* Miscellanous Stuff

Gifted Myrrh – NOT the White Elephant

The 3 Magi.jpg

Christmas, a time of sharing, loving and gift-giving.  We are in the season of gift-hunting, we may not have anything in mind, but there is hope of something jumping off the shelf and literally wrap itself with a glorious bow and going headlong in our cart.  (Ok, perhaps that’s MY form of hopeful shopping).

We often read the Christmas story and highlight the most spectacular parts: Singing angels, “Fear Not” statements, the Star of Bethlehem, and yes, the dingy manger. YET, there are some quiet and seem less significant items to be had in the excitement.  Gifts.  Consider if you will, (imagine with me) the Magi as they prepare for their trek out to find the child to whom the shiny Star belongs. They are packing, dividing the supplies list, then they come to the gift inventory; gold is given to the first, then frankincense handed to another, oh yeah, the myrrh is last. How would you like to be handed the myrrh and picture yourself bowing low, head to the floor while you offer to the King of Kings, M-Y-R-R-H (said with an Eeyore deep tone). You may think “Dude, why do I have to carry the white elephant gift?”   White elephant it is not. It is one among the triune gifts that are of great value.  Have we thought about these? Gold, we have that one down. Frankincense is ground dried up tree sap used as incense.  And myrrh, what is THAT?

The divine significance of myrrh: It too comes from the sap of a tree and used in the divinely prescribed anointing oil of the Tabernacle and the priests (Exodus 30:22-23).  It was the perfumed oil poured over Jesus’ feet (John 12:3, Matthew 26:12: The ointment or costly perfume is ‘myron’ which is myrrh-oil).  It was used also as one of the spices to prepare Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:39-40).

Picture now, the Christ child, perhaps two in age or younger (took the Magi some time to get there – no GPS), Jesus and curly dark hair, possibly pudgy cheeks. At His feet, the Magi place gold, frankincense, and MYRRH. The same anointing oil used to anoint temple priests, Jesus our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16).  The same perfumed oil poured on His feet as a grown man, those feet that would one day hang on a cross and be pierced. The oil added to the spices wrapped around His body following His death.  He now a child, will one day be the man fulfilling this gift.

Myrrh, HOW PROPHETIC.

Christmas gift-giving, following the Magi’s example: Regardless of how insignificant it may seem, we never know the impact and how far-reaching our giving may be. Today it’s not so much the item, but the heart of giving, the giving of self is a gift – an encouraged heart, a feed soul, a learned principle, a person no longer lonely – gifts given in Jesus name – the gift that keeps on giving.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

Photo credit Jan Pashley http://www.janpashley.co.uk/ (Love her work)

 


Immanuel

Immanuel Pic

Immanuel.  This time of year, we sing with a resounding ‘O come, O come Immanuel…” and it is written in beautiful font lettering across our Christmas cards. Immanuel* meaning ‘God with us.’  Many who attempt to say God is uninterested and doesn’t turn His divine head our way do not understand Immanuel.  Whether it is walking in the Garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8) the pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:22) or sandaled feet in Galilee (Matthew 4:18) or gloriously residing within us (1 Corinthians 3:16) The God who dwells with us, among us and in us – God is Immanuel.

Immanuel is first mentioned in Isaiah (chapter 7) within a strong warning to King Ahaz to get his act together in the midst of political uprising and trust that God is with them – but the guy chose poorly. Isaiah prophecies: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will be called Immanuel.” (v14)   As we know, God’s people were quite fickle in their love, trust, and obedience, causing them to do what was right AND evil in God’s eyes, they STILL didn’t fully comprehend God’s presence.  Fast forward to the New Testament, tucked in the story of the birth of Jesus – Matthew chapter 1:  Joseph is about to take Mary as his wife, (according to cultural tradition, the engagement was a done-deal).  BUT she is pregnant (Hm…) he, a good man plans to dissolve the marriage quietly as to not disgrace her.  Queue angelic messenger:  Joseph is told to take Mary as his wife, the baby she carries is of the Holy Spirit, she will have a Son and His name will be Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.  Matthew gives narrative: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel – which means, “God with us.” (vv 22-23)

God was and is with His people throughout history, but sending His Son, slipping Him into human flesh, all He was, all He did, could not be more unmistakably striking evidence of God’s presence. A sign indeed!  God keeps His promises.  The All-Powerful, All-Sufficient, Sovereign Creator of the universe does not NEED to be with us – He wants to!  This holiday season, as you consider Immanuel, step up, lean in, look to the far left, back to the beginning and then follow the timeline all the way to where YOU now stand and then continue to the right, following the thread into eternity as declared from the heavenly throne, Jesus reveals to John, “the dwelling place of God is with man.”  (Revelation 21:3)  Unhindered fellowship with God Himself, the thread of God’s reigning government isGod with us.’ So beautiful, so comforting – Immanuel.

In Him DeDe, (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

*Why do we often see two spellings for Immanuel?  The different spellings ultimately are because of different vowels used in Hebrew (O.T. ‘Immanuel’) and Greek (N.T. ‘Emmanuel’) yet they are indeed the same God presence, just two different languages.

 


Giving Presence in the Present

presence

Christmas and gift-giving, standing among all the stuff, the noise and the chaos.  Christmas has become somewhat of a plummeting oneself into the art of either grab and go at the store or park yourself in front of the computer and let your fingers do the shopping, ‘Click‘.

Swirling inattentive, not really there, moments.

How often are we somewhere else when we are with people or in circumstances or perhaps even in church?  Our bodies may be present but by golly, our minds are full of grocery list writing or a prior situation or while someone is talking to us, we are busy formulating our response.  WHAT did we miss?

Be in the moment.

In Exodus (the theology of Exodus is Presence) Exodus 24, God called Moses up the mountain, “The LORD said to Moses, “”Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.” (v12, emphasis mine, NKJV). For 40 days Moses was there, on the mountain, in God’s presence.  Eight chapters worth of divine instruction was given.  Moses was there.  Many translators interpret God telling Moses to ‘stay there’ or ‘wait there.’  Yet a 19th-century Rabbi wrote from a different perspective which I adore.  He explains that ‘there are times we go to a place and not actually being there, simply saying: we can exert ourselves getting to a destination, yet when we arrive, our thoughts remain at the original point of departure.  The Rabbi imagined God was telling Moses not only come up the mountain but – be fully there, with complete attention, concentration – leaving all behind.’* Can you imagine how the story would have played out if Moses was distracted, thinking he forgot to blow out the candle in his tent or was busy taking in the view from ‘way up here, OH WOW, Aaron and all are so small’ all the while God’s talking and has to say, “Moses, over here, eyes HERE, pay attention, you’re going to want to hear this, know this!”

May we too be there, this holiday season and every day – be in the moment. Giving folks or our situation complete attention and concentration.  It is a gift we give to others and ourselves when we are giving presence in the present, full-on presence.  And may we pay close attention and not allow our mind to wander (even when we read God’s word) we don’t want to miss anythingwe may need to hear this, know this!

Let’s look the bell-ringer in the eye, tell the cashier “Merry Christmas” while using their name and reciprocate a firm handshake or hug and pay close attention to the details of what others are telling us.

Presence.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

*Lois Tverberg, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus –  I had the privilege of being on the original launch team for this book, I highly recommend it.

Image credit: scottberglan.org


Forty

40 bday

Forty. Noah and crew got rained on for 40 days. Israel wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. Moses was on the Mt with God 40 days. Caleb was 40 when he spied out the land. Goliath taunted the Israelites for 40 days. King David reigned for 40 years. Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and later, among man 40 days after His resurrection.

Forty.

The year was 1979. Jimmy Carter was in office. Folks were glued to their foil-wrapped antenna TV sets watching M*A*S*H, Three’s Company, Brady Bunch and Dukes of Hazzard. We were listening to our 8-tracks of Billy Joel, the Bee Gees and yes, the Village People, (ok, maybe not the Village People). It’s been 40 years.

It was December 21, 1979, on a Friday evening, when I sat on the floor in the living room of my pastor’s house. His dear wife Brenda explaining the gospel so clear, so lovingly. At nearly seventeen, I wasn’t sure about life, but I knew my life needed Jesus. We prayed. I invited Jesus to be my Lord and the center of my life. Everything changed.

Forty years.

I went on to Bible college at God’s command (for me) it was there He confirmed His call on my life and birthed a love and PASSION for His Word. As I look over celebrating forty years, it’s been a wild ride of God’s faithfulness, His love and at times His (many) well-deserved disciplines. Forty years of on my face before Him in complete wonderment of His Word, with hours upon hours of ‘can’t get enough’. When God calls and then equips, like that evening when Jesus became my Lord, everything changes. I have the most amazing privilege of teaching the women at church, doing research for pastors and the blog Inspired Fountain is now being read in over 50 countries and soon to be put in book form. All at HIS direction, to HIS glory, in HIS name. Go God!

Thank you, Jesus.

Here’s to another forty years! (wink)

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

 


Reason for Thanksgiving

Give thanks

Turkey, cranberries, dinner rolls, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, salad.  Breathe.  Dinner plates, napkins, silverware, glasses, AND centerpiece.  THANKSGIVING!  I love this holiday; food, family, and football.    A set time to pause, consider and ponder what we are thankful for.

Thanksgiving.  There are seasons it may be difficult to pull forward on the shelf of our life something to be thankful for. We may have lost a job, or a loved one.  Or our bank account matches our emotional bucket of strength, ’empty’.  Yet there IS something to be thankful for. You have a REASON for thanksgiving.  The great Psalm of thanks opens with, “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good.” (Ps. 136)   The Hebrew language renders a beautiful word picture, “Give thanks…” offers the idea of a reverent acknowledgment and of worship – with extended hands.

His love endures forever.” The author found it needful to repeat this phrase 26 times throughout the rest of the Psalm.  This word love (in Hebrew) is ‘hesed’.  We know it biblically as mercy, goodness, loyalty and steadfast love and even … grace.  What a pivotal word.

This mercy-filled (undeserved) love is enveloped in personal involvement and commitment to relationship.  God is pleased when it is reciprocated “For I delight in loyalty (hesed) rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) Our Lord desires faithful love and covenantal commitment.  With this, His lovingkindness is precious (Ps. 36:7) marvelous (Ps. 17:7) undeserving (Ps. 103) abounding (Ps. 86:5) reviving (Ps.119:159) satisfying (Ps. 90:14) and everlasting (Ps. 103:17).  THAT is our God! Thankful yet?

David’s well known and beloved Psalm 23 (verse 6) “Surely goodness and MERCY will follow me all the days of my life” (mercy is hesed) This ‘follow’ is not a mere tag along behind, but … PURSUIT.  David knows the concept of pursuit.  God’s unending – steadfast love full of mercy pursued David. He pursues us!  He pursues YOU. He is unrelenting.  Aren’t you GLAD He does not let go!   Reason for thanksgiving indeed!  “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.  His love endures forever.”

As we share around the table amongst the laughter and love, the blessings of health and family, may we too raise a hand “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.  Let the redeemed of the LORD say so…” (Ps. 107:1-2a)

Thankful.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

 


Extol Him! (Wait… What?)

Lift Him up.jpg

I love the Psalms, the poetic sway of song and praise, thankfulness and yes even repentance. Some give heavy pen so emotional you can almost feel the author lean from the pages, grab you with fisted hand, look you in the eye and with a raspy voice: “Turn from evil and do good!” (37:27). Ok, perhaps not the raspy voice.

Yet of all the Psalms, what most resonates for me is the exalting of God.

King David wrote: “I will extol You, my God, O King, and I will bless Your name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145:1, ESV) This, the only Psalm titled ‘A Psalm of Praise, of David’, with twenty-one verses, he opens his praise with direct address ‘my God.’ Then as king himself, with surrendered heart ‘my God and King’ and his declaring is unending ‘forever and ever.’  Such humility and so much praise.

‘I will extol You’ – extol, the word is pretty much obsolete these days. It sounds so ‘Old English.’  When was the last time we used it in a sentence?  It isn’t active in our speech, prayers, or worship.  (Or should it?)

There are two main emphases when praising God in scripture: We worship God, (expressed in word AND deed) we are personally declaring Him as Superior: He is more, He is beyond, He is above … all.  He is! In the Hebrew ‘extol’ conveys movement, the act of raising. When extolling God, we are not only raising Him in high status, but we lift His attributes as well, (the whole God-package) we grab all we know about Him and raise it as high as we can, declaring HE IS and He is all THIS! David continues the psalm extolling God in His greatness, glorious splendor, majesty, His abundant goodness, righteousness and oh, (OH!) He is abounding in steadfast love!

When we worship and extol WHO God is, we are indeed in the act of raising. Raising Him high, higher – higher than the stuff, HIGHER than ourselves.

May our life, in word and deed, extol Him.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

 


As the Deer

drinking-deer

As the deer pants for streams of water, so pants my soul for You, O God.” (Psalm 42:1). Lovely, poetic, so full of longing. Have you ever wondered why the Psalmist compared his thirst for God with a deer? Why not, say … a camel, there are camels in the region as well.

Yet taking a much closer look the reason is beautiful. Why NOT the camel: The camel is designed to be self-sustaining; they store all the water they need in fatty tissue, conserving the water by self-regulating their body temperature. With the self-sustaining, self-regulating they can last up to not only weeks but MONTHS without drinking water simply by eating green vegetation and without even that they can survive up to 2 weeks. Water is not a daily concern for them.

The Psalmist wrote as the deer. The deer. We would first think, well, the deer is young, they need leading to water, but the word used as deer, is a mature male, not a doe or even a fawn, this isn’t Bambi, this is his dad, the Great Prince of the Forest, the stag who knows where the water is, and if he doesn’t, he will find it!   According to ‘Realtree Hunting’ a 200-pound buck will typically drink 3 to 5 quarts of water per day and as observed, will go to water before going to food. Water is their prime desired source of survival – every day. The panting done by the deer is not likened to that of a dog panting – dogs don’t sweat, so panting is a form of regulating their body heat. The ‘panting’ of this deer is a passionate, life-threatening desperate plea for survival! (see also Joel 1:20)

Think about it, what are our survival patterns? Do we tend to be more like the camel at times; self-sustaining, self-regulating, thinking we can make it on last month’s water or longer? Or are we (should we) be more like the deer, in his maturity, seeking, longing-PANTING for daily water and go to the water before anything else.

So yes, my soul pants for You, O God just like the deer longs for life-sustaining water.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)