalm 22:19 ESV).

“Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior” (Psalm 38:22 NIV).

“Be pleased to save me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me” (Psalm 40:13 NIV).

“But as for me, I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; LORD, do not delay” (Psalm 70:5 NIV).

Reading through those verses helps somehow.  It helps to know we’re not crazy and we’re not the only ones asking God not just to save us, but to do it “quickly!”

Of course, that doesn’t really  mean God puts a rush-job on answering our prayers.

He is a perfect time God, waiting for the appointed moment and the appropriate season to come through and fulfill promises.  He isn’t spurred into action by our cries or somehow nudged awake by our persistence as if He’s forgotten about us until just that moment.

God has us in mind all along and He has a plan all along.

That’s what really helps in the waiting season, more so even then reading those Psalms.

It  helps to know that God Himself understands how hard this is.

Sometimes I can get tricked into thinking that His divinity disconnects Him from my perspective.

The Bible says:

With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day (2 Peter 3:8 NIV)

That can feel a little disheartening because if time is so fluid for God, then how could He even begin to understand what  it feels like to pray and pray and pray and wait and wait and wait without result?

Then I read this:

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”  (John 5:6 ESV).

Jesus saw the man who had been paralyzed and waiting for healing for 38 years, and He didn’t just shrug that off and overlook how hard that must have been.

Before healing the man, Jesus  did this first; He acknowledged that it had indeed been a long time.

THE UNDERSTANDING AND COMPASSION OF THAT MOMENT IS WHAT DRAWS ME IN.
JESUS GETS IT.

The waiting seasons aren’t because of God’s forgetfulness or His lack of concern for us or needing to maintain some arbitrary timeline.

GOD SEES US IN THE WAITING ROOM.

He knows we’re impatient creatures.  He understands how hard it is to keep perspective and to persevere in faith without giving up.

He knows what it feels like to wait “a long time.”

Because of that, because He gets it, because He loves us, because He cares about us, I find a little comfort and a little release from all the tension and frustration.  I can strain against the waiting a little less and rest in knowing His love for me a little more.

As Max Lucado writes:

God is God. He knows what he is doing. When you can’t trace his handtrust his heart” (Grace for the moment).

Originally posted November 2017

Bible Verses for those who are Grieving

  • Psalm 23:4 ESV
    Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
        I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
        your rod and your staff,
        they comfort me.
  • Psalm 30:5 ESV
    For his anger is but for a moment,
        and his favor is for a lifetime.
    Weeping may tarry for the night,
        but joy comes with the morning.
  • Psalm 34:18 ESV
    The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
        and saves the crushed in spirit.
  • Psalm 73:26 ESV
    My flesh and my heart may fail,
        but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
  • Psalm 119:50 ESV
    This is my comfort in my affliction,
        that your promise gives me life.
  • Psalm 147:3 ESV
    He heals the brokenhearted
        and binds up their wounds.
  • Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV
    Surely he has borne our griefs
        and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
        smitten by God, and afflicted.
    But he was pierced for our transgressions;
        he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
        and with his wounds we are healed.
  • Lamentations 3:31-34 ESV
    For the Lord will not
        cast off forever,
    32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
        according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
    33 for he does not afflict from his heart
        or grieve the children of men.
  • Matthew 5:4 ESV
    Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:52-57 ESV
    in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

    “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
    55 “O death, where is your victory?
        O death, where is your sting?”

    56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV
    For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
  • Revelation 21:4 ESV
    He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Raise Your Hand if You’re So Excited

“Raise your hand if you’re so excited about Christmas!”

That was my five-year-old son on repeat in the weeks before Christmas day.  He asked us often and he expected a response every time.  Everyone in the vicinity had to raise a hand quickly and high enough to  be seen. Either that, or the offending non-responder would be quizzed stringently.

Aren’t you excited for Christmas?  Why didn’t you raise hand?  Are you not really excited?

During our Christmas Eve service,  he started to fall asleep a bit ( so much excitement can wear a fellow out), so I picked him up and cradled him in my lap during the pastor’s message.  We made it almost to the end when my son sat straight up, no longer tired, and said in not quite a whisper: “Raise your hand if you’re so excited about Christmas!”

Every one of us in the pew raised our hands just a teeny bit, not high enough for anyone else in the church to see, but enough so he wouldn’t launch into the full-scale interrogation.

After Christmas, he kept the excitement going.  He enjoyed every bit of Christmas break.  Then I explained our New Year’s Eve plans and how our family usually has family game night, eats special snacks and watches funny videos on TV.

The first thing he asked as he rubbed sleep out of his eyes at 7:30 a.m. on December 31st was  if it was time yet for the game playing and  the snack eating and the funny video watching.

He was ready. Ready all day.  He quizzed me at 10  a.m. and again at noon and then afternoon right up until we (finally) started celebrating.

During the Christmas season, I felt a continual nudging as I read each part of the story: am I living with expectation?

The wise men were searching the night sky.  They were actively looking, digging deep into ancient Scriptures,  studying promises,  watching for their fulfillment.  Then, at the first sign of God on the move, they chose active obedience and pursuit.  They left behind the familiar, they traveled far from  home, because they wanted to see what God was doing.

Simeon and Anna both knew the Messiah was coming.  They had been promised  and assured of  his imminence.  With profound expectation, they lingered in the temple courts, hoping for the day they would  see the Savior with their own eyes.  And they did.  God did what He said He would do.

Am I this excited?  Am I expectant?

I’m not really. Not as excited as my son, and not as expectant as the wise men, or Simeon, or Anna.  I’m not watchful or hopeful of seeing the goodness God is doing.

Maybe you’ve started this new year with just that high level of expectation and excitement.  Or, maybe you’re more like me, limping in slowly, timidly, a little worn out from the hard season you’ve just walked through–hoping (but not certain) that the most difficult steps are finally in the past.

Maybe you’ve been waiting and there’s more waiting to be done.

I read this today:

Now the people were waiting expectantly, and all of them were questioning in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah  (Luke 3:6 CSB).

Can we all be expectant?

It wasn’t just the Christmas characters who lived with anticipation of the Messiah; it was a general buzz of anticipation.  Crowds lined the riverfront to see John the Baptist because they “were waiting expectantly,” on the lookout for a Savior.

And one day, they stood along that riverbank  and watched as Jesus Himself stepped out of the crowd and into the water to be baptized.

They were seeking and because they were seeking, they found the Lord Himself.

So,  what am I seeking?

I’m not seeking answers or direction.  I’m not seeking next steps or a Promised Land or a bright future.

This is what Scripture says:

You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13)

and

 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you (Matthew 6:33).

I can raise my hand because I’m so excited to see Jesus. Even the worn-out me who is tempted to hide away can instead be stirred up with eager expectation because I want to see the Lord and to see God’s kingdom at work in the here and now.  I’m so excited to catch glimpses of His glory this year,  knowing that He is present and He is powerful.

He is a Good God.  And He is doing Good things.

 

 

Bible Verses about Endings and Finishing Well

  • Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NASB

    There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heave

    A time to give birth and a time to die;
    A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
    A time to kill and a time to heal;
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
    A time to weep and a time to laugh;
    A time to mourn and a time to dance.
    A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
    A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
    A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
    A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
    A time to be silent and a time to speak.
    A time to love and a time to hate;
    A time for war and a time for peace.

  • Ecclesiastes 7:8 NASB
    The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
    Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit.
  • Isaiah 41:4 NASB
    “Who has performed and accomplished it,
    Calling forth the generations from the beginning?
    ‘I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last. I am He.’”
  • Isaiah 46:10 NASB
    Declaring the end from the beginning,
    And from ancient times things which have not been done,
    Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
    And I will accomplish all My good pleasure
  • Isaiah 65:17 NASB
    “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
    And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.
  • Acts 20:24 NASB
    But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
  • Galatians 6:9 NASB
     Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
  • Philippians 1:6 NASB
    For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:24 NASB
    Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
  • 2 Timothy 4:7 NASB
    I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith
  • Revelation 21:6 NASB
    Then He said to me, “t is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.

Bible Verses and a Prayer for Christmas

Every Christmas Eve, my dad read us the Christmas story, Luke chapters 1 and 2, from the big golden family Bible in the original King James.  I still hear his voice…I still hear the words.

If you’d like to read the full Christmas story, you can find two famous passages in the Gospels: Luke 1-2  and Matthew 1-2.

Here, though, are 20 of my favorite Christmas Bible verses from the Old and New Testaments, reminding us of the Savior, the season, the gift…

  • Isaiah 7:14 NIV
    Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
  • Isaiah 9:2 ESV
    The people who walked in darkness
        have seen a great light;
    those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
        on them has light shone.
  • Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV
    For to us a child is born,
        to us a son is given,
        and the government will be on his shoulders.
    And he will be called
        Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
    Of the greatness of his government and peace
        there will be no end.
    He will reign on David’s throne
        and over his kingdom,
    establishing and upholding it
        with justice and righteousness
        from that time on and forever.
    The zeal of the Lord Almighty
        will accomplish this.
  • Isaiah 11:1-5 NIV

    A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
        from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
    The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
        the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
        the Spirit of counsel and of might,
        the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
    and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

    He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
        or decide by what he hears with his ears;
    but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
        with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
    He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
        with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
    Righteousness will be his belt
        and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

  • Micah 5:2 NIV
    “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
        though you are small among the clans 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.”
  • Matthew 1:21 NIV
    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 1:23 NIV
    “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 
  • Luke 1:30-31 NIV
    But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.
  • Luke 1:37 ESV
     For nothing will be impossible with God.
  • Luke 1:45 NIV
     Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!
  • Luke 2:10-14 NIV
    But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
  • John 1:14 ESV
    And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

  • 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV
     Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
  • Galatians 4:4-5 NIV
    But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
  • Philippians 2:5-7 ESV
    Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
  • Colossians 1:15-20 ESV
     He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[a] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
  • 1 Timothy 1:15-16 ESV
    The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
  • Titus 3:4-5 NLT
    But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.
  • 1 John 4:9 ESV
    In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

christmasprayer

Christmas Stories On Days Like Today

Today was the most ordinary of ordinary days  with a hint of drab and dreary thrown in.

We heard the rain strengthen as my girls grabbed their backpacks to leave for school, so I drove them to the bus stop and we sat in the minivan where it was dry (but not quite warm).  I told one daughter to pray about her missing retainer  and hoped this is a way God would draw her close.  (May He teach her how to turn to Him for everything?)  Then I wished them well on the last day of school before Christmas break as we saw the bus lights through the fog.

I ran errands, including a visit to the post office where the employee helped me figure out the least expensive way to ship a Christmas package.  I met with a piano tuner, folded laundry, packed lunches, and made meals.  At some point today, I answered emails and made some  phone calls.

I avoided puddles (which my son stepped in) and slipped around mud throughout the day. At the end of the afternoon, I comforted a daughter whose day ended with some disappointments and hurt feelings.

Mostly I searched for the missing  retainer (in the trash, under the furniture, around town, in the cabinets, down the sofa cushions) and prayed about the missing retainer, then made a bunch of plans to replace it only to have my prayer  answered 10 minutes before I left to pick up my daughter and head to the orthodontist.  I found the elusive retainer where  it had fallen down from the shelf where she had safely placed it.

But that was the day.  Finding it took nearly the whole day.

We baked cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday, and watched a movie while I cleaned the kitchen and worked on getting a stain out of another daughter’s sweatshirt.

A day like today, completely saturated in so much ordinary–missing dental appliances, messes, errands, and chores–doesn’t feel very much like “Christmas.”  It wasn’t all flashing lights, beauty, extraordinary worship, or holy feelings . There wasn’t snow or “magic”  or warm and fuzzy, jolly or joyful fun.

Somewhere in the middle of the afternoon, I had a moment of feeling disappointed in myself really.  The pile of  clean and folded laundry and the found retainer seemed like all I had really accomplished today.

Not exactly the kind of success that makes headlines.

But then I remembered that Christmas means something deeply and powerfully true:

God came down into the ordinary.

He came down into MY ordinary.  And He inhabits my ordinary days in the here and now of my waking-and-sleeping life.

He didn’t come extravagant, grand, wealthy, and powerful.  He came plain and simple . He came small: A tiny, insignificant town called Bethlehem.  A poor couple, a young girl and her husband, a laborer.  A bed of hay and a makeshift outfit.  Shepherds called out of their nightly vigil on the hillsides to “come and see”  this tiny, unexpected Savior.

What if he had come differently?  What if all the pomp and circumstance had been there, making the first Christmas a grand event of royal magnitude: Red carpets, crowns, robes, a palace, power, wealth, and position?

What if Jesus had come untouchable, unapproachable, and inaccessible?

An out-of-reach Messiah couldn’t have saved anyone.

Jesus came on an oh-so-ordinary day to an oh-so-ordinary town and reached oh-so-ordinary people.

That’s where I live, too–in ordinary places, on ordinary days, doing ordinary things with ordinary people.

Max Lucado  wrote:

“Jesus did not separate himself from his creation; he pitched his tent in the neighborhood”  (God’s Story, Your Story)

John said it this way:

 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14 NASB).

That means our story can be a Christmas story of its own, how the Savior dwells in the simplest of places and uses simple people like us.  How he is so extraordinary but He meets me right here in the middle of all my ordinary.   How God impacts the world as we run errands, clean messes, make phone calls, and pray for our kids.

This is what Max Lucado said:

“…you live an everyday life.  You have bills to pay, beds to make, and grass to cut.  Your face won’t grace any magazine covers, and you aren’t expecting a call from the White House.  Congratulations.  You qualify for a modern-day Christmas story.  God enters the world through folks like you and comes on days like today” (God’s Story, Your Story).

So today, this ordinary day, is part of my Christmas story:  “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  We need your presence here among us even now.

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Bible Verses About God’s Gifts to Us

  • Ecclesiastes 3:13 ESV
    also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
  • Matthew 7:11 ESV
    If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
  • Luke 11:13 ESV
    If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
  • Luke 12:32 ESV
    Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
  • John 3:16 ESV
    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
  • John 4:10 ESV
    Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
  • Acts 2:38 ESV
     And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • Ephesians 2:8 ESV
    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
  • Romans 5:17 ESV
    For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
  • Romans 6:23 ESV
    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Romans 11:29 ESV
    For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable
  • Romans 12:6 ESV
    Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;
  • 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 ESV
    To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
  • Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV
    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:15 ESV
     Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
  • 2 Timothy 1:6 ESV
    For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,
  • Hebrews 2:3-4 ESV
    how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
  • James 1:5 ESV
    If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
  • James 1:17 ESV
    Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
  • James 4:6 ESV
    But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
  • 1 Peter 4:10 ESV
    As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
  • 1 John 3:1 ESV
    See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Bible Verses on Giving and Helping Others

  • Proverbs 11:25 ESV
    Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
        and one who waters will himself be watered.
  • Proverbs 19:17 ESV
    Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
        and he will repay him for his deed.
  • Matthew 6:1-4 ESV

    Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

    “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

  • Matthew 25:35-40 ESV
    For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’
  • Luke 6:38 ESV
    give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
  • 2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV
    Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:11 ESV
    You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
  • Philippians 2:4 ESV
    Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
  • Hebrews 13:16 ESV
    Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
  • James 1:27 ESV
     Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
  • James 2:14-17 ESV
    What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
  • 1 John 3:17 ESV
    But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?