Christmas Blessings to All

ALL IN GOD’S PLAN

“There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus…and all went…every one into his own city…” (Luke 2:1-3)
All in God’s plan. It seems that God wanted the whole world turned upside down for the birth of His Son! All over the known world folks had to make a journey to the place of their birth.

Just like today. The Christ-child wants to be born in our hearts, but before that can happen our life must be turned upside down. That which we hold in high esteem must come crashing to the ground. The way that we would most despise — the way of humility — must become the only one we want to take. That which is hidden deep within us must be brought to the Light. In a sense we come back to the place of our birth and realize we need to take a different path — His way.

“And Joseph also went up…with Mary, his espoused wife…”
All in God’s plan. Joseph and Mary had a destiny and God watched over them as they journeyed among the crowds of people. To fulfill His promise to His servant David, His Son must be born in Bethlehem. Did they sense what an important part they would have in history? Who could have known that what happened to those two ordinary, humble people in an insignificant village would change many people’s lives the world over?

Just like today. God has made His promise to man that “whosoever will may come” and He intends to fulfill this in our lives. He watches as we journey among the crowds of people and slowly He brings us to a crossroads, a place of choosing. Then, if we then choose to walk with Him, the Christ-child is born in our hearts. This gives us a destiny–and how can we know what an important part we may play in changing the course of other people’s lives?

“…Because there was no room for them in the inn.”
All in God’s plan. Not just so people could fault the poor innkeeper all these years for being so hard-hearted. Rather, it seems that God did not want His Son to be born in the inn — as a GUEST — perhaps in the company of the important and well-to-do. In His birth Jesus had not even a room or a bed and in the years of His ministry He had no place to lay His head. He was totally an outsider in this world.

Just like today. Each year at Christmas the normal events of life are disrupted for a season as folks go to and fro, buying gifts, decorating houses and stores, travelling home to their families, gathering for feasting, partying, and generally making merry. But the work God seeks to do in our hearts is something apart from all this. He comes quietly, at any time of the year, whenever a seeking soul opens his heart to Jesus.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to Him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20)

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A Strange and Beautiful Flower

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is SLEEP

My replay will be this poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
As I read this, I thought what a wonderful short story this could give! 🙂

WHAT IF YOU SLEPT ?

What if you slept
And what if
In your sleep
You dreamed
And what if
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange
and beautiful flower

And what if
When you awoke
You had that flower in you hand
Ah, what then?

A Song in the Air

When I woke up this morning a tune came to mind:
“There’s a song in the air…”

It’s not surprising I thought of this, considering the season we’re in. I posted a dozen Christmas cards yesterday and was looking at puzzles with pictures of old fashioned village carollers. I see Christmas day is only two weeks from now!

I thought more about the words and appreciated the gentle beauty of the melody…

“And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing
for the manger in Bethlehem cradles a King.”

I’m thankful for these old carols that remind us of the true meaning of Christmas: the birth of the King. When I’m wandering through stores these days, I appreciate hearing religious carols for another reason, too. They tend to be slower and fill the air with a feeling of peace and joy, relaxing my mind.

When I hear some of the popular non-carols, the zippy winter songs merchants love to play, I feel more rushed. Is “Giddy-up, giddyup, giddyuup, let’s go!” meant to nudge shoppers into more of a “Hurry up and buy something” frame of mind? This may give short term results, but I have to wonder if this feeling of being push-push-pushed contributes a lot to the stress of the season?

Music as Motivation

I don’t know who told us this, but I once heard about two friends visiting, one of them being the manager of a restaurant. They were in the office together, looking over the eating area from the office window, and could observe the customers below.

The friend commented on how the diners appeared relaxed, taking their time over their meals, visiting awhile after. The manager replied, “Watch me clear this place out.” He took a CD from his desk and replaced the slower music that was playing with more lively songs. Soon diners were leaving; before long the restaurant was almost empty. They got the subliminal hint.

Motivational research has shown that music has a definite affect on moods. When the song in the air around them is gentle, people relax accordingly.

An Old Song

I’ve just googled “There’s A Song in the Air” and was surprised to learn it’s actually a very old one; it was written by Josiah G Holland and published in 1872.

There’s a song in the air! There’s a star in the sky!
There’s a mother’s deep prayer and a baby’s low cry!
And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!

There’s a tumult of joy o’er the wonderful birth,
For the virgin’s sweet Boy is the Lord of the earth.
Aye! the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!

In the light of that star lie the ages impearled;
And that song from afar has swept over the world.
Every hearth is aflame, and the beautiful sing
In the homes of the nations that Jesus is King!

We rejoice in the light, and we echo the song
That comes down through the night from the heavenly throng.
Aye! we shout to the lovely evangel they bring,
And we greet in His cradle our Savior and King!

Today’s prompt word at Daily Addictions: SING

Life In A Dark Bubble

Yesterday’s Word of the Day prompt was BUBBLE. I’m coming in rather late here, but this is my response.

paranoia
life in a dark bubble
everybody hates me

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Image by Gerd Altmann

Not long before this prompt came up, I’d an account I wrote some years ago about a woman I met on a trip we took. She likely would have been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic — if she’d ever sought medical help. It sounds like her doctors had suggested mental illness, but why should she listen to doctors when they’ve all been ordered by the government to destroy people like her? Another man friend tried drugs, but hated the side effects.

I’ve visited with several afflicted ones over the years, enough to give me some picture of what their world must be like. I know there’s a wide range of symptoms and reactions to treatment, but here’s my non-medical insight, for what it’s worth.

“When I was in the hospital,” this woman explained to me, her eyes shining, “they did experiments on me. They poison a person with mercury. The mercury slowly comes out of you through your skin, you know; I see little silver drops on my carpet all the time.”

What could I say? You’re imagining this? But she wasn’t. She actually saw these drops. Just as someone else saw an upside-down cross on a hospital curtain one night — a sure omen of evil to come. Who can understand why or how the mind perceives silver drops, or beetles on all the plants, or people pulling their hair in the night? For the sufferer, the only “logical” explanation is that someone is trying to drive them mad. Once mad, they’ll be taken to the psych ward and quietly disposed of.

“There are two kinds of people in this world,” another fearful person told me years ago. “Those who wish I was dead, and those who think I already am.”

“Most of the people in this world don’t even know you exist,” I replied. However, that’s reality, and reality usually doesn’t cut through such fear. I wasted my breath.

Many, many times people trying to help a person through their hallucinations waste their breath trying to explain that, “No, it isn’t what you imagine. You still have all your hair; no one has pulled it out.”

I’ve learned that my rational explanations will never combat paranoia; they just can’t pierce that bubble of fear. The afflicted, be they on welfare, members of ethnic minorities, Christians, or whatever else makes them unique, see themselves as slated for destruction — and no one recognizes the danger they’re in. If you don’t agree, if you won’t see how the government is out to destroy people like them, you are either burying your head in the sand or you’re delusional.

Sadly, some misguided religious people see all mental illness as “demonic” and their answer is some type of exorcism. This is usually a double whammy for the sufferers. Not only are they NOT cured by this ritual, plus now they live with the guilt of being possessed by evil spirits, and/or the thought that God must have given up on them, too.

From what I’ve observed, medication has had limited success in treating this type of mental illness. Some works great — for a time. There is some healing in the aging process. I once read that schizophrenia loses some of its grip on a person’s mind after age fifty. The problem is the dangerous situations they tend to live in, often being homeless and isolating themselves.

Another friend of mine who has suffered from fears very much through the years became a Christian in her twenties and the words that help her the most are the scriptures about God looking after his own. He does see, He does care, and He has looked after her amazingly well in her circumstances. When she calls me, greatly distressed because something suspicious happened, or someone said something threatening, we talk about the day when the trials of this life will be behind us and we’ll live in Heaven, safe from evil, free from care. Focusing on that better place makes the troubles of this world more bearable.

His Consecrated Car

He rarely speaks before a crowd;
he doesn’t teach a class;
but when he comes to Sunday school
he brings his friends en masse.

He cannot sing to save his life,
and stammers when he prays;
but always his jalopy is
just crammed on each Lord’s Day.

So, though he’ll seldom sing or teach
or boldly lead in prayer,
he listens well, he wears a smile,
and he is always there.

and offers rides to all who’ll come
collects folks near and far;
God’s work is greatly prospered by
his consecrated car.

Reading & Musing on a Sunday Morning

I was reading a passage of scripture this morning and decided to write my thoughts down, in case anyone is interested.

II Corinthians 12: 2-10

In this account, the Apostle Paul is telling the church members at Corinth about an experience he has had, and the effect this vision has had in his life. He doesn’t name himself, yet Bible scholars agree that he’s telling his own story here.

2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago…such an one caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Some scholars have read the story of when Paul was stoned and left for dead, wondering if he really did have an out-of-body experience. The Apostle himself isn’t certain, and leaves it open as to whether he was really dead or if this was a vision he had. However, during this experience he saw such beauty and glory, and heard such words as could never be described to an audience here on earth.

5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.

So why doesn’t he tell the world about his experience? Why does he refer to it so discreetly, not mentioning that this happened to him? Why does he rather rejoice that he has these infirmities that drag him down? First, he doesn’t want people lifting him up:

6 For though I would desire to glory…now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

Most scholars agree that this “thorn in the flesh” was an infirmity that slowed him down, and probably a disfiguring one. We get the impression from different passages that Paul wasn’t such an attractive man.

8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

God has chosen to leave him weak so that the Spirit of the Lord can speak through him. People aren’t meant to look to Paul for the answers in life. The Lord Jesus doesn’t want people following Paul because he’s physically attractive or such a persuasive orator. So the Lord leaves him with this weakness, one which seems, from other scriptures as well, to be obvious to Paul’s audience.

Paul accepts this situation with grace:
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

It’s so human to want to be strong, to be talented, articulate, to have our listeners nod when we present our ideas. The thought of stepping up to speak, either to an individual or to a crowd, and having absolutely no speech planned out is frightening. The thought of stammering and groping for words is abhorrent to most of us. Likewise we’re inclined to shy away from a task if we’ve had no prior experience in that line. None of us want to sound, or look, dumb.

When we lived in Ontario our neighbour was a minister in another denomination. One day his wife explained to me how ministers were hired. A congregation in need will hear of a pastor who wants to move from the place he’s at, so a small delegation from the pastor-less church goes to hear him —or her, in this group— speak. If the pastor presents a good sermon, if they like the looks of him and feel he’d be a good fit for their own congregation, they offer to hire him. (Again, or her.) How tempting would it be to put a lot of effort into making a good physical impression.

Paul has adopted a different mind-set. In one place he says, “The ways of God are higher than ours.” Aware of his own weakness as a human being, he “takes a step back from himself” and rather goes forward in the Lord. The idea of winning followers of using eloquence to gain a good salary, these are laid aside. He doesn’t take pains to please the audience or “keep out of trouble.” He rather lets the words of Jesus flow through him and speak to the hearts of his audience.

This is more pleasing to God and the Gospel more effective, than if Paul could attract listeners and entertain them with his own oratory ability, or persuade them by his skillful reasoning. He leaves us this example, so none of us can feel we’ve nothing to offer. When we feel we have no talent, skills, physical attraction, or never “the right words,” we can comfort ourselves God’s words to Paul: “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”