It’s intriguing isn’t it? We admonish one another to honor ‘Christ’ in Christmas but do we really honor all of the aspects of the Christmas story? Before you quickly agree let me remind you of a few details …
Did you ever notice how Mary came to bear the Christ Child? She encountered an angel who spoke to her with the authority of God and in the blink of an eye she was pregnant. And then there’s Joseph who wanted to send Mary away secretly, but instead encountered God in a dream. After he awakened he changed his plans and took Mary as his wife.
Did you ever notice that as we read these Scriptures aloud to one another, our voices rise and fall in all the right places as we describe how Mary was nearly divorced because God interrupted her quiet life. Really. She was just minding her own business. And then wham! She’s thinking about maternity clothes. There’s no telling the amount of fracas that Joseph caused by taking Mary as his wife. It just wasn’t done. But! Each of them had an experience that radically shaped their destiny. They yielded to the Godhead and trusted Him for the outcome. Were they close enough to share with one another the nature of their encounters?
“So, um, Joseph … I’ve been meaning to tell you that I ran into an angel sent from God the other day. Joseph, are you listening to me?”
“Mary. Uh, I’ve got to talk to you. I had this dream, you see…We’ve got to leave Bethlehem tonight and cross the border. I know the little guy is only ten days old. And I haven’t forgotten that we came here with you so close to giving birth … on a donkey. Really, I’m sorry about all this. It’s God again. We’ve got to go.”
Time and space won’t permit me to review all of the supernatural encounters which are associated with Jesus’ birth. Zacharias, Elizabeth, the shepherds, and the magi. Oddly enough, the wicked ruler Herod got his information through the enquiring magi, not through a dream.
I marvel that, in current times, we seem to have outgrown our ability to be led by dreams or supernatural moments with God. Why is that, I wonder? Are dreams just for wee children? I wonder what Zacharias would say? He was an old Jewish priest who encountered an angel in the temple, and became mute when he questioned the birth of his son so late in life.
Just on the cusp of a new year I would challenge you to a year full of faith-filled dreams and moments with God. Ask Him to speak with you, to lead you by dreams … with His thoughts, His words. A year of life led by God Himself. It’s risky, but so filled with wonder and awe. He has great ideas!
I remember when I was growing up, my Dad would show us stuff. He was intent on teaching us to identify trees and plants, like Morrel mushrooms, Bittersweet and Sumac. Of course he taught us useful stuff too, how to back up a truck with a trailer; how to drive a boat; how to collect sap and make Maple Syrup and, best of all, how to fish. Although my growing up years are mostly wrapped in nostalgia and I have few opportunities to exercise those skills, what I actually learned was this: I am limitless in my ability to learn a skill and do it. Dad taught us to be learners, and to not be afraid to try new things.
One year Dad decided to build a cabin on the back edge of our property. Dad was neither a builder nor an architect but he and my lovely, artist-in-residence Mom put their skills together. With the help of generous builder-type friends, the tiny, humble building came together. At the time the cabin served as the best fort and doll house a girl could ask for! We loved it! With it’s steeply-sloped corrugated roof, woodstove and dry sink, the cabin stood on stilts and overlooked the trout stream that ran through our property. My friends and I would traipse around in the woods and slosh in the creek for hours at a time.
It wasn’t until I was well into my adult years that I learned the strain that building the cabin placed on our family. Apparently it wasn’t the most fiscally responsible undertaking, nor was the building designed to withstand 25 years of rugged weather. My Dad has been gone for some time now, and yet the cabin stands perhaps as a tribute to his tremendous influence on our lives.
Talk is cheap and we spout ideas of who we are and what we’ll one day become. The fact is, we are not who we say we are. We are what we do.
Dad didn’t leave behind a cabin. He left behind a legacy of attempts to show us how important we were to him, how deeply he cared and how much he wanted us to love the things he loved.
Plain and simple, Dad wasn’t great at communicating. I still wonder about who he really was, and why he called me Scout.
But I know he loved me.
And I’m not afraid to try stuff.
One of my absolute favorite movies is Sliding Doors (1998) with Gwyneth Paltrow and yummy John Hannah. It’s an interesting movie, if you’ve never seen it. The plot splits, and two separate plots develop based upon Paltrow’s decision to force her way onto a departing train or to let it go and wait for the next one. The viewer is able to follow the separate storylines because in one Paltrow cuts her hair short and in the other her hair is long. The two stories weave together at the very end and you are left wondering, even having to decide for yourself, which was her reality.
The main premise of the movie is that our destiny is not driven so much by the big decisions but our everyday choices. To catch this train or wait for the next. To put ourselves out there, once again, and suggest we meet over coffee. [Segue…] I’m often told that I will meet my husband if only I would get out more, take ballroom dance classes or date online, etc. etc. Really? Do you think that we have to put forth that much effort to meet our lifelong companion, lover and best friend? I don’t. When we give ourselves over to our Father’s purposes He works it out. It’s while we’re on our own everyday journey, pursuing the interests and dreams that He’s placed in our hearts, that He brings us into contact with our lifelong relationships, those people to whom we’ll show our furry underbelly …forever.
Early in the movie, Gwyneth Paltrow drops an earring in a crowded elevator and John Hannah picks it up and hands it to her. For him, it’s a cha-ching! moment. He notices her, and tries repeatedly to strike up conversation. Later on they encounter one another and John Hannah again tries to connect with Gwyneth. On all occasions, she is completely oblivious to his attention. She had just lost her job, and her current man friend, John Lynch, is an all-around cad. He plays the part convincingly. Gwyneth goes through some dark waters before she’s thinking clearly again but since John Hannah persists at being becoming her friend through several seasons, they eventually connect.
I remember deciding to visit a church on the other side of town on the night of a blizzard. Before I began the 15 mile drive, I wanted to bail but decided to go anyway. Having newly relocated from the southeast, I hadn’t driven in snow, let alone a blizzard in ten years! Yet, that evening I wound up talking with a gal who has since become one of my dearest friends. Some of life’s wildest rides have been with my friend Kim, and we’ve howled with laughter until we couldn’t breathe. Good stuff. Would I have connected with her on another occasion? Quite likely. But there are some people who you know as soon as you meet them that they will be in your life forever. Kim is one of those people for me.
Whether a husband, wife or gal/guy pal, lifelong friends are worth waiting for. They are worth fighting for. Our friendship was nearly lost to us through a series of misunderstandings and mistakes Kim and I both regret deeply. For a year we both tried to justify our silence. Authentic sorrow, repentance and forgiveness had to come from the heart, for both of us. We learned so much about ourselves, our natural inclination toward selfishness. It’s a friendship that has been severely tested and tried but it’s stronger as a result. We’re both thoughtful about the way we value one another after all this. It reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice for us. He layed down His life for us, and that’s the gold standard for a friendship, “Greater love has no man than he that lays down his life for a friend.” (John 15:13)
Who are your lifelong friends? Do they know?
Have you ever thought about your childhood dreams, and the person you thought you would be? Were you going to be a fireman, or a doctor? Maybe you were like me. My dreams were full of corporate suits and fancy clothes. I always imagined I was a sophisticated jet-setter and a mother. Well, I haven’t lived out the mama part yet, but one of these days it will be my turn. But the career girl… check. I laugh, though, because I was pretty sure that having a career meant I’d get to wear heels all the time. And I do love my high-heeled, pointy-toed girl-shoes! But at the end of a long day, I am longing for my beater Birkenstocks or my frumpy-suede-garden-shoes. (Poetic, don’t you think?)
So childhood dreams, and great heels.
I feel like I’ve come into this place in my life where I have a deep satisfaction with who I am. And I think it’s because I have fallen in love with being me. While I really do need connection with people, especially good one-to-one conversations, I could go for a couple of days just puttering, writing, working out, gardening or being outside, reading … just living life. I love connecting with the Lord, and with my friends and family. I enjoy my work. But that deep satisfaction has come about because who I am is not tied to what I do.
I think of Esther, just after she was made Queen of the Persian Empire. She learned of a horrific plot designed to wipe out the Jewish people. Her uncle, Mordecai, was quite insightful when he said, “‘Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?'” (Esther 4:13-14)
Do you really think that you were meant to lead a so-so, no-big-deal life? When I talk about destiny, I’m talking about the plans that Father had in mind when you were born. Stuff happens and sometimes those plans get derailed. But, when you were just a twinkle in your Daddy’s eye, He had rocket science in mind. He was thinking of writers that change the world with the stroke of their pen. He was thinking of orators like Martin Luther King, who nearly shifted the world off it’s axis with the power of their words. He was thinking of chefs that could make you weep with delight over their culinary creations. He had *you* in mind.
Be you….for such a time as this.