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As I think of a kaleidoscope with a lens of varied hues and scenes all broken into segments, I pause. I reflect. I ponder the many stories and personal lives of the characters surrounding the Christmas story. I think about their attributes and how God specifically included each character within the fibers of the greatest and most retold story of all time!
You know them, the main characters: Mary, Joseph, and infant Jesus. Interesting that they are identified by their predominate character trait…Mary the virgin, Joseph the carpenter, and Jesus, the Christ child and Savior of the world. The supporting cast includes the Innkeeper, angels from on high, shepherds in the field, and wisemen from afar. Then there are the members of the backstory: Gabriel, Elizabeth, Zachariah, Simeon and Anna, and king Herod. All were chosen by God and with an array of social status and business endeavors. They represent the whole of the world from the least to the greatest. God is an all-inclusive God!
I had the privilege to play the character of Anna, the prophetess, during our Christmas musical at church. What a joyous day when she came upon the long-awaited Savior being presented to the Lord in the temple during the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses. All she had prayed for during her long life finally came to fruition. I imagine the smile on her wrinkled face and the twinkle in her eyes as she proclaimed to all what she had witnessed. Her prayers finally answered! The salvation and redemption for Jerusalem (and all mankind) was finally born…and during her lifetime! Prophecy had been fulfilled. She must have had a mighty faith. There is so much to be learned from Anna in just three short verses. I encourage you to do a study on this fabulous “old” woman whose life was full! She was a worshipholic! What I have gained from studying her life is that of true devotion. Devotion to God takes many outward forms, but always involves worship, witness, and waiting. I think we are perhaps pretty good at worship and waiting, (well…maybe not waiting, we are all pretty impatient!) but what about witness? Are we anxious to tell of the mighty deeds of God? Are we afraid to share what is going on in our life because we believe the focus is on us? Let me encourage you not to feel that way! Share with everyone the greatness of how God strengthens you, encourages you, and increases your faith! Is He providing your needs? Is He working in your life? Is He teaching you a hard lesson that causes you to depend more and more on His faithfulness? Tell us! Does a Jesus theme surround our conversations? How about to those other than with whom we regularly share our lives?
I often wonder what happened in Anna's life to cause such devotion. We do know that she came from the tribe of Asher and that she was widowed after only seven years of marriage. The events of her life must have been tough, but her love for God caused her to draw near to Him, with a fashion of intentional routine. Be an Anna. She was expectant! She was diligent! She was verbal! Anna, was proclaimed as the prophetess during a time when prophets were no longer recognized. I can just hear her telling of the day she met Jesus for the first time! Can you hear the excitement in her voice and the expressions on her face?! Emmanuel, God with us!
The few verses about Anna share much; however, there are numerous questions left unanswered. However hard her life must have been, she was known as the woman who spent a lifetime seeking, trusting, and worshipping.
God is always at work in our lives! But it’s the beautiful way He intertwines our lives together to enhance, support, and complete beautiful moments in time! Like a kaleidoscope, the overall image (story of our life) is blurred, the colors seem to blend into one another, and it’s difficult to see the clear crisp image. But oh, what a stunning rendering from the hand of the Master Artist, Storyteller, and Creator that exhibits only small portions of the whole. Those portions of our life are segmented and arranged to display beauty and to glorify God. It takes a great amount of trust to believe that what seems unclear to you now, is working for your good.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (NASB)
12 For now we see in a mirror [a]dimly, but then face to face;
now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
All of these moments… “Some small and intimate. Some big and splashy. Like the sparkling lights on a holiday tree, we string new moments together…watching them become the stories we tell...”
Before we step into 2018, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect through each month of 2017. Use your photos from your phone to help you remember. Begin to list the characters that have shared in the story of your life. Have you been one in the life of another? Were you a main character, supporting cast or a part of the back-story? How has God shone His mercy, grace, love or faithfulness? These are stories to be told and retold! They declare the greatness of God and they increase the faith of on-lookers! Sometimes God simply has an explosion of wonder to reveal to you! Much like the shepherds in the Christmas story, I think!
The story of our life includes community! Do you get it? Stop hiding out and focusing on self. Receive a blessing from others or be one! We are meant to encourage, admonish, and speak into the lives of those whom God has placed into our kaleidoscope! Even the event at the stable involved so many, yet we tend to think about it as little isolated segments. All of these stories are intertwined and with great mysterious purpose.
Only God sees the over-arching, perfect clear image. And He sees the wondrous picture of your life too! It’s a flawless plan unfolding and revolving around a story of perfect love. A kaleidoscope of moments...Moments beautifully shared with others, creating an overall image of fascinating wonder!
In this Christmas season, "reach out and touch someone!" May the characters surrounding you play an important role in helping you to tell the story of the love and faithfulness of God in your life. He is Emmanuel, God with us! And He is there at every turn, every question of what's next, and during your thoughts of how will I ever make it through?! Devote yourself to worship, witness, and waiting like Anna. Great things are just around the corner when you put your trust in Him!
Be blessed as you reflect on the moments and characters of Christmas...especially the main character and gift to us all, Jesus. May He always be the image at the center of your own personal kaleidoscope, refracting a unique and perfect picture of your life in Him!
"...and all who heard it marveled at the things which were told them..."
Kathy and I are grateful for the beautiful moments you have shared within the story of Restore Ministries. Whether you are a financial supporter, prayer warrior, blog reader, or retreat participant, the part you play is important in fulfilling God’s overall plan for this ministry and us. It is our prayer that each chapter continues to glorify God as we provide a ministry that offers opportunities to for you to awaken your passion and restore your deepest yearning to know Christ more intimately.
We wish you a Blessed Christmas! Monday Musings will return in January. Happy Holidays!
If you are interested in making an end of the year contribution to this ministry, please click here. We are a tax-deductible 501c3 organization.
Don't forget that we have a women's retreat in March! What a wonderful gift for Christmas...the gift of time spent with an influential woman who has impacted your life and Jesus!
Christmas! It is the season of miracles and mystery, memories and music and moments where God’s grace touches our lives in unexpected ways. For me this Christmas, I am full of gratitude. I am so grateful to be alive and grateful for the joy of being able to sing the beautiful carols of the season. You see I have spent the last month in doctors offices and lab rooms with test after test on my body and my throat. Words from professionals were flying around the examining rooms like “cancer is a possibility and you have a cyst on your larynx. We will have to send you to the best specialist in the area. Surgery that could affect your vocal chords will need to be scheduled.” To a professional singer those words can easily breed fear into your soul. I have been on total and partial vocal rest for six weeks and that is not easy for anyone, especially a singer and a voice teacher.
But I have been blessed through it all because I know the One who holds my future and my voice. I have faithful friends who have prayed me through, lifted my health up day after day before the throne of God, and encouraged me to persevere through the days of uncertainty, the days of waiting to see specialists and the weeks of waiting for test results. When I look back on the year 2017, much of my energy has been spent dealing with one health issue after another.
Truly the prayers of friends and family have helped to sustain me and blessed me beyond measure!
A wise friend advised me when I asked her to pray and I knew she would. She told me to be sure I had settled my identity with the Lord. Of course, I surrendered my life and my voice to Him long ago. But it is easy sometimes to get what we do confused with whose we are. My identity is not as a singer, speaker, writer or teacher. Those are blessings and gifts in my life and ways that I serve. My identity is that I am His child. As His child, I must surrender to His plans for my life. Plans that lately, I would not have chosen for myself.
Surrender. …It’s been a word I’ve wrestled with and also learned to love in my faith journey. It’s what the Lord calls us to every day, but sometimes I admit I want to take charge. Often, I just get weary in the journey, weary of waiting for answers.
But His love keeps calling me to surrender. Surrender to His Spirit, surrender to His will, surrender to His purpose, surrender to His ways, surrender to His timing. Surrender is always the best because He is the One who knows the number of my days on earth. He is the giver of my gifts, my health, my voice, and the One who gives meaning to my life.
I can’t change anything by worrying or letting fear take hold of me. And neither can you!
And so over the last few months I have surrendered once again my life and voice to Jesus to use as He pleases. I am His to heal or not. By His grace, the Lord gave me two miracles this past week. I don’t deserve it. I am richly blessed! The tests showed no cancer and the cyst in my larynx has almost disappeared completely! There is no more need for surgery. I can sing again!
I loved the text from one of my dearest friends when I sent her the news. She said, “This has increased my faith.” It’s easy to think that the trials in our lives are about us, but God uses it all for His glory. God’s work in our struggles can encourage the faith of those who walk beside us in our journey, if we let them in.
This morning I sang some carols of the season at a women’s brunch at our church and tears welled up within me at the simple beauty and blessing of singing a Christmas carol. I had not expected to have that gift this season. It’s easy to get so overwhelmed at Christmas that we miss the simple joys of the celebration. I don’t have a single decoration up in my home yet because there has been no time between doctors appointments and work. And it just doesn’t matter. It will happen eventually or not.
When I was facing the possibility of surgery over the holidays, I made a decision to take care of most of my Christmas shopping early when I had time. The spirit of giving is one of the beautiful blessings of the season. It is the gift of Jesus to the world that we celebrate and our thoughtful, gracious gift giving at Christmas is a way that we can express His love to others. I wanted to be sure my family and friends would have special gifts that I had chosen for them, even if I was too ill to participate in the celebrations. So that’s done! Unexpected grace! I won’t have to be fighting the Christmas traffic this year with my usual last minute shopping. And I get to celebrate with family and friends around the tree whenever we get around to buying it!
The season of Advent is a season of longing, hope, expectation, waiting and preparation, much like the last few months have been for me. As we enter into this season of Advent, I encourage you to take some quiet moments each day and celebrate the gift of Jesus.
Don’t let the chaos that can define the season define you.
Reread the Christmas story about the birth of Jesus in the gospels.
Choose to give.
Choose to sing the carols of Christmas!
In the days ahead cherish the tastes, the touch, the smells, the sights, the singing,
the promise, the celebrations and the holy of Christmas
…. all the joy and wonder that the Christ child ushers into our lives.
Unwrap the gift of His coming and His presence in your life and then give away the blessing of His grace.
Then watch the Father unfold unexpected miracles into your heart this Christmas!
I’ll close this Monday Musing with one of the most beloved hymns of advent. The lyrics were written by Charles Wesley in 1744. I love this hymn because it captures the true nature of what we celebrate in advent, the first and second coming of Christ where we ultimately find our hope, eternal rest and the fullness of His glory. The last stanza closes with a prayer that Christ rule in our hearts. May that be the faithful prayer for each of us this Christmas.
Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
Perhaps you too are in a season on waiting. Waiting for answers about the loss of job, a child who has strayed, your personal health or the health of a loved one. Maybe you are praying for a friend who seems lost or there is a deep burden in your heart. In this advent season turn your focus to the One whose name is Immanuel - God with us.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23 ESV
God revealed the depth of His love for us at Christmas. Jesus, the King of Kings, chose to enter our world in human form as a baby born in Bethlehem. He came because the world needed a Savior who would be the sacrifice for our sin,
a Savior who understands the deep longings and struggles of our hearts, a Savior who pursues us with a love that will never fail.
Christmas is an enduring love story for every soul waiting and in need of hope, in need of a miracle.
Jesus comes near every moment of every day...waiting... that we would come near and behold Him.
There is His presence, by His grace, you may find unexpected blessings in your life.... for Christmas is the story of the gift of His love for you!
Grateful for the power of prayer,
His healing, grace and blessings this season,
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