Advent: The #IToldYouSo Edition (Malachi 3:7-12; Luke 1: 68-79)

As He spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old… 

Zechariah, father to John the Baptist, a prophecy upon the birth of his child

Prophecy of an event is most often not interpreted except through hindsight.  It’s easy knowing that Jesus did come to earth as prophecied to say “yeah, the Old Testament said he’d come, how can you be so dense” to all the people who didn’t believe.  Those poor Israelites, constantly feeling like they got the promise but not the action, or at least not the action they expected (or thought they wanted).  Sound familiar?

Both the Prophet Malachi and John the Baptist’s father Zechariah (Like 1:68ff) said “there’s someone coming” and talked about how to live in light of that promise.  The struggle back then (and now!) is we all tend to not believe til we see.  Therefore, we don’t live in light of the promises God makes. 

Over and again, it seems to me (personally, you decide for yourself) that God gets to say “I told you so” when things turn out as He promised.  I’m pretty sure Zechariah, when celebrating the birth of his long awaited son John, didn’t fully grasp all that would happen to his family.  Because the promise was fulfilled, but not in the way he thought.  He never imagined his longed for son would die beheaded because he told people that there was One coming after him.  But he said the words to those who would listen anyway.  He prophecied to the coming King even though he may not have known what it all meant.  And lived faithfully in light of the promised he received. 

Malachi the same.  He couldn’t have known the power of his words when the LORD asked him to say,  

Bring your full tithe…see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.

Malachi 3:10 

Malachi prophecied these words, a kind of “go ahead just do what I ask and see what I would do” from God.  Did they listen?  ….she shrugs… it seems maybe not because after Malachi God was silent to His People for a pretty long time.  But then…

Zechariah renewed God’s promise

…He has shown mercy..he has remembered.. 

Luke 1: 68ff

God says “I told you I would do this” through His prophets and once again asks anyone in the circle of the promised covenant to not fear, to serve  Him ~ care for the widow and orphan, the stranger visitor… don’t practice the devil’s craft, or be unfaithful to your family… don’t deceive or speak ill of others and please, live in holy fear of the God Who Promises… He wants us to live outwardly and inwardly as if the promise is fully fulfilled…

because it is. 

There was a babe in a manger who came, 

… the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Luke 1:78-79

Jesus came.  He was the fulfillment of all the promises of God made since the beginning of time.  God’s been telling us this for a really, really long time.  Jesus coming is God’s #IToldYouSo. 

Now we live generous in our love and care of those who are needy, marginalized, reflecting His promise to come by coming into the lives of others. 

Come Lord Jesus, we have waited for you… 

Be Born in Me by Francesca Battistelli 

Advent: When Will Enough Be Enough? (Luke 11:29-32; Psalm 90; Isaiah 1:24-31)

I woke up this morning wishing for a magic pill of some sort. I do this from time to time when I’m tired of getting out of bed.  When varying degrees of chronic pain and fatigue cloud up a seemingly good morning, I want something that solves it ALL right now, once and for all.  I’ve thought the same thing for some of the stuff Jax goes through.  Why won’t God just make a way to make it right so we can move on with our lives?  

In Luke 11, Jesus seems exasperated while speaking with the crowds, realizing the seeming denseness of the people who surrounded Him.  He fed five thousand “plus” people with a few fish and a little bread (Luke 9:10ff) for goodness’ sake.  He raised a little girl back to life and healed a woman, all while walking down the street. What more do they need to see and hear to believe? 

Jesus taught them how to ask for what they need (Luke 11:1-13) and cast out demons (Luke 11:14ff) right there in front of them.  Not once.  Not just one. But again and again.  And these people, they’d been there, seen it all.  It was a magnificent display of God Being With Them and yet… here they are, once again, asking for yet another sign.  

When will enough be enough?

Jesus uses the story of Jonah to let them know they’ve SEEN what they need to see to believe.  What He wants them to do is realize what they have… God With Them walking the streets, teaching, healing, being present in their daily lives, even if their daily lives aren’t perfect. 

Jonah didn’t have to perform any signs for the People of Nineveh to have a change of heart.  He just had to show up in their city.  And here’s Jesus, someone Greater than Jonah (or anyone!) giving them all sorts of magnificent signs and miracles and still , it wasn’t enough for them to believe He was who He said He was? 

When will enough be enough? 

Funny that this passage popped up on a day I was wishing for #themagicpill.  (Not funny haha, but funny coincidence if I believed in coincidence)  Because it’s not every day I have trouble believing that God Is With Us in the hard and the good.  Most days, He strengthens me to carry out my responsibilities as wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, pastor in ways I can’t even wrap my head around.  Some days I lay my head on my pillow and am so thankful that God almost literally held me upright, got me through.  And most days, as I ask Him to wrap Himself around my kiddos, that they’ll have peace and joy in their day, not anxiety and stress and frustration.  And many days He does just that, and I marvel that He has blessed them with His Presence even in the ordinary day to day of right now.  And when they are anxious or frustrated, God shows up in the middle of it all, and helps me and them navigate through. 

When will enough be enough? 

No, so far, in spite of desperate prayers, God hasn’t provided the magic pill to solve all our problems.  But He does show up, God With Us, in each and every moment, even when our lives feel desperate, maybe like that young couple walking around Bethlehem, seeking a place to rest and give birth.  

God showed up in this world as a baby when He didn’t have to.  But what a sign to us that God (INDEED!) wanted to be with us in our day to day.  What a way for God to show us that He’s Here, and He’s with us even when there’s tough things, even in the waiting and wondering, even when we’re tired of getting out of bed. 

We don’t need another sign.  We have a God Who Is With Us. 

Advent: Then, Now, Next (Psalm 90; Revelation 22)

It’s a quiet, calm morning here.  Snow covers everything.  Second pot of coffee is brewing.  The boy child went to school without much trouble this morning (that’s not always a given).  I’m here, at my desk, looking out on the glorious beauty of His world that surrounds me, in this place that we now live, a miracle from God that we’ve had this all provided for us.  Life is good. I love our new adventure, new home, new school, the new possibilities of it all.  I love our family here.  Today, life is good.

And yet. 

There it is, the bittersweetness.  of this time of year, of missing those I love.  It always happens with my family, missing those back in my Midwestern home, not being a part of celebrations, knowing they’re together hurts my heart.  But the #somethingsmissing this year is even more pronounced as we’re away from our home of 10 years. That city, and especially our school and community friends, and church family… I miss them more than I’d ever imagined I would.  I imagine them carrying on the traditions of this time of year ~ school programs, mom-coffee time, special church services, the gathering to watch the Christmas train come through our coulees… all these traditions I’m missing, but even more, I’m missing the people that were a part of these special moments.  

This morning’s #Advent readings reminded me that I can learn to live alongside the #bittersweet, but I cannot let the tougher things of life keeping me from living in the now.  

The Apostle John wrote to the churches in Revelation who were suffering from much tougher things in their first century life.  He made it clear that what they were going through… the longing, the waiting, the pain… was not the end. 

AND, the hardships were not everything there was to #theNOW. 

Between living is hard.  Oh it has it’s good.  It’s very good.  In the whole scheme of things, we live for the most part, very well, even if there are circumstances and situations that are tough.  I’d like to try on the idea that our past, our present and our future are all one thing in the eyes of God.  I mean, He’s the same God over time right? From the then to the now to the next, He is Creator, Guide, the “I Am” Rescuer, Holy Judge, Everlasting Lover, Lion of Judah, Promise of David, Baby Savior, Crucified King, Risen Victor, Ascended Lord, Holy Spirit Living In us, Our Hope…Our Peace…Our Joy…Our Love… the Alpha and Omega, Abba Father, Brother, Friend, Lamb of God, Prince of Peace… The One Who’s Been There, The One Who’s With Us Now, The One Who’s Coming Again.  

We feel homesick maybe, we feel the bittersweet because we are living the between.  That’s really what Advent is… the between.  We KNOW what God has done, can do…we know in our hearts what it feels like to celebrate the Newborn Word Made Flesh, the wonder of the angels singing His arrival, the Shepherds sharing the Good News, the Bethlehem community celebrating, the Wise Men coming from afar.  I worry that often times we celebrate too early.  We don’t sit with the homesickness ~ the anticipation of the celebration, and we most definitely do not live the now as if the next is a part of it.  At least not all the time.  

What if we were to LIVE the now knowing the then and the next are right here with us? Because with Jesus dwelling in us, that is the truth. He is the Beginning of all things and the End of all things to come. And He’s here…now.  

Psalm 90 sings to me one of the many reasons we must #livethenow as we wait.  

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 

So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart. 

Psalm 90
Even So Come – Passion 

Advent: The Waiting, It’s Just Too Much (2 Peter 3)

The LORD is not slow about His Promise… 

1 Peter 3:9

I live with a child whose ability to wait is non-existent.  Even though he’s older now, still, the challenges of his differently-formed brain making waiting for just about anything unbearable.  For everyone. The anticipation of Christmas is almost more than he can take. Any of us sometimes.  

Frankly though, I don’t like waiting either.  In the whole scheme of life, the waiting when things are uncertain can be a hard thing for most of us.  

It was the same for the people who were trying to live as followers of Christ in the first century.  Just like us in 2018, there was unrest in their world, governments dictating things that left them feeling uneasy, and infighting among families and faith gatherings.  They, like us, were tired of waiting for God to keep His promise.  They believed Jesus was God, and He had died to reconcile them to God.  They believed that Jesus had risen and they could access the power of the resurrection in their own lives.  They believed it in theory anyway. 

And they also believed that Jesus had promised He was coming back for them, and why wasn’t He here already?  Why was He waiting to come back?  They had endured and “hey God, get here…we’re tired of being here in this chaos and uncertainty…can you just straighten things out and get here already?”  

Peter makes it clear in 2 Peter 3:8-9 that as much as we’d like God to come get us out of the mess of life here, His Timing and our timing was not the same.  Waiting seems unbearable to us, but to God, it’s like hardly a day has passed. 

And anyway, Peter says, “the Lord is not slow to keep His promise”… 

Uh what’s that Peter?  You’ve been impatient about the Kingdom of God being established since almost the time Jesus plucked you from your fisher’s boat!  And now you say “God’s not slow???” 

Yes, the LORD is not slow to keep His promise as many of us think.  In fact, have you ever considered that He’s waiting on us… He is the long-suffering Saviour waiting for us to finally #seeHim, and ask Him to take away our sins. 

It’s not that He isn’t keeping His promise.  He’s actually holding back the wrath we deserve from our unbelieving hearts.  It feels slow to us, but have we even considered He’s waiting for His coming because He wants as many as possible to come to believe in Him, to follow Him? To worship Him? 

“When they wait’s unbearable,” He says, “LIVE”.  Live your life while you wait.  Live the changed person you are because He took the burden of sin off your shoulder and gave you the power of the resurrection for your every day.  Live a holy life, outwardly different from the world because you are reflecting the nature of God which is so, so, so different and upside down from what most of the world expects.  Live a godly life, with sacred reverence as an inner response to the things that God has changed in you, because He came before.

And He will come again.  Advent is a microcosm each year to remind us that we wait for the ultimate coming in The New Heaven and New Earth that God promised to those who believe in Him. So we wait in this #betweentime, and strive ~ persevere ~  to be found in Him AT PEACE, blameless, trusting that the waiting IS our salvation. 

We wait ~ and my son must wait too ~ for Christmas.  Because in the waiting, we learn to trust the Babe in the Manger as the Savior of our own hearts.  He does keep His promises.  He does.  We just gotta wait for it. 

I will move ahead, bold and confident
I’ll be taking every step in obedience
While I’m waiting
I will serve You
While I’m waiting
I will worship
While I’m waiting
I will not faint

The First Candle: #HOPE

About to light that first candle. Am I ready to fully embrace the #KingdomofGod has come near?

Luke 21 makes it clear that following this Christ means giving all just like the widow, whose offering seemed small but was everything.

Jesus goes on to teach in this chapter that life in Him isn’t all sunshine and good news. Life’s hard. There’s stuff to get scared about. There’s stuff happening folk, that makes it sometimes hard to believe that there’s any option but to live in this between waiting in fear and trembling.

But… as always #theGoodNews is not just found in the words of the One but in the One who is coming in power and great glory.

There’s our #hope when fear wants to take over. Right there in the One who came as a baby and will come again as the #KingofKings to rule as only #TheOne can… with power and glory, showering His redemption fully and finally on a world gat trembles.

We light the #candleofhope knowing we #fearnot for His Kingdom has come near.

“The days are surely coming says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made … At that time, I will cause a righteous branch to spring up for David and he shal execute justice and righteousness in the land”. (Jeremiah 33:14-16)

#ComeLordJesus #thethrillofhope #advent #firstsundayofadvent

You’re 12, Kaylie MayBeth

It’s hard to believe she’d be 12, our Kaylie.  Aunties don’t forget…

My niece Kaylie MaeBeth, was born silently on July 13, 2006 at 25 weeks gestation. She is the third daughter of my sister JJ and her Hubby Dan. This letter was written to be shared at Kaylie’s graveside service on Sunday, July 16. It was read by my nephew Hayden, so grown up, such a Man in the making… Auntie just wanted to be a part of celebrating the life of her precious niece… 

My heart is sad as I sit down to finally write this. I can’t describe the sense of loss I feel for you JJ, for you Dan, and for you Addie and Josie. We are just so very sorry for your loss and wish we could be there in this sacred moment to comfort you, to let you know first hand how much we love you, how sad we are for you.

I guess really, I am sad for all of us. We won’t get to know the beautiful woman that Kaylie had the potential to become, with curly hair and huge blue eyes, so much to learn from her sisters, to do with her family, so much to become. I am sad for Kaylie for although she has experienced SO MUCH life and love already as she lived in her Mother’sa womb, she won’t know firsthand the love that awaited her here in the world, in our family.

For it is true, Kaylie, you were already so very loved. I remember a moment I had on my way to meet my fourth nephew Ryley Dean. As I drove the highway, I was so worried because I couldn’t imagine loving another little boy as much as I loved Cody, Chase and Hayden. But as I held Ryley in my arms that first time I knew that just like any other love, an Auntie’s love goes far and stretches and multiplies. I’ve never forgotten that. I have had SO MUCH love for each of the precious children we are blessed to have in our family. And Kaylie even as I talked to your Mommy many, many times about you, about how you were growing up inside her, all that time I loved you, we all did. We will miss not knowing you here on this earth but we are thankful for the ways you have already changed us, for the reason you were created and lived, even though right now, we don’t understand the reasons you can no longer live on earth with us.

When I asked Jimmie Jo if I could write something ~ I so felt the need to be there this day even across the miles ~ she said that Psalm 139 was the Scripture she picked for this sacred moment. And how appropriate… the beautiful words of verse 13 and following…

For it was you who formed my inward parts… You knit me together… I am fearfully and wonderfully made… my frame was not hidden from you even when I was made in secret

all these words tell the truth of how our inescapable God knows all about us ~ about Kaylie ~ he knew her and what her life was to be, even before we knew she existed. He knew and he created her perfect and whole in his eyes.

Even as these words are so very true I have to say that as I have read this passage over and over again recently ~ this is a special passage for my family, words we have prayed over our children who truly were formed in secret, at least from us ~ I am struck by the hope we find in these words that are bookends to these well-loved verses. Verses 11 and 12 say something like this… If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night, but God, even the darkness I walk through is not DARK to you. The night I am in right now is bright as day as far as you can see, God. For the darkness is as light to you. There’s hope there… pure hope that even in these dark days of sadness at the loss of Kaylie, we who know God can trust that he sees the light in it all. He won’t leave us in this dark night. We can live in hope that someday His light will break through and then, even if we still don’t understand, we will be able to walk in his light. That is hope for today and tomorrow and all the future as we face life’s hard things.

And then the end of verse 18… I come to the end ~ I am still with you. The loss of Kaylie hit me hard and I have to admit that even with the strong and still growing faith in God, that I do believe that he has our best interests in mind, that indeed he is working out everything to be better than we could imagine… even as I trust that God is in control, I am shaken by this loss. Shaken because no one should have to go through this, much less my baby sister and her family. I am shaken… but these words of hope spoken by the Psalm writer to God ~ I come to an end ~ I am still with you ~ leave me feeling safe because I know that I can question and be angry at the stuff I don’t like or understand in life. I know I can do that and in the end, when I, when we, are exhausted by our tears and questioning ~ in the end, there is God. We are still with him. And we can trust that he knows and understands our sorrow ~ after all, His Son died too ~ that he won’t leave us to deal with this on our own, that in the end we can rest in the knowing that God is here and will never leave us.

I also live trusting that Kaylie’s life, no matter how short it has been, means something, or will mean something, to each of us. She was created and lived for a reason. God knew why he made her and sent her to this family. He knows who she is and will be to all of us. I look forward to the ways her time with us will change us for the better, whatever that may be.

I know that Kaylie is with Jesus and he says to her “You are welcome here.” And I know that she is welcomed in Heaven by many who love her, including her little cousins born to heaven like her, before even a breath was taken on earth, her great-grandparents and many others who have gone before. What a hope we have when we trust in God!!!! He will not leave us in the darkness of sorrow as to him, even the sorrow brings light. He will never leave us alone as we cry and question. We know that, in the end, we are still with Him.

Rest in peace Sweet Kaylie… we love you and miss you…

With love from across the miles,

Aunt Hope for all us here