I have wrestled with light

John 1-5

I have wrestled with light against darkness this year and I have won.

It was a hard-earned victory, though, so while I have conquered, I am weary.

For a start, I slipped together the parts of our pre-lit Christmas tree, plugged it in and noticed burnt-out bulbs dotting the tree here and there.

Only, I couldn’t find the replacement bulbs.  Anywhere.

So, I gave up.  Most of the lights still worked, so I loaded that tree full of colorful beads and family ornaments.

Then, deep down in the bottom of the Rubbermaid ornament container, I discovered the baggy holding the new light bulbs.

(Note to self:  It’s easier to replace lights on a tree when it doesn’t have ornaments all over it.  Next year, make sure the lights are on top of the ornaments in the box.) 

I finish the tree and move on to new things.

We have lived in our home now for 11 years.  I have the Christmas decorating pretty much down to a well-rehearsed performance.

The garlands and lights are already strung together.

The strategically placed bows tell me where the corners sit when they are hung.

So, I just lift this Christmas greenery onto the nails that are in the same place as last year and the year before that and years and years back.

I plug the lights in.

And, voila.  Christmas beauty in our home.

Only some years I am not so lucky.  I plug in the strand of lights and it is dark.  Dead.

Then I have to decide. Fight the fight?  Hunt relentlessly for the bulb I need to replace to get this light strand shining again?

Or concede defeat from the beginning, untangle the dead lights from the garland and replace it with a new strand?

For years, I chose the hunt.

But usually I ended a thirty minute wrestling match with the light strand with my hands cut to pieces, broken fingernails galore, and absolutely drained of Christmas cheer plus this:  a still-broken string of lights because I never found the offending bulb.

So, now, I choose to protect my joy and replace the lights instead.  For about $5, I am a happier mom at Christmas time.

This year, though, my struggle has taken on new forms.

It was all of 40-some degrees out this morning with a bone-chillingly cold rain falling and I stood there in my heavy sweatshirt battling the light.

Somehow this year when I hang that same-old garland in the same-old place with those same-old lights, it didn’t fit.  I either had too many lights or too few.

I do not know how this happened.

So, I have been working at this for days now because of our insanely busy schedule and the uncooperative weather.

Today, I have decided, is the day that I end this.  I will win.  In the rain.  In the cold.  I do not care.

So, I stretch and twist and wind that light around the garland, get to the end, plug the lights in….and half the lights don’t work.

These are the lights I just tested three days ago when they worked just fine.

So, I fight.  I dig around the Christmas boxes until I find the replacement lights and I begrudgingly search for the burned out bulb because this year….this year, I will not be defeated.

Finally, I win.

I do not have the most beautifully or elaborately decorated home by anyone’s standard, but I do have light, and I am pleased.

Because light is worth fighting for.

And how we have had to fight this year.  

Have you?

I have attended the funerals.

I have prayed for those who lost their children.

I have listened to the bitter hurt of mourning and sadness.

I have reminded myself over and over of this: first things first–in the crushing busyness of the schedule, I choose Christ before all, and this is hard and it is yet another fight.

I have calmed my daughter down again and again and again when she frets over ISIS and terrorists and whether she is safe.

And right there in the midst of all that darkness, I look for His Light.

Because this is what God promises.

John tells us:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5 ESV).

Later in his life, John writes it again:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5 ESV).

Even in the pitchest black of the darkest night one shiny bulb can split through that darkness with fierce determination.

Even in the pitchest black of your darkest night, God can split through that darkness because Light is Who He Is.

This Christmas, seek His light.


In the Splash Zone

They wanted to be splashed.

That’s what my daughters said as we walked into the pavilion with risers, some of them marked “Splash Zone” and others unmarked, indicating the safer, dryer seating area.

There’s something about childhood that makes you love getting wet, especially when it’s a dolphin splashing her tail that’s sending a wave your way.

Sadly, most of us grow up and out of this urge to get splashed.  We start to climb a little higher to avoid the “Splash Zone,” to play it safe and mature and under control.

My kids, however, crowded into the front rows of seats with all the other excited children and joined in shouting for the dolphin to splash “over here, get me, don’t forget me!”

I may not be eager to get soaked at a dolphin show, but there’s one place where I’m climbing all over folks to sit up front and center.

I’ve been arriving early and often, staunchly guarding my seat until the largest wave of them all rises high over the edges of the pool and splashes down all over me, soaking me through so deeply that you could wring out my soul into a puddle on the ground.

I want a front row seat to God’s glory.  I want to see it, drench in it, feel it, and I don’t want to miss a single drop of His Spirit pouring down.  No playing it safe, comfortable or in control.  If the seats where I’m sitting aren’t marked with warning signs for the Splash Zone, I need to move down closer.

Others have longed for the front row seating for God’s glory.  Like Moses, of course, meeting with God on that holy mountain and asking with so much boldness I can’t even believe he dared to say it: “Show me Your glory.”

Ezekiel saw it and painted unimaginable pictures, trying to cram the glory of God into the confines of words, so unfitting and restrictive.  It was like a rainbow, like bronze, shining bright like a blazing fire.

What was it?

“It turned out to be the Glory of God!  When I saw all this, I fell to my knees, my face to the ground” (Ezekiel 1:28 MSG).

That’s what the uninhibited presence of God does, knocks us straight to the ground.  We can’t postulate and question it, hesitating: “I think this is what God is saying,” or “I think God is in this.”

When you’re sitting in the front row, you can’t mistake His glory.

Rick Warren wrote:

“What is the glory of God?  It is who God is.  It is the essence of his nature, the weight of his importance, the radiance of his splendor, the demonstration of his power, and the atmosphere of his presence.  God’s glory is the expression of his goodness and all his other intrinsic, external qualities” (The Purpose Driven Life, p. 56)

The beloved disciple John’s testimony was that of an eyewitness to this, saying, “We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son” (John 1:14 MSG).

Trampling along after Jesus, James, Peter and John probably didn’t expect much on the day of the transfiguration. They’d taken that walk with Jesus many times.  And hadn’t they just totally messed up at the feeding of the 5000, underestimating Jesus’ ability to transform a meager lunch into a feast for thousands?

They certainly didn’t seem ready to glimpse heaven that day.  Yet, it was there on the Mount of Olives where they saw him no longer as God-man, but God and God alone in all of His divinity and light.

“They saw his glory,” and Peter, the master of understatement said, “Master, it is good for us to be here” (Luke 9:32, 33 NIV).

He’s right, you know.  It may be simple and straightforward, but it is good for us to be in the presence of God’s glory.

These close-knit trio of disciples had followed along after Jesus many times, climbing up the Mount of Olives to pray, taking time out of exhausting ministry to kneel in God’s presence.

But they didn’t see Christ transfigured every time.  That was a one-time event.

That means the Mount of Olives isn’t some magic formula for a God-sighting so much as a constant discipline of our faith.  It’s got to be a daily trek for us, a meeting place with God where we linger often and stubbornly climb even when things are difficult or dreary or we’ve failed.

In Streams in the Desert, L.B. Cowman wrote: “Every Christian should have his own Mount of Olives”

Because when God reveals His glory, we want to be there.  We won’t want to have missed out that day with excuses of busyness, fatigue, or shame.

I want a front row seat in the splash zone of His glory.  Don’t you?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.