Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 - A Momentous Year

As years go, this one will go down as momentous. We've had a couple of major expected milestones, and a couple of, bumps in the road.

We began last year with a few happy tears. We sent our Hannah off to Italy from January to May to study for a semester abroad. She traveled all over on weekends, as you can see.

Not to be outdone, we traveled all over southwest Missouri watching David play his last months of basketball as a Liberator.  BHS boys basketball has afforded our family much joy and entertainment over the years.

Since all senior activities trump most of our other kids activities, we watched David play more than Elizabeth. But when Elizabeth's games were on different nights from David's, we watched her play too.

Proof she can do a left-handed layup
In March, Lou and I celebrated, albeit a little early since our anniversary is August 1, our 25th year together. We decided to celebrate that milestone by heading over to Europe for a couple of weeks. A huge bonus to that...we traveled around with Hannah for a week!

Our only cloudy day of the trip...Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg, Austria
Lucerne, Switzerland
Our first bump in the road this year occurred while we were gone on our trip. My mom, Violet Vaughan, became deathly ill. It was touch and go for a while and I made reservations to come home. Thankfully, she rallied, I stayed on the trip, and we are still enjoying her wit and wisdom as she lives with us now!
 My mom and our girls
At Easter, we took the traditional kid picture in their Easter finery, sans Hannah. To make sure she knew we missed her, we took two - and sent her both.

Spring found us still traveling around southwest Missouri, this time to track meets, soccer games, and golf matches.

David and his Liberator teammates had a banner year as the entire team made it to State. Fun!

Faith jumped her way to health and happiness, and she too, made it to State in the Triple Jump and with her 4x200 meter relay team!

This was not at State, but at a meet when she had just jumped a personal best. One of my favorite pictures on the planet. She's running to rejoice with her amazing Coach - Vicky Newcomb
Elizabeth earned post season honors in soccer: 2nd Team all COC, 1st team All District, and Honorable Mention All State. Proud of this sophomore!

Capping off (literally:) our spring were two huge milestones in the lives of our sons.

Luke graduated from the University of Arkansas in May. So proud of him! We were a couple of Harrises short, because David and Faith were at Sectional Track, but what we lacked in numbers, we made up in spirit. Woo pig sooie!

A couple of weeks later, David Elliot walked across the stage at Bolivar High School. Oh, the memories made there. Watch out world!

Summer 2012 found us anticipating our week where Lou volunteers as doctor of the week at Kids Across America in Golden, MO, and then a trip to hike in Colorado a couple of weeks after that.

Plans changed dramatically our 3rd day in at Kids Across America. On 7-11-12, we hit our second major bump of 2102 - literally. Lou was riding his bike over to one of the camps to check on a sick camper, when he hit a speed bump just wrong. That tumble over the handle bars resulted in 6 days in the hospital for a punctured lung, 10 broken ribs, a broken left hand, cuts, major road rash and bruises, a broken collar bone, scapula, and part of a vertebrae. For more details on that little event, click here.

Our local paper did an article on the wreck
This life changing event did not take our Lord by surprise like it did us, and we felt His love and grace through it all. Our community was unbelievable in their outpouring of love and support. It has been a humbling, hard, beautiful time. We are grateful to God for his mercy.

Lou is still rehabbing his right shoulder area, hoping soon to be able to lift his arm completely straight up!

August was a much anticipated month for Mary Grace because....(drum roll please), the braces came off! It still boggles my mind that out of our six kids, only 2 had to have braces. Ka-ching!

August also brought another couple of milestones. While the first day of a new school year is always a highly anticipated event, it really was this year. Mary Grace began attending public school for the first time, Elizabeth got to drive to school for the first time, and Faith began her senior year!

1st day of school Instagram
The first day of school here in Bolivar was also the day we drove David to the University of Arkansas to begin his freshman year. We've missed him being around the house, but it's hard to be too bummed when he's so happy. The only thing lacking in his life is sleep.

After we got everybody where they needed to be to learn what they need to learn, we put on our volleyball cheering hats and followed these two around. So fun having sisters on the same team. Game days were dress up days, and here they are looking pretty.

Speaking of looking pretty, Faith was one of 3 to represent the senior class at Homecoming. What a fun week we had!

So glad the whole family was home!
And fun is what Mary Grace and I have every other Wednesday when we leave Bolivar around 6:30 a.m. to drive to Springfield for her 7:30 a.m. violin lesson. It's early, but she's chipper, and I'm extremely proud of all her hard work to make beautiful music.

Mary Grace also finds time to play a sport she knows she's gonna LOVE until and after she's!

Nice serve
Faith serves up beautiful music every Wednesday night at our church's youth group. She and some other talented musicians lead worship.

October graced us with yet another unexpected phone call - this time from Hannah, a senior at the University of Arkansas, who "just didn't feel right." That little feeling led to a trip to the ER with a diagnosis of appendicitis. You've never seen Lou and me pack so quickly. Luke, who works as a pharmacy tech in the hospital she was taken to, kept watch (along with her loving roommates and friends) till we got there.

Next day and looking good.

Lou was looking good 13 weeks to the day after his wreck. He got back on the bike and thankfully, he and I had a wonderfully uneventful ride. So, so thankful for the way God made our bodies to heal!

As we end 2012, we must thank God for his love and care this past year. All that we are or hope to be and hope for is because of Him and his gift of salvation to us.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
                       (Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV)

From our hearts to yours...Blessings as you begin 2013!

Monday, December 24, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 24

Well friends, here we are. Our last day together reading through Luke 2:1-21. I hope sometime I can hear some of your stories of all God showed you as you spent time with Him this month. I pray God revealed himself to you in some new way.

Did you notice in Luke 2 who the shepherds credited with telling them the good news of a great joy? They heard the actual announcement from the angels, but when they were discussing what to do about the announcement, here's what they said:

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
(Luke 2:15 ESV)

The Lord made it known to them.

And it is the Lord that makes his truths known to us today.

It is the Lord who has led us through these readings. He has taught us. He has spoken in quiet whispers to our spirit. Or maybe, when you read a verse, it pricked your heart so that you felt like God was "yelling" the truths at you. Through whatever means our soul needed, He revealed His truths - Himself - to us.

For some of you, maybe this was your first time to read God's word every day. Way to go...and keep it up! You are putting words of life into your body and soul. You have chosen well. Your creator is revealing Himself to you.

Are we really grasping that?

Our creator is revealing Himself to us.

And He will continue to do so as we stay in His word and lay our souls bare before Him.

As we end, know I have prayed the following for you.

 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

(Ephesians 1:15-21 ESV)

Merry Christmas!

A Savior is born!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 23

My oldest, Luke, is home for a couple of days. Even though he's fresh off wisdom teeth surgery, he's still up for good conversation.

As we were chatting yesterday, I mentioned the word "joy" as my go to word in describing what we all ache for in this world. I'm not talking a surface "happy," although I like to be happy. I'm talking a deep seated kind of confident knowing that God is in control, he's with me and He has eternal purpose in all he's doing in, through, and around me. Nothing is wasted, nothing is random, all has meaning and purpose and is culminating in a redeemed eternity that I can not even remotely imagine. That is joy.

Luke says he thinks what I just described is better defined as "peace." That is his go to word.

And in Luke 2, "peace" was the word the angels used to describe what was coming to earth.

 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
                                                               (Luke 2:14 ESV)

About a month back, I listened to a Christmas sermon by John Piper. I don't remember the exact quote surrounding this verse, but what he said made me draw this little picture in my notes.

What I was trying to illustrate is this:

God gets the glory from people.
People get peace from God.

God knew us giving glory to Him is what He deserved and He knew it would give us joy.
God gave us peace, knowing how desperately we need it.

As I was looking at this rough little sketch after I drew it,  I noticed the opened ended part of the "V." The glory we give to God starts with us and goes up to Him. Any glory we give to God has to be just a small part of the total world wide, all of human history wide, glory that has been given to Him or will be given to him from people on this earth. This "glory V" can only get wider and bigger.

And because of who God is, the same is true for what I call the "peace V." He is infinite peace and has infinite peace to give. We are the recipients of that kind of peace. It's like we are under a peace umbrella.

I love my stick people sketch. It reminds me of how loved I am. And I've caught myself saying a shortened version of those two sentences in bold print above to myself over these days reading in Luke 2.

God gets the glory.
I get the peace.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

God, You & Luke 2: Day 22

The night of Jesus' birth was a high point of history and eternity.

If there is a fluctuation in joy and excitement in heaven, it was off the charts that night. Angels burst through eternity into the night sky to sing about it. The shepherds, whose night had started off with fear,   ended the night by "glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen."

The travel and labor were, thankfully, over for Mary and Joseph. They were marveling at the new life in the manger, remembering prophetic words that now had flesh and lay before them.

I wonder if any of them wanted that beautiful night to end.

The next words I hear in my head make up an old cliche: "All good things must come to an end."

That leans toward depressing, doesn't it? But the fact is, things do end - on this earth, anyway. The happy moments end. The sad moments end. Maybe a better way to say those last two sentences is that both the happy and the sad...fade.

As I was reading Luke 2, I noticed the word "returned" in verse 20.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
(Luke 2:20 ESV)

This miraculous night the shepherds had been such an integral part of ended. They returned to where they were before. They could not live in that moment forever.

We cannot live in those peak moments of life forever either. We always return, on some level, to where we were. The difference is we return not exactly who we were before "a moment." And because we are different - even if it's an ever so slight difference - we hopefully, will live differently in that returned place. And when we have an encounter with the Savior, we will, hopefully, live with more purpose, more joy, more hope and more love - both toward the Lord and toward our fellow man - in that returned place.

And that, my friends, is reason to glorify and praise God!

Friday, December 21, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 21

I'm sitting by a toasty fire listening to Mary Grace play her violin as I type. It's the first full day of Christmas break for all the kiddos. We've baked cookies today and soup is planned for supper on this windy, snowy day. We don't have any candles burning, but our house still smells good and Christmassy.

You know what I mean when I say it smells Christmassy. So does a pastor I respect, Tim Keller. In a recent Christmas sermon I listened to by him, he very accurately pointed out that "the smells of the stable were not cinnamon and spice. They were urine and manure."

I haven't seen any Yankee Candles by those names in the stores this holiday season.

Reality checks are good for us, aren't they?

Lou and I are not farm people. We don't frequent barns very often. Which means, neither do our kids. So one Christmas, when Luke and Hannah were the only little Harrises around, Lou and I took them out to our former pastor's barn. Ray Leininger had shared that every Christmas, he and his wife trotted their grandkids out to the barn where he kept some bottle fed calves. There, they'd sit on hay bales just outside a pen where the calves were kept, and read the Christmas story to them.  I thought that sounded cool, like it would help make the Christmas story come alive a bit for our two little ones, and got his permission to trot our kids out to his barn to do the same thing.

I can't imagine giving birth in a barn amid the hay and the dirt and the animals and their "stuff" and those smells.

But God imagined it. He planned it. He came low - amid the hay and the dirt and the animals and their "stuff" and those smells. He came low -

I'm glad real manger smells are not what wafts through our houses at this time of year (or any time of year, for that matter). But I hope, after hearing Keller's statement, I'll think twice when I light a candle or walk into a house that smells Christmassy. I know my first thought will be, as it should be, "How lovely!"  But the thought I want to have follow on the heels of that first one - the one I want to train myself to think when I smell those lovely smells is just a bit opposite. I want those lovely smells to trigger the thought, "How lovely, How lowly."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 20

I've made the 70-80 mile trek to Branson, MO, many times.  I'm either in my suburban or our Acura TL. If it's cold, my heated seats are on. My cup of hot coffee will be nestled in the cup holders conveniently located to my immediate right. If it's warm, I have the air conditioner blowing a cool breeze to keep me from sweating. If it's wet outside, I'm dry. I can listen to music, a podcast, or an audio book as I drive in my climate controlled, comfortable car.
The most common route taken between Nazareth and Bethleem

Two thousand years ago, Mary and Joseph journeyed roughly the same distance as they journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem, but not in quite the same comfort as I described above.

They walked. Or rode their donkey. Most think the trip took them anywhere from 3 days to a week  to complete. Their trip was not climate controlled or comfortable. It was probably hot and dusty during the  day, and cold at night.

Their trip was very real, and not as idyllic as Christmas cards depict. Their bodies ached after days of travel. They were tired. Bone tired.

As I pondered their trip, I tried to think of some of the aspects of life on the road. You have to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom - just to list the very basics. Today, I'm letting my mind "go there." I'm on the road with Mary and Joseph, trying to imagine, very practically, what a day of travel back then was really like.

I hope you spend some time on the road with them too.  Your gratitude quotient will go up.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 19

I noticed a couple of "bookends" when I read our passage today.

The first one jumped out at me when the shepherds were introduced and we saw their reaction to what was happening.

[8] And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. [9] And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
(Luke 2:8-9 ESV)


I noticed the second one near the end of our passage where there is the last mention of the shepherds and their reaction to what happened.

[20] And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
(Luke 2:20 ESV)

Glorifying and Praising God = Joy.

How was the shepherd's initial fear morphed into the joy of glorifying and praising God?

They became part of a great story. A life changing story.

They had an encounter with the Savior.

Who changed lives even as he was wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 18

God gave the shepherds a sign.

 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. [12] And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
(Luke 2:11-12 ESV)

I wonder if the shepherds were taken aback by "the sign." With quite the spectacular angelic announcement, maybe they didn't even think twice about it. But I wonder if they thought that simple sign odd. The a manger? Really? That humble? That...low?

If the shepherds, at this point, had any preconceived ideas of how the Christ would come, they found those shattered in that moment of time. I can't fathom that in their wildest imaginings, they ever thought that their Savior would be born in a stable.

But that was the sign they got, and that was the sign they saw fulfilled.

The baby in the manger was the sign of Jesus' first coming to this earth.

For some strange reason, the other day I was feeling a bit jealous of the sign given to the shepherds. It was almost like my junior high self took over my body for an instant, and I heard her whine, "I want a sign like the shepherds had!"

God in his patient, kind, but firm way, reminded me that I and the rest of the world were going to get some signs - signs of Jesus' second coming to earth.

A description of those signs is found in Mark 13 and Matthew 24. The signs described in those chapters are not cute and cuddly like a baby in a manger. But the words are truth - truth we need to hear and need to prepare for.

We might be taken aback by these hard signs described. It's then that we dig deeper in to the word, and lean harder onto Christ.

And we remind ourselves that the baby in the manger is our soon coming King.

Monday, December 17, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 17

I have given birth to 6 children, so I'm familiar with the whole labor and delivery scene.

And the pain involved.

I remember looking at the verse in Genesis 3:16 where God says "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children," differently after I had children. I remember thinking, "When God says pain, He means pain," because there is a pain like no other in that whole process.

I bring this up because when I read Luke 2:10, I thought a similar thought but on the opposite end of the spectrum. Luke 2:10 says,

 "And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people."

When God says "news," He's talking "news."
When God says "joy," He means "joy."

And to put the adjectives "good" and "great" in front of those words, is taking it over the top.

In facebook speak, God would use all caps.
And put exclamation points after it.
He means it.

We've been given good news of great joy like no other good news of great joy.

A Savior was born.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 16

I seem to be hovering around verses 17 and 18 in Luke 2.

17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

If I had to land on a word in these verses today, it would be "wondered." But, not really. It's just that that word (perhaps through promptings by the  Holy Spirit?), made my thoughts jump to the word "mysterious."

I read these verses and thought, "We wonder because our God is mysterious."

Here's how the dictionary defines "mysterious."

mysterious |məˈsti(ə)rēəs|adjectivedifficult or impossible to understand, explain, or identify: his colleague had vanished in mysterious circumstances | a mysterious benefactor provided the money.• (of a location) having an atmosphere of strangeness or secrecy: a dark, mysterious, windowless building.(of a person) deliberately enigmatic: she was mysterious about herself but said plenty about her husband.DERIVATIVESmysteriously adverb,mysteriousness nounORIGIN late 16th cent.: from French mystérieux, from mystère mystery.

I do see aspects of God described in this definition, although I would tweak them a bit. He is, on the one hand, difficult to understand, and on the other hand, a child can know him. He is impossible to understand, explain or identify...completely. I would definitely have to add the word "completely."

He is deliberately enigmatic. And yet, that doesn't short us in any way. We are told that we have all we need for life and godliness.  Everything God does, He does deliberately. If He is deliberately enigmatic, it is for good reason. It is a call to trust.

We will not know everything we think we want to know on this earth. We have to make peace with the mystery. We have to embrace God's mystery.

We have to remind ourself that ultimately, the mystery is there for His glory and our joy.

And, our wonder.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 15

A couple of ladies I admire left comments on Facebook about a word I mentioned on Day 13.

The word was "ponder."

My thanks to them for their words. Their perspective opened that word up wider for me and encouraged me.

Little did they know that I had an entire post planned to talk about that beautiful word.

She pondered the shepherd's words.

We are told "they made known the saying that had been told them concerning the child." Those words made known are worth repeating here.

"And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
                                                                                     (Luke 2:10-14 ESV)

I picture the shepherds breathlessly, nervously, entering the stable. Mary is staring at her newborn son as she listens to the shepherds begin their story about being out in the field like always, when, all of the sudden... They then fill in the details of that night, culminating with the words of the angel and the angel army.

Mary had already had some words from an angel - the one that had spoken to her, and, indirectly, the one who had spoken to Joseph in his dream. Those words had sustained her up until this point. Maybe, after all she and Joseph had been through since then, she was in need of some divine encouragement. The shepherds knew nothing of her history. But they could't keep in what had happened to them that night.

Mary heard their words, and her travel weary, stable weary, labor weary body and heart were filled with the kind of strength that really strengthens. How she treasured those words.

And those angelic words delivered to her by the lowly shepherds, were so rich and full that they echoed in her heart. What did it all mean exactly? A Savior? A sign? Peace on earth? She turned it all over and over in her mind and heart.

She pondered.

We, too, have been given beautiful words in a Holy book. Words so rich and full. What do they mean exactly? A Savior? A sign? Peace on earth? We need to turn it all over and over in our mind.

We, too, need to ponder.

Friday, December 14, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 14

I landed on the word "swaddling" today.

I know what it meant when I swaddled my kids, and up until today, I pretty much assumed that Mary and I were tracking with that practice. You know, my swaddling = Mary's swaddling.

But as I was reading today, I found myself wondering if that were really the case.

I searched swaddling online, and it turns out, at least according to one website, that swaddling 2000 years ago is a bit different than what I did. For the full story I read, click here.

In the Luke 2 passage, the angels so specifically tell the shepherds they would find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths. These cloths aren't baby blankets folded certain ways and all tucked in around the baby. The ritual of swaddling in Jesus' time typically included a dilute salt water bath, and then a wrapping of the baby with strips of linen cloth about 2 inches wide around the body, making sure the limbs were straight. And, according to the website I mentioned above, this bath and swaddling were soon after the birth, and only lasted a short time - at the most, 2 hrs.

When I read that, I marveled once again at the perfect, dramatic timing of God. When He had the angel tell the shepherds the baby would be wrapped in swaddling cloths, did they immediately know the clock was ticking, that there was no time for hesitation because babies don't stay wrapped in swaddling cloths that long? Things were happening fast. The urgency and excitement the shepherds must have felt would have been palpable.

And I love how God gives such a specific detail for them to look for - a swaddled infant in a manger. There really could be no mistaking that.

It was perfect. It was dramatic. It was a swaddled Savior.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 13

In my reading today, I was struck by the power of words.

Specifically, the power of the shepherds' words as described in verses 17-18.

Look at what happened when "they made known the saying that had been told them concerning the child."




When words have that kind of effect on people, I would say those are words worth saying.

This makes me think about what I say. It makes me think about my time spent hearing from God by reading His word and praying so that I have words worth saying.

Words that help others wonder,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 12


Today's date has been a topic of conversation this year. The good luck/bad luck associated with such a combination of numbers is credible enough to some that they have planned major life events around it. Here's an example of one stat I found floating around on the internet.

According to a survey by David's Bridal, approximately 7,500 brides will tie the knot on December 12, 2012. To put things in perspective, that's a 1,446 percent increase from last year's un-special 12-12-11.

I anticipate fun, interesting comments and conversations both on social media and in person today. This is the last repeating date this century! This date is registering with people!

Which brings me to my second installment about how the word "register" hit me in Luke 2.

The registering we have in Luke 2 was demanded by the super power of the world then - Rome. Every person had to give an account of himself or herself to Rome for tax purposes.

As I was thinking about this accounting for each person's physical body that took place 2000 years ago, the Holy Spirit reminded me of another accounting of each person that is coming. It's not physical. It's a soul accounting to the one who made us. An ultimate accounting is coming, and thankfully, the Bible makes it plain how to be ready for it.

And 12-12-12 is the perfect day to contemplate the One who made us and to take account of our soul.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 11

In the first 5 verses of Luke 2, one word kept jumping out at me.

I have always been told that if you see a word repeated in scripture, you need to stop and pay attention to it. When I highlighted the words above, God spoke to my heart in a couple of ways. I'm going to talk about one today, and the other one tomorrow (teaser:).

Today's thought concerns verse 1.

Caesar Augustus decreed that all the world should be registered.

Are we letting that sink in? All the world under Rome had to be accounted for. Here's what the Roman empire looked like in the time of Jesus.

This was a big thing. I heard Pastor John Piper speak about this registration once, and although I don't remember the exact quotes, the gist of what he said has stuck with me.

He emphasized that God did a world-wide thing to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. I love that thought. The baby is a world wide Savior, so why not a world wide event surrounding His birth? Why not do something world wide and grand and spectacular surrounding the birth of your Son - the Savior of the world and the soon coming King?

Piper then went on to say that God was "showing off" in all of this! I kind of balked at that at first, but I've found I can't stop thinking about it.

Our connotation of showing off certainly has no redeeming quality about it, so we don't usually put it with God. But sometimes, it's these kind of unconventional pairings that make us dig a little deeper into the word - into our faith - into what we know about God and what we believe.

So, let's keep our soul shovel handy and keep digging deep in Luke 2.

Open my eyes, that I may behold
        wondrous things out of your law.
(Psalm 119:18 ESV)

Monday, December 10, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 10

Have you ever been part of a surprise party? More specifically, have you been part of the group that gathers at some house or restaurant before the "surprise-ee" arrives?

I have been - many times.  However, back in August,  Lou and  were the "surprise-ees" when our Hannah and the rest of the kiddos orchestrated an amazing 25th wedding anniversary celebration. They snapped a pic of the surprising group waiting to greet us.

 Being part of a surprising group is one of the most fun things on the planet!

Everybody there has a smile on their face and is nervously anticipating (in the best way) the moment when you burst out with "Surprise!" A "surprise" that really translates into, "We love you a ton and wanted to make your day!"

They made our day!
The angels in Luke 2 are obviously part of the surprising group of the ages, and I think they felt a joyful nervous anticipation on a scale that I can't even remotely imagine.

First, here's what we know happened for sure.

Luke 2: 9-14 says:
"And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

After I read this, I couldn't help but wonder/imagine a few things.

First, how did that angel "get picked" to be the announcing angel? Did he feel honored beyond words? Was there talk and anticipation among the angels over what was about to happen? As the moment to appear before the shepherds drew close, was that first angel watching God's face, waiting for a nod of His head so he'd know the exact moment to break out of eternity into that night sky over Bethlehem?

Was the multitude of angels bouncing off the walls, breathlessly waiting for their cue? Had the word "manger" barely made it to the shepherd's ears when they began that praise that was aching to leave their mouths?

I'm bouncing off the walls typing! God is so good to give us such excitement and drama!

I know the answers to my "angelic" questions will never be answered on this earth. That's ok. For now, I'm kind of pumped realizing that every time I'm involved in a surprise party, I'll be reminded of the surprise party that took place in a field 2000 years ago.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 9

The shepherds here in Luke 2 have a lot to teach, and I have a lot to learn.

Luke 2:15-16 made me stop and take note.

"When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us. And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger."

The exact note I made in my notebook when I read this is, "When the Lord makes something known - ACT.

There seems to have been no hesitation on the shepherd's part. The angels left, and the shepherds made a plan. Hightail it to Bethlehem. No waiting around til first light. They made tracks.

And I need to follow that example. I haven't had a one on one with any angels of late, but God nudges my heart and soul about things. I'm not to procrastinate, or worse, dismiss them. I'm to make a plan and make tracks.

I'm to ACT on them. Because it's God speaking to me, making something known to me.

That's big, eternal stuff - stuff worth taking note of.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 8

I have wrestled with fear my whole life.

My earliest memory of the ridiculous grip this has had on me was in the 3rd grade, when a friend invited me to go swimming at a really cool swim park that was an hour away from my home. I jumped at the chance to go, but as I was waiting for them to come pick me up, I began worrying about being in a car wreck. If that happened, I'd never see my parents again. I vividly remember standing at the door watching for them and being terrified of this possibility. And yet, I wanted to go so badly.

I did end up going, and had a great time. But the memory of that fear lingers.

Fear messes with your thoughts and emotions. And your joy. Especially, imagined-hasn't-even-happened-yet fear. It robs you of real life right now. I hate it.

I'm thinking about fear because of Luke 2:9-12

 "And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Now the shepherds, at least in this instance, didn't suffer from inappropriate, imagined fear like I have tended to torture myself with. It's completely appropriate to be afraid if an angel of the Lord appears to you in the middle of the night. But what I love about these verses is that we are shown right here - in the announcement of our Savior's birth, how to deal with all fear - real or imagined!

What does the angel do here? He first recognizes that he knows where the shepherds are. By saying "Fear not," he knows they are afraid. Likewise, we are to never hesitate confessing to God exactly where we are, or how we are thinking or feeling. He knows it anyway and loves us anyway. Confessing is good, and I think, necessary. But it doesn't get rid of the fear.

So don't stop there.

The angel didn't stop with the words "Fear not." He then filled the shepherds' minds with truth.  He told them about the good news, great joy, the Savior, the baby and the manger.

That's our pattern for dealing with fear!

Tell God when you are afraid.
Fill your mind with truth. And the best truth out there is God's word. Have some "go to" verses memorized that you can draw on at a moment's notice when fear grips you unexpectedly.

One of my favorites is about as basic as it gets. I'm confessing where I am, and reminding myself of the truth that I can trust God.

Sometimes I have to say this over and over to myself just to get a grip on myself. But God is so faithful. He meets me. He helps me - His word helps me.

And for me, today, that truth is my own little bit of good news of great joy.

Friday, December 7, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 7

Before I started this Advent series, I had penciled in on a calendar the main ideas that I had made note of when I did this reading exercise a couple of years ago. I wanted to make sure I had something to blog about for 24 days straight! A plan is always good.

I had glanced at my list of these ideas today, and saw what I had down for Day 7. Check. Then I began reading Luke 2. As I was beginning to read, I found I was having a bit of trouble concentrating. So halfway through, I started reading the passage out loud.

Bingo. That helped. I was not only seeing the words with my eyes, I was hearing the words with my ears.

That's when God nudged my soul to change my plan.

I balked at first, because I like my plan. I have my ideas all numbered out and everything! But then God reminded me of one of "my sayings:" You can never be too organized, just too inflexible. And, He reminded me that His ideas are always better than mine.

Today, I do feel like it's His idea to suggest the practice of reading scripture out loud to yourself. You engage another one of your senses, which requires that you s-l-o-w d-o-w-n. And, if you're like me, reading it out loud helps me concentrate!

If you're having "one of those days," and fill especially squeezed for time, there's another option to reading it out loud to yourself. Have your favorite computer read it to you. There is more than one website out there that does this, but the one I typically use is the ESV Bible.  (BibleGateway is another good and popular site). My computer often follows me into the laundry room where I can have scripture read to me while I wash and fold.

I hope these "audio tools" in your Bible study tool kit are as helpful to you as they have been/are to me.   May they increase our faith.

Romans 10:17
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 6

Today started out like most all my others in recent years. The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. That prompted me to roll over and hit the snooze button. After one or two smacks on it, I eventually threw off the covers and set about the tasks I do everyday.

Start a load of laundry.
Coffee and quiet time.
Check fb and twitter.
Check on my mom.
Send Lou off to work.
Breakfast with the girls.
Make lunches.
Take Mary Grace to school.
Back home to send other girls off to BHS.
Twitter/mail/instagram check.
Help mom with her morning tasks.
Back to the laundry room...

The list could go on and on, just like yours could.

Every day, I get up and do my daily work - which is exactly what the shepherds were doing. Verse 8 describes their daily (nightly) work:

 "And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night."

They kept watch over their flock. At night.

It's one thing to do your work during the day, when a body is wired to be awake - but to have to do your work at night, when every bone in your body screams to lie down, is a whole different kettle of fish. I always feel for the night shift.

But I digress. The point is, the shepherds were doing what they typically did. I doubt they went into every night thinking something stupendous might happen at any moment.

But something stupendous did happen that night. On a night when they were doing their normal every day stuff.

This thought was a good reminder to me. Going about your everyday stuff is good and right and necessary. Reference that abbreviated list I made earlier. Those things are good and right and necessary. And, that stuff brings me joy (most days;).

But just like Jesus came this first time - on what looked like a normal day, he's gonna come back again - on a day that will probably start out like any other.

I need to remind myself of that.  Reminding myself of that will help keep what matters most mattering most. He's going to interrupt history again in another stupendous way.

He's. coming. back.

It amazes me that God used Luke 2:8, a verse about shepherds keeping watch over their flock at night, to remind me of something big and amazing coming sometime in the future.

I've found that's how it is a lot of times when you read the Bible. You think you are going one place, and God ends up taking you somewhere else. He knows what your soul needs to hear that day.

He's good like that.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 5

My dear readers:

What I'm asking you to consider doing today connects the baby in the manger with the Savior on the cross in a vivid, stirring way for me. I'm asking you to consider making another mark in your Bible.  And, like the clock from yesterday's post, this marking comes from Kay Arthur's study method. (These are the only two of that study method I consistently use.)

I'm suggesting a red cross.

Every time you see "Jesus", a pronoun referencing him, or a word referencing him (in this chapter, "child," "baby"), lightly put a red cross directly over and through that word.

That stops me even as I type it.

Every time I see the word "child" or "baby" in this chapter, I'm to draw a cross over it? That doesn't go with our image of a newborn baby. We don't think about death when we are gazing into the chubby face of a newborn. That was certainly the farthest thing from my mind when I held our Luke for the first time.

But the perfect baby we are reading about and whose birth we joyfully celebrate here at Christmas was born to die.

For us, that is good news. That is the gospel. We sinners need a Savior. God became one of us, was the perfect one of us, and was sacrificed for us.

This is the crux of life.

When I open my Bible, and I see red crosses sprinkled across the page, I'm reminded of this truth: Jesus came not to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive.

That took a cross. And the God-man, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 4

The first line of every blog of mine that's posted begins the same way.

Time is marked.

Today's started with Tuesday, December 4, 2012.

And during this Advent series, my title ends with words that mark time.

Time is important to all of us, and we all mark it somehow.

I'd like to recommend a marking of time I've started doing when I read the Bible.  I've "stolen" it from Kay Arthur's Inductive Bible study method. One aspect of this study method advocates looking for key words or ideas and marking them with different colors or symbols.

One of those symbols is a clock.

Every time you read something in Scripture that references time, draw a clock in the margin.

When you do that, you are making yourself look for the "when," one of the 5Ws that we all need to ask when we are gathering basic information. (In case you've forgotten, the 5Ws = who, what, when, where, and why).

All the "whens" in the Bible are especially meaningful for me to notice because it reminds me that God has this whole time thing - this whole history and whole future thing - under control.  He does all things well and in good order and in good time. And I can trust him.

So every time you see any reference to time in our Luke 2 passage, slow down, and draw a small clock in the margin. That slowing down will be worth your time.

Monday, December 3, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 3

Remember those stories that we all heard as children? The ones that begin with the words, "Once upon a time?"

Fairy Tales.

They have to start that way because they are stories about "magical and imaginary beings and lands" that obviously, never really happened. 

In stark contrast, we have Luke 2 and the events described in it.

They really happened. 

And in Luke 2:1-4, God, through Luke, drops a pretty big historical name - Caesar Augustus.

"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David..."

With that name, we've got a person, time and place in the timeline of history whose existence and power are not disputed. He really lived.

Caesar really ordered a census and Joseph and Mary really went to Bethlehem to register. No "once upon a time" here. These aren't magical and imaginary beings and lands. This was God and Nazareth and Bethlehem and Caesar and Mary and Joseph. 

God showed off in a spectacular way during this real historical time with these real historical people. He caused movement of people and events on a world wide scale!

That is our very big God.

Our very real God moved - and is moving still - in our/your very real world.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 2

A couple of years ago, my brother, Andy, told me about a new practice he's taken up.

He's writing out scripture.

He told me about Deuteronomy 17:18-20, where the king is told to "write for himself in a book a copy of this law." Not long after that, I was introduced to Journibles, which provides materials that makes copying scripture easy and beautiful. This screenshot gives a tad more information.

This post is not an ad for Journibles, but my commendation of the practice of writing out scripture - and more specifically, my suggestion that we write out Luke 2:1-21 during these days of Advent. You could write it out all at once, or one verse at a time every day between now and Christmas - however it works best for you.

If you decide to do this, maybe God will use this practice of slowing down to carefully transcribe these holy words to help you see something about Him you've never seen before.

Let's pray to that end.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

God, You, & Luke 2: Day 1

Welcome to my Advent series God, You, & Luke 2!

You are choosing well - not because you are reading my blog, but because you are choosing to spend time every day reading words that are life giving and life changing. God's words.

Every day, for the next 24 days, read Luke 2:1-21. 

And, if you are squeezed for time, remember: Don't read my words. Read God's.

He has the words of life.

My first post has everything to do with this Luke 2 passage without talking about any part of it. I'd like to suggest something that I learned to do whenever I'm about to read the Bible. I'm suggesting a prayer. A prayer I learned to pray the first year I moved to Bolivar, Missouri in 1988. It was then I met Pat Baker, a Godly woman who I attend church with. She wrote the book When a Woman Takes God at His Word.

It is a workbook of sorts, with chapters to read and then questions to answer. And in this book, Pat suggests praying a prayer before you read the Bible.

Open my eyes, that I may behold
        wondrous things out of your law.
(Psalm 119:18 ESV)

When you open the Bible, you aren't just opening any book. It is the inspired word from the creator of the universe who has chosen to reveal Himself to us in its words.

Hebrews 4:12 reminds us: "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

The words you are going to spend time reading in the next 24 days are special words, and we need special help understanding them. As you begin your 24 days in Luke, may I suggest praying this verse every day before you begin to read? We need God, the author of all life and our faith, to open our eyes if we are really going to see and understand the truths embedded in Luke 2. We need Him to reveal Himself to us. 

Yes, Lord. Open our eyes, that we may behold wondrous things out of your law.