Strands of Garland, a Staircase and Immanuel

It was just a year ago that I was filled with anticipation over moving into our ‘new’ home! I remember not being too thrilled about decorating for Christmas though, all I could think about was unpacking a mountain of boxes and settling into and making a ‘home’ for us again.

This year it’s a different story! Christmas will be everywhere in the house!

Yesterday I unraveled all the Christmas garland and counted the staircase railings to be covered in fake greenery, one…two…three…four…five…six. O bother! (In the words of Winnie the Pooh), this was going to be a project, but I was excited to use some creative energy and give our home a storybook atmosphere (okay, so it’s an excuse to play house!).

As I began my artist work I discovered that I was entering into a mystical world of wonder in my mind. Images began to unfold before me, and I began to ponder around one question.

But Before I let you in on my question, I should tell you that I had music playing with the volume on high. I wanted the entire house to be filled with the sound of Christmas. The music I had selected was Michael W. Smith’s Christmas album,”It’s A Wonderful Christmas”.

My question emerged as I listened to the lyrics of one song in particular, “The Promise”. It’s a song written about ‘Immanuel’ (one of the names given to Jesus meaning “God with us”). The instrumentation set the stage for the lyrics. The sound was grand and eerie, and I allowed it to envelope me as I began to climb the stairs to begin my work of decorating.

What if I could literally climb stairs to the throne of God, what if I was able to step upward with intent and fearful expectation of standing before the One who created me? 

The song lyrics rang in my ears: “And we will sing Emmanuel, God is with us, God is for us, God is in us, we will sing….we sing Alleluia, We’re singing Alleluia, Emmanuel, our God is with us.”

God is WITH us!! I remembered that God’s word speaks of this name! It is a name of  significance because of its meaning.

‘ “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).’ Matt. 1:23

The intent of my blog today is not to unpack the details of the birth of Jesus Christ, but rather to share simply how incredible this name ‘Immanuel’ is for us and to us.

I do not have to climb anything or walk to anywhere to find God. The impact of Immanuel is found in the promise that through Jesus, God would ALWAYS be WITH us….  

We are NEVER alone!

The staircase, the music, the vision of approaching Holy ground were symbolic of a heart, my heart, needing to search and discover the mysterious unexplainable heavenly realm; God met me in the middle of my childlike story to remind me that some things have already been given, and some things already are, like Immanuel: God with us.

How I celebrate this intimate gift as I enter into yet another Christmas season!

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My Body

As the dance of words begin today I am listening to Jesus Cultures, “Show Me Your Glory”. The words of this song envelop me, lifting my eyes to God and wrecking my heart with awe.

Why is it so hard to express what my body encounters from this place of yielding?

The apostle Paul asked a question in 1Cor.6:19, “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So GLORIFY God in your body..”

“Glorify God in my body”…

I hear and see beauty through these words. My body of flesh, though marked by brokenness, is a temple of dwelling for God.

I love Matthew Henry’s study on this verse, “This is the proper notion of a temple-a place where God dwells, and sacred to His use, by His own claim and His creature’s surrender…the inference is plain that hence we are not our own…our bodies were made FOR God (italics mine), they were purchased for Him…the temple of the Holy Ghost must be kept holy.”

How could it be that my Creator would desire to use my body to indwell? For His glory? My life, this piece of broken pottery, a home for the God of the universe?  As I write these words I hear Kim Walker’s lyrics (from song mentioned above), “Show me your glory Jesus… I long to look on the face of the One that I love, long to stay in your presence is where I belong….I belong to You, I belong to You , I belong to You, my love.”

Isaiah writes in chapter 43:1; “But now, thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, (O Karolyn)  He who formed you, O Israel (O Karolyn): fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are  MINE.”

Is it possible we have missed the intimacy of this dance with the Divine? God who speaks through His word, scribing that my body is His temple, His dwelling. God who speaks to tell me through ancient biblical history that He is a God that calls me His own? …”You are mine”..

Today as I surrender my body again,  I call to mind that God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). He will consume with fire every trace of ungodliness, calling it forward to rid my life of its weight and bondage.

I step towards Him without fear, I desire the fire from His furnace of purity, I crave it; whatever it costs me I will jump into it. For to me, to refuse God, would be to refuse freedom. 

My body is His, I am His.

Today this offers eternal comfort and I find myself speaking out the apostle Paul’s words, “For to me to LIVE is CHRIST, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)

My body dances because of who lives within me, the One my soul loves.

“Evening Wolves”

Black

air thick with darkness

A distant sound

Her ear bent

even twisted

around echoes,

haunting, invisible waves

move seductively through

her unguarded mind

allured

embraced

taunted

Like evening wolves

they call to her

threatening advancing hunt

to kill

and destroy

trains

of thought

illusive

and dangerous…..

A Sword glimmers

silent

power waiting

Double-edged 

vigilant with purpose

 to fight

not surrender

to win

not lose

Evening wolves fall silent

The Sword

Victorious

 “The thief comes ONLY to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (Jn. 10:10)

“In all circumstances take up…the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Eph. 6:16-17)

“One Good Woman…”

“The opposite of a nice girl, I learned, is a “good woman.” Being a good woman means trading the safe, passive, people-pleasing behavior of niceness for dynamic power of true goodness. It means moving from the weakness and immaturity of girlhood toward the strength and maturity of womanhood…a good woman knows she cannot be all things to all people, and she may, in fact, displease those who think  she should just be nice. She is not strident or petty or demanding, but she does live according to conviction. She knows that the Jesus she follows was revolutionary who never tried to keep everyone happy.” (exerpt from “Nice Girls Don’t Change the World” by Lynne Hybels– this book is a must read for any “nice girl”).

….

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” (Prov. 31:25)

Strength

and dignity

of a good woman

Sleepy visions visit

of Cottonwood trees

bending and breaking

from mighty chorus of wind

unlike the soldier

standing beside

unmoved

wood of steel

wind threatening root

for destruction

but branches reach

making point

of height

and depth

and voice

The old oak

steady and valiant

unmoving

A good woman?

stature reaching

eyes forward

neck of grace

poised

laughter birthing

not to mock the wind

but to dance

with its’ Creator

OPEN YOUR EYES!

I sometimes wonder how those who are blind among us can see more than those of us who have been given sight!?

I have heard that with the loss of one of our five senses the other four will kick into a gear of higher intensity.

True?

I wonder…

And then I reflected some more…

How differently would I live if my MIND was fully present in every one of my five senses? (Sight, sound, taste, touch and smell).

What would I experience of God if I learned this discipline?

These thoughts emerge as I have studied my way through the book of Exodus.

Exodus is my favorite book in the Bible. It is a book of deep complexities and yet obvious simple truths about the character of God. I have gleaned much from this great book about who God is and who He is not.

In chapter three we read the story of the Burning Bush.

I was led into discovery of a new truth through this old classic story. First it was highlighted to me that it was “the ANGEL of the Lord that APPEARED to him IN THE FLAME of the fire out of the midst of the bush” (Verse 2).

Secondly, Moses LOOKED; and as he “looked”, his curiosity was spiked because he could see the bush was not consumed by flame (verse 2).

Thirdly, Moses made a critical life altering decision, in verse three we read of it, “I WILL TURN ASIDE TO SEE this great sight, WHY the bush is not burned.” (I think Moses had a little Nancy Drew in his blood!).

Fourth, “WHEN the Lord saw that he (Moses) TURNED ASIDE TO SEE, God called to him out of the bush” (verse 4).

God appealed to His created curiosity within Moses! What if Moses had not “turned aside”? What if he had continued on with his work and missed the weird science? What if Moses mind had not been engaged with his eyesight? What method would God have used then to capture his attention?

I wonder…

How about you?

Are your eyes wide open? When is the last time you consented to the child within and “turned aside to see?”

Can you hear the word’s of Jesus reflected in this story? “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like LITTLE children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven, whoever HUMBLES HIMSELF like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3-4). The context of Jesus’ words here are in response to the disciples’ desire to know who would be the “greatest in heaven”; Jesus was teaching on humility and of living a life reflective of His life. But why use the child as an illustration? Why teach on behavior reflective  of a small child?

Do you ever wonder if the secrets and mysteries of the “Kingdom of heaven” lay answered through the curious, simple, humble faith of a small child? The senses of small children live awakened and alive to details that are life-giving and insightful. Small children don’t spend copious amounts of time thinking about themselves, they are too busy on missions of discovery.

Was Moses so humbled by his sin and made little by its broken, haunting secret (he was a murderer remember? Ex. 2:11-15) , that his soul stood ripe to be appealed to by child-like curiosity?

I am not suggesting anyone commit murder to discover a child-like heart. Perhaps the first step is simply to take a little soul inventory around our senses.

Are you ready to “turn aside to see” ?

Marry your mind to your senses and discover a life of wonder!