Monday, December 28, 2015

WMTRBW - Chapter 18: Sharing Gifts

In Chapter 18 of ‘We Make The Road By Walking’ we learn about sharing gifts. During the Christmas season we might try to figure out if someone has bought us a gift we have really wanted. Perhaps we might even snoop around the house to find what has been bought. It is very easy to get caught up in the materialism of it all and forget that the real message of Christmas is not found in the gifts that we give to one another. Rather, it is a reminder of the gift that God has given to each of us. It is the only gift that truly keeps giving. Here are a few thoughts about God’s gift of Jesus to us:

  • God's gift came to us in the humblest of wrappings. What would we think if we saw a gift under the Christmas tree that was wrapped in dirty newspaper and tied up with string? But that’s exactly how God presented his gift to us. Jesus was not born in a palace of gold; He was born in a stable with animals. He was clothed with rags. He was laid in a feeding trough. What a great sacrifice God made for us! God's gift to humanity, the ultimate gift of eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ, came in the simplest and humblest of wrappings.
  • We don't deserve the gift God gave us. At Christmas, we give gifts to those who we care about, those who have been kind to us, or who have given us a gift first. We don't give gifts to the person who has been talking about us negatively of gossiping about us or to the angry neighbor who never has a kind word to say. Yet God gave us His gift when we were His enemies. He didn't give this gift to us because we deserved it. In fact, it was just the opposite. The Bible tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

  • The gifts we give always tell us something about the giver. When we want to give someone a gift, we might start thinking about it ahead of time. Hopefully, we try to find what that person wants or needs. However, when God decided to give us the gift of eternal life, it wasn't something that He just thought of. Way before there was a town called Bethlehem, there was a garden called Eden, and a decision was made in eternity that God would send forth His Son, born of a woman, made under the law, to redeem those that are under the law.

So Christmas isn't about those gifts that we have under our trees this season. All of those things will be gone one day. All that will be left after this life is the human soul, and that will live forever. We put so much stock in what we have, but it will all pass away. Life is about what happens beyond the grave. Life is about knowing the God who made us and who gave us the greatest gift we will ever receive. Let’s take a moment this Christmas season to give our Heavenly Father the greatest gift He desires: the gift of our heart.

What one thought or idea from today’s lesson especially intrigued, provoked, disturbed, challenged, encouraged, warmed, warned, helped, or surprised you?

Monday, December 21, 2015

WMTRBW - Chapter 17: Surprising People

In Chapter 17, we focus on the genealogy of Jesus, from the gospels of Matthew and Luke. If you are like me, you may find comfort in knowing Jesus' ancestor list is full of flawed people, as are many characters of the Bible. Matthew's version also includes pivotal, yet flawed, women in Jesus' lineage. Similarly, in Luke 2:8-20, we are reminded of how God gave the lowly shepherds special access and viewing to our beautiful baby Jesus! Our God is an awesome God! He cares for the lowly and also for the poor.

I can relate to being flawed. Can you? It excites and motivates me to know God uses imperfect people to fulfill His great plan. No matter how many mistakes we may have made, He is eager to use us as well! This is surprising, exciting, and yet terrifying to me! What a honor it is to partner with God in fulfilling His will! What a beautiful gift, indeed! 

And knowing God holds a very special place for the poor, our care and concern for the poor might just be how we can also be key partners in the history of fulfilling God's will! All glory to our Father in heaven!

As we prepare for Christmas this week, take special care to consider if you are partnering with God in your everyday life as part of your calling. Are you reaching the poor? Are you serving in some manner? We want to examine how to better ourselves spiritually to bring all glory to God. And we want to be serving Him all year round, not just during the Christmas season when our hearts may be feeling more generous than usual.

This week: look for surprising people to whom you can show uncommon respect and unexpected kindness.

Jesus Coming of Age Chapter 19

People often ask me, "Have you always been this skinny?" I usually answer either, "Yes, since 1952." or "Ever since I was 12 years old."  In Chapter 19, which is this week's reading, the questions that intrigued me were such echoes of the 'skinny' question.  "What were you like when you were 12?  How are you the same today? How have you changed?

I have pondered these questions for several weeks. Here are some answers about Nancy at 12.  I was a daughter, a niece, a grandchild.  All of these roles are now past with the deaths of each elder.  I was a sister and still am.  I was too talkative and ....(well you know me).  My church friends were my role models and closest friends.  You continue to fill that part of my life for me.  Mentally I was curious, quick to learn and eager to share what I leaned with others.  Ditto 2015.  I had a long period of illness that year.  Thankfully I have never repeated such a trauma. So far I've found only one difference. Well...... Oops.  So far I might as well lie on my forms and put DOB 6/13/1940 and still be a 12 year old.

So.... what lessons have I learned from life?  How has living far from my village of 100 persons ever since 1961 changed me?  I guess if you have 4 or 5 hours some day I can BEGIN to tell you.  I'll list some of the things I know have changed me and perhaps you will do the same in the next few days so you too can ponder.  "Am I still my 12 year old self?  How has life lived with God and others changed me?  What has God done for me (what Amazing Grace)? Have I gained wisdom as I have gained stature?

I have been changed by my years at Carson-Newman College, by pastors (too many, too marvelous to list them all), the Alliance of Baptists, Wanda Barker, Joanne Davis, Glen Stassen, Nancy Hatfield, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, Park View Mennonite Church,  Gallaudet University, foreign students living in my home, working and teaching in Xi'an, China, Moscow, Russia, Prague, Czech Republic, IBTS students, gay co-workers, friends and relatives, my first female boss, my first female pastor, close friends of different races, books I have read.

OK  --  I can't list even a quarter of the life changing experiences I have had.  .  My mind is reeling?  Time for you to start your list!  Hurry!  It will be amazing to you.  Then perhaps you will share what you have learned from this pondering and let others be amazed at how God is working in all circumstances in your life

Sunday, December 13, 2015

In Chapter 16 we see the brutality that is often used to either lay hold to or retain power.

Here we are in the midst of Advent awaiting the baby Jesus even as we bask in the joy of the birth of William Mark into our church family.  We know there is nothing his parents or any of us would withhold from him, no harm we would allow to befall him.  In the past we have felt this same way about Evan, Isaac, Mishi, James, Jaxon, Jordyn, Reginald, Angelina, Marcus, Tucker and Caleb all born in recent years and in a real way added to our family. 

The horror of war we see everyday as children just as helpless and precious as these are sacrificed in power grabs by Isis and Boko Haram remind us of the sacrifices of babes to false gods as recorded in Jeremiah and the misery of parents in Bethlehem as Herod sought to eliminate the baby Jesus who threatened his power. Poor helpless babes!  Then closer at hand we see the death of Black boys and men in our own land leaving mothers crying like Rachel of old. We too are or should be crying at such horrid loss.

What can be our response? Do we arm ourselves?  Do we send more sons and daughters to be sacrificed and to kill others to 'prevent terrorism'? Does peace come from two sets of mutual destruction?   Do we ignore slaughter on our own city streets? How do we heal the wrongs done to gain or maintain power?  How can we empower others to live as God intends them to live (as those God's son set free)?

Read the words of this Graham Kendrick hymn  which you can hear on YouTube.  See the way the Creator of the world sought to end conflict and violence in contrast to guns, drones, bombs and lost lives.

Servant King
From Heaven you came, helpless Babe,
entered our world, your glory veiled; 
not to be served but to serve and
 give your life that we might live.

      This is our God, the Servant King
      He calls us now to follow him
      To bring our lives as a daily offering
      Of service to the Servant King

So let us learn how to serve,
and in our lives enthrone Him;
Each other's needs to prefer,
for it is Christ we're serving.
CCLI  78897

As we give our lives in service to others let us follow Christ's way of peace - sacrificing only ourselves and not demanding the rights of power. Let us protect the vulnerable, uphold the weak and weary and help bring Christ to all.