Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Door of Humility

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. 


The entrance was made smaller during the Ottoman period to stop looters from stealing artifacts from Jesus’ birthplace.

But as we stoop to enter, it also reminds us to approach the Messiah with humility.  Hence the nickname, Door of Humility.

It also  reminds us that Christmas isn’t about us condescending with jingle bells and sparkly lights to a baby born in a manger. Because the great truth of Christmas is that He condescended in humility to us

The full glory and power of Heaven poured Himself into a tent of helpless human flesh in the greatest act of humility imaginable. Bc He loved us too much to leave us helpless on our own. And He alone has the power to deliver us from our helplessness. 

Yes, the One who poured Himself into human flesh in a manger, ultimately broke out of human death from a grave.

 “...the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Friday, December 22, 2017

Mary’s Well

Mary’s Well in #Nazareth. 


Local tradition says this is where Gabriel visited Mary with the news that changed her life and the world. We don’t know if it’s really the exact spot. 

But it’s the only well in town, so we do know that Mary came here hundreds of times. As a little girl with her mother. As a teenager with deepening faith. As a young woman (probably still a teenager!) wrestling with the enormity of what lay ahead of her and within her. 

Scared yet steadfast. Anxious yet anticipating. Weak yet strong. A woman after God’s own heart. 

#marydidyouknow #christmas #Mary #Gabriel

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Are #MeToo Revelations Ruining Christmas?

A daily perusal of social media is usually filled with breathtaking landscapes, pouty teenage selfies and magazine-worthy pictures of people’s food. This week, it's also brimming with  sparkly lights, joy-filled quotes, and family togetherness.

Of course, these posts are typically the best versions of ourselves - we don’t talk about the sleepless night that afforded the sunrise view, the insecurities that fuel the provocative selfies, or the arguments that take place at the dinner table after the food has been photoed.

So it’s easy to think, as we scroll through the posts of our “friends,” that everyone’s life is enviably beautiful, peaceful and purposeful.

Until #MeToo.

In the wake of Weinstein and Spacey, Conyers and Moore, Franken and Lauer,  and an ever-expanding list of others, #MeToo has become a public rallying cry for those who have cried privately for a long time. 

The good thing about this movement is that it has opened people's eyes to the magnitude of the problem.  Of course, it has thusfar only scratched the surface.  According to U.S. statistics, one in four women and one in six men are victims of sexual assault during their lifetime.  We're talking about tens of millions of people.  And 33 million U.S. women have been sexually harassed in work-related episodes, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, with 14 million resulting in assault. 

There are a multitude of reasons why this grieves me.  But at the heart of it all is the fact that sexual wounds inflict incredible damage to our souls.

Human sexuality is a beautiful thing.  Our Creator wove it into us, and so it is good.  When a husband and wife become "one flesh," something almost mystical takes place.  It binds them together in ways nothing else can or does.  This is why sexual brokenness hurts so deeply and so profoundly.  The wounds may heal over time, but they leave scars on our souls that never completely fade away.

And that is why many people have had to take a break from all forms of media - social, online, even old-school television and newspaper.

Because the flood of posts and news stories, while validating, are also triggering. For victims and their loved ones, #MeToo churns up pain and anxiety and anger. Over and over and over and over.  And over.  When all someone wanted in their ten minutes of social media escape was to see some pretty sunsets and yummy food.  And maybe some puppies. 

So here we find ourselves on the edge of Christmas, trying to decorate and celebrate while being bombarded with brokenness. Society’s brokenness, our loved ones’ brokenness, our own brokenness.
 
How in the world are we supposed to celebrate Christmas in the midst of all this brokenness???

Hmmm.

I think it's by celebrating Christmas.  And by celebrating, I don't mean whipping up a batch of peppermint bark or putting on a sparkly dress.  I mean by grabbing onto the heart of Christmas with everything we've got. 

In case you don't know or have forgotten what Christmas is really about, it is this:  God poured Himself into a tent of human flesh to walk our earthly dust and live our human lives...and then to deliver us from all our brokenness by bearing everyone's sin on His own perfect self on the Cross, carrying it with Him into death, and then conquering the grave itself. 

Which has absolutely everything to do with #MeToo.

Because Jesus not only paid for the sins we've committed, but for the sins committed against us.  For the brokenness we experience at the hands of other people's brokenness.

And He doesn't do this from a distance, with an air of royal pity.  No.  He willingly left His perfect and powerful place in Heaven at the right hand of the Father in order to walk wounded right alongside us.  Jesus was constantly berated, mocked and betrayed.  By authority figures, by strangers, by friends and by His very own family. 

And then, on the last day of His mortal life, He endured the worst.  In a city that was swelling with more than 600,000 families to observe the Passover, the Son of God allowed Himself to be stripped naked by mockers, enduring the worst kind of humiliation and physical torture.  Publicly.  In front of a cheering mob.  And then nailed to a Roman cross and hoisted into the air for the whole city to see.  While soldiers drew straws to steal what was left of His clothing.  And then He died.  And everyone scurried away.

But then.  The Holy Spirit of God, the Rua'ch HaKodesh, defeated brokenness and death itself by demolishing the power of the grave.  By raising the Messiah back to life. By putting death to death. And so, when we grab ahold of Him, the very heart of Christmas, His victory over brokenness is ours too.

We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.  He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all - all but the sin.  Hebrews 4:15 The Message

This Redeemer has redeemed all your woundedness as one who has experienced it and then conquered it.  He knows what it feels like to be harassed and belittled and assaulted without cause. And for people to do nothing about it.  To even be laughed and mocked at in the middle of the suffering.  And then to be abandoned by people closest to Him. 

So when Jesus offers His peace and freedom, they aren't trite, empty words.  What He offers you is real, and it's deep and it's eternal.  

"I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give..." John 14:27 NLT 
So again, I ask, how are we supposed to celebrate Christmas in the midst of all this brokenness?  

By celebrating Christmas. By welcoming the One who came into our midst with the sole purpose of healing our brokenness. Who was willing to taste our brokenness - no, not just taste it, but to drink the full cup, down to the dregs - so that we could be made whole.

...the Spirit helps us in our weakness...the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 ESV

Amen and amen.
Tammy - mother, daughter, sister, friend, social worker, follower of Jesus

      ________________________________________________________________________

P.S. The Other Side of #MeToo

If there millions of #MeToo posts out there, then there is another very large group watching all of this plagued by guilt and horror and fear.  People (hopefully) realizing that what they did - last month or last year or last decade - has seared someone else's soul.  And are also wondering with panic whether they will be exposed next.

Jesus came to heal your mess, too.  To cleanse your sin and replace your fear with faith.  Not that everything will work out easily.  You may well be held accountable for your actions.  Maybe you will even choose to step forward on your own.

But if you seize the heart of Christmas - Christ Himself, you will discover that your sin has been paid for, that a repentant and faith-filled heart can walk daily with the Creator of the world, and that He desires nothing more than to heal you and grow you into the person you were meant to be.  Forgiven, healed, and reconciled to Him and to others in humility.  And eternally secure.

Friday, November 17, 2017

What Does It Mean to Just Be Still and Let the Lord Fight for Me...?


When I first came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, Exodus 14:14 emerged from my Jewish childhood and became my life preserver as relationships and traditions grew contentious and fractured.

Loved ones and friends wouldn’t speak to me. Or they had choice words for me. Or they diagnosed me. Or they put conditions on our relationship. I clung to Exodus 14:14 for peace and strength in the moment and hope for the future.

Over the years, I’ve often turned back to that verse. Whether the “pharaoh” bearing down on me was a physical, relational or circumstantial hardship, I’ve tried to loosen my grip and let God fight for me as I stand between deep waters and a relentless pursuer.

In these moments, I (usually) trust God enough to stop trying to control my circumstances. But here's the problem: my human heart doesn't know what to do with the stillness. So, even when I stand still, submitted in thought and deed to God’s goodness and His greater purpose, my heart isn't very still at all. Sometimes it races with fear. Sometimes it rages with anger. Sometimes it sinks with depression.

This week has been one of those Exodus 14:14 times for me. A week when God has told me to be still and let Him do what only He can do. But, once again, while my brain has stopped strategizing scenarios over which I have no control, my heart has looked across the sea and become angry at Pharaoh. Fearful. Despondent.

So, this time I (finally) decided to figure out what to do with my stillness.

I looked up the Hebrew word for “still” in Exodus 14:14. And - as He always does - God blew my mind and humbled my spirit. And showed me that there’s so much more to being still than simply being still.

Charash. Yes, the root word means to be still and to be silent. But it also means to be plowed. Plowed

Interestingly - providentially - my worship pastor spoke about plowing soil just this past Sunday, so the visual is fresh in my mind.

In this context, it's both a beautiful and painful thought. Because, as I'm sitting still, letting God fight for me, I must also let Him plow my heart. To let the blade of His Spirit get under my fear and my anger and my sadness and bring up fresh soil. To not just submit my circumstances to His control, but my heart to His care. So that as He is fighting for me on the outside, He can also change me on the inside.

Not surprisingly, as I allow Him to break up the inner hardness, I find it easier to let Him fight the outward battle, too. 

And so, as this week comes to a close, my circumstances haven't changed, but my heart is being transformed.

What about you? Do you need only to be "still?"  Let the Warrior and the Farmer do His work...