Wednesday, December 25, 2013

O Holy Night

"O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn".

I love this Christmas carol. The fourth line,"'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth" swirled over and over in my heart this December. Like gentle white snowflakes fluttering to their home on the ground, these words found a home in my heart. I am humbled.
This well-known carol speaks old truth. As I pondered it, I heard - possibly for the first time - the wonderfully encouraging message. The soul (my soul) felt its worth!
I am worth Jesus leaving his Father's side to be born and live among us.
In moments of silence, in the nurturing of quiet, in the treasuring of truth, love is known; significance is experienced; worth is substantiated. My soul feels it.
I am so thankful.
The verse continues...
"A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn".
My soul feeling worth - a wonderful thrilling hope. A hope fully realized when Jesus completed his earthly journey he started on Christmas.

Oh what GREAT joy, Oh how glorious - I feel it!

The cross Jesus bore validated my worth.

"Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born..."
These words I've sung and loved for years lead me to fall on my knees, to worship the one who is the source of my soul's worth.
What about you? What truth have you heard this Christmas through words that are so familiar? Let's bless each other. Please leave a comment and share with me and the other Echoes of Grace readers.

Merry Christmas!

Josh Groban sings O Holy Night here. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Angels, Dreams, IMMANUEL

Matthew 1:23 quotes the prophet Isaiah, "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel".

Immanuel - God with us, also a message communicating Gods guiding and helping someone fulfill their calling. One of the gifts 2013 gave our family was the picture of God's faithful work in our son's life guiding and helping him fulfill his calling.

May 2003. Our family gathered at Covenant Theological Seminary to celebrate Jeff's graduation. We were proud of our son earning his Master's of Divinity degree. We were even more proud of his heart to serve God in the local church. That weekend we also met Aubrey - his future wife. It was a very special time.

July 2013. Ten years later once again we gathered to celebrate. This time, New Life Burbank, a PCA church in California, was the setting. Jeff's was ordained to pulpit ministry. Bill, Jeff's dad, and a PCA ruling elder, gave the charge to Jeff.

(Both times, thankfully, my purse held a healthy supply of tissues.)

Ten years of waiting and praying for ordination. Ten years of experiencing Immanuel and his faithful work guiding and helping in ways not expected, and perfectly orchestrated.

Naomi, now 1; Judah 3.5 years
Those ten years were full. Jeff and Aubrey married and started a family. While Aubrey attended medical school, Jeff worked at a bank in a poorer section of Charleston, SC. His stories kept us entertained and stocked his sermon illustration file.

God unlocked two wonderful opportunities for interim pastor positions. Jeff led, preached, and faithfully shepherded those congregations. Dr. Aubrey's gifts of reaching out to the women in the congregation complemented Jeff well. Those years were God's training ground for California.

During that time, Jeff earned a second masters degree, Master's of Theology, and graduated with honors from Erskine Theological Seminary. 

Experience piled up. His pastor's heart grew and expanded. Together they learned ministry. Persistence blessed. All the time Immanuel was faithfully guiding and helping.

During those years of waiting and praying, we all experienced Immanuel, God with us.

Immanuel cloaked in faithfulness blessed with a loving and supportive family.

Immanuel cloaked in faithfulness abundantly provided for their needs.

Immanuel cloaked in faithfulness guiding them with each new opportunity.

Immanuel cloaked in faithfulness kept and preserved.

Immanuel - God with us in the waiting preparing Jeff and Aubrey for New Life Burbank.

Immanuel takes on deeper meaning for our family this Christmas. What about you? How have you experienced Immanuel during this past year?

"He who called you is faithful; he will surely do it."
I Thessalonians 5:24, ESV

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Angels, DREAMS, Immanuel

Four times in Matthew 1 and 2, God speaks to Joseph through a dream. Joseph, recognizing the wisdom from God in these dreams, obeys. Because of God's dream communication and Joseph's obedience Jesus is born and protected in those early years of his life.

I had a dream a few weeks ago. In my dream, my friend drove to the St. Louis airport to pick up her dad. As she drove toward the arrival door, she spotted him running toward her. He saw her from a distance and couldn't wait to wrap his arms around her. He was jumping over benches, suitcases, and other weary travelers to get to her, to be with her, to feel her close, and encase her in his love.

It was a dream. I know my friend's dad. This is not his personality.

God who came to earth to live among us that Christmas morning 2000 years ago also jumps over any obstacle to love us.

Just as God spoke to Joseph in his dreams, I saw an illustration of God in my dream.

Often times when I'm arriving at an airport, weary from travel, I walk out through the TSA check point and see many being welcomed into the arms of loved ones. Those loved ones wait... in many cases for long hours. They greet with hand-crafted signs and big smiles, but they don't run toward those they are greeting; they can't - the TSA makes sure of that. 

But God runs to us. He jumps over any obstacle to get to us, to enfold us in his arms, to whisper or shout the truth of his love to us. 

My dream pictures Christmas.

God jumped over the obstacle of the virgin birth.
God jumped over the obstacle of the culture of the day that told Joseph to divorce Mary.
God jumped over the obstacle of Herod with his jealous desire to kill the baby.

Obstacles are not obstacles in God's economy. They are steps to show the depth, the height, the length, the breadth of his love, his care, his desire, his concern.

A thought to ponder this Advent - What are some of the obstacles God has hurdled on your behalf to show you his love?

"... that you being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge..."
Ephesians 3:17-19 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

ANGELS, Dreams, Immanuel

June 11, 2013. My husband Bill speeds up the hilly neighborhood road leading to our street. Even at 60 mph, others to the rear were gaining on him. He slows only slightly to turn. The broiling, billowing smoke tinged yellow and red at the end of the street stares back.

Heart pounding, sweat dripping, mind racing, he tears into the driveway, pulls up to the garage and jumps out of his truck. Ten minutes - only ten minutes to empty our home of the important and precious. The rest we may never see again.

An unknown truck follows him into our Black Forest driveway.

"Can I help you?" the driver askes.

"Do I know you?" Bill responds.

"No, I am Bob and this is my daughter Angela (she looks to be about 12). We live in Calhan (a ranching community, 30 miles to the east). We are just passing through and wondered if we could help." 

Hmmmm, our dirt road is a cul-de-sac. It is a destination, not a road to someplace else.

Decision... is Bob a good Samaritan? Or? Does Bill trust him?

Because of the girl, he decides yes.

Bill gathers our important papers, medications, and more. Bob and Angela take all the pictures with people in them off our walls and load them into the back of Bill's pick-up. They also grab a few other important looking things, like my old computer. Then they were gone.

Bill never saw them leave.
He never said, "thank you".

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
Hebrews 13:2