Annunciation–Be Born in Me

Recently, in the Church calendar, we were reminded of the annunciation. The angel Gabriel enters into the world to declare something that should cause our breath to be taken from us.

God was entering the earth. He would be called Jesus; he would be the Son of the Most High God. He would establish a kingdom that would not end.

DT5656Many women of Mary’s age and era wanted to be chosen to bear the Messiah, but Mary was visited. An angel. A big, Gabriel angel found her and spoke. This was a day of awe in heaven and on earth. I don’t know what it might have looked like as angels peeped over the edge of the heavens to see what God was doing, but I can imagine. Gabriel was on assignment. It had to be really BIG!

God was becoming a man. Did it rock the heavens when they saw that God Almighty, whom they worshiped in holy awe, choose in Christ to become a man to lead mankind into a restored relationship with himself? Did the angels scratch their halos? Did they gather to ponder this wonder?

I love the picture of the annunciation—for in that announcement there was great promise. Christ would be conceived in Mary—in some ways as a picture of him being formed in us. The Holy Spirit conceives Christ in her. The Holy Spirit hovers over her—according to Luke 1.

In another way, the Holy Spirit hovers over us and conceives God in us—places Christ in us. At that moment, we are born again. I don’t know the exact process, even though I’ve heard what people THINK it is. Whatever it is, it is supernatural. Beautiful. He places himself in us so that we can be in him.

But it all began with humility—a humility that we can’t comprehend. A willingness to suffer the daily difficult distance between mankind and God—stubbed toes, splinters, and bloody wounds—and ultimately the horrendous cross. God wanted so much for us. He wanted us to experience union with himself—and there was no other way.

The Annunciation says, “Hold on! I’m coming. I’m here to change you from the inside out by my holy presence growing in you. I’m coming as God among men so that I might leave my children to be lights in the world. I leave them behind to glorify me in the wake of my sacrifice.

Who acts like that? Only our God!

Be born in me, O Lord. Be born in us.

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Noise

There is too much noise in this world. Try getting away from it if you live with others or go anywhere. Television, radio, Internet, and Facebook hammer at my soul. Constant chatter and banter grieve.

While writing this, I got a text that popped up on my computer. I replied, and a whole series of texts and remarks followed. It was a hilarious chain of comments. I was belly laughing through it. But that just shows how my desire for silence can be so easily impeded by the pleasant banter of wonderful friends.

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy all those things. But I’m in a season where I CRAVE silence and solitude. All the noise creates an atmosphere of chaos. I can’t think or get beyond my head, and I really want to. I want to worship from deep inside my heart.

 

Have you ever felt that words just aren’t enough? When it comes to worship and praise, I sense that deeply.

I have the same problem, when I experience something so profound that language fails—the birth of a child, the sacrifice of a friend, vistas so wide and deep that I gasp at the immensity. Vocabulary also breaks down when I experience a growing awareness of all that God has done for me through Jesus Christ. “Wow!” just isn’t adequate.

When I draw close to God, I often do it with language. Worship, praise, and Scripture all serve me well as I try to place an accurate “image” of God before me with biblical pictures, promises, and poetry. These words fight the unbelief and mistrust in my own sin nature; they are a response to the temptation to doubt God and his goodness.

But, when I’m in deep communion with God, silence seems to say more than words. At those times, talk seems like a poorly played tin whistle. Un-intelligible. Insufficient. Twangy.

With unuttered words, I bend my silent, needy, and hungry heart before a Holy Triune God who has welcomed me into his presence. There are no words. I experience his love and union with him in quiet worship.

All the chatter and banter of texts and Internet, phone and television remind us that we are connected to the world and to people. We are hooked—in more ways than one. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We need people. But for now—for this brief moment in my life, that’s not the only thing I want.

IMG_1018I want communion with God in holy wonder, love, and awe-filled silence.

 

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Hollow

Hollow

I’m hollow. The others got to see.
He stood in their midst and spoke – or so they said.
But I was off on some fool’s errand.
We were like
Rats those dark days – hiding in corners.
Death had come and our band of men would surely cave
The Master was – dead – buried – I saw it all.
And when I heard them speak of what they saw – I swore that only
Touching with my eyes and hands would satisfy my unbelieving heart.

And everyone waited, hoping for another desperate journey into madness –
For so it seemed to me – this vision of the impossible.
And they re-lived how each had felt, what was seen
And it drove me wild.
I had no tale to tell and nothing to fill the fissure formed when he died.
The image of his crowned, bent, and bloody head and his severed body seared my soul. The metallic scent of HIS blood had been all-consuming. Death had been absolute.
I feared hope. I would not hope.

Then He appeared.
A mystery in white.
My flesh prickled.
I gasped, eyes wide in unbelief.

It could not be.
Life restored to that ripped, red, and ravaged flesh?
It couldn’t be.

“Peace,” he said.
My heart turned violently – spinning wildly between hope and disbelief.
“Be,” he said.
It thuSt.thomas-postndered in my ears.
“With you.” The words were breathed onto me.
Me, the doubter. The cynic. The hopeless.

And He met me as I was.
Needing to use my eyes, not just my ears, to believe.
I fell; my feet no longer sure,
Shaking, weeping, joyful, stricken.
Driven to the madness of seeing the living dead –
This totally Other Man
Who stood before me as a wounded risen Lamb.

 

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Experiencing Awe

IMG_1366The title of my blog is “An Invitation to Wonder.” It is called that because I love experiencing wonder and awe—and I want others to experience it as well.

To have those experiences regularly, I must take time to pause, look, listen, taste, smell, and feel the world around me—the world that is present today. I can’t always take a trip to a beach or the mountains—or some never-before-seen place. I only have NOW.

This pause can be excruciatingly difficult in my busy, break-neck world. I am, quite often, driven. I create lists and check each item off one by one. I dash by fall colors, ignoring their brilliance, or if seen, I simply say, “Wow!” I rush through a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, ignoring the amazing flavors rather than savoring each sip with thankfulness. By hurrying, I don’t breathe in the wonder or take the opportunity for awe.

Being still AND silent AND worshipful doesn’t come naturally. You have to force yourself to be still. Experiencing awe is a practiced habit.

Research has been done on what happens to a person who experiences awe. It benefits mental health. It takes our minds off of ourselves and enlarges our mind as we become aware of a larger world around us. Those who experience awe regularly are more prone to volunteer to help others. Experiencing awe also changes our perception of time. It slows us down and keeps us in the present—a place where we need to be if we are to truly live life well. (Live Happy online magazine “Embracing Awe” Dacher and Jonathan 2003)

Years ago, when God first expanded my heart for deeper worship, I began to experience awe. I am often inspired by the intricacies of beauty found in nature. Most of us can lie on our backs before a cloudless, moonless sky and be taken aback by the immensity of the heavens and our insignificance DSCN1318before such a spectacle. When I first saw the Smoky Mountains, I experienced something similar. The same was true when the Tetons burst from the floor of the earth and consecrated a moment from east to west—from north to south.

While there, my husband and I awakened while dark to capture the world in the first light of dawn and photograph the deep shadows of early morning. In the evenings, we watched the western sky become inflamed—scanning the horizon for animals—hoping to spy elusive creatures hiding in the shadows on the edges of forests. We always found breath-taking awe.

I am convinced that God gives me many of these moments, because when he does, I give him hearty applause. Those wonder-filled minutes awaken in me deep admiration and create worship. That is one advantage of being a believer. When I encounter magnificence, I can also worship the creator. So my experience can, and should be deeper than someone who doesn’t believe. As a believer I can bow and have my mind and heart expanded beyond my eyes to the unspeakable greatness of God Almighty—of the Triune God—Holy, Holy, Holy.

But I am still limited.

Scripture makes it clear that I see through a glass darkly. It won’t be until heaven that I truly see—and I can’t imagine the wonder and amazement I will know then.

IMG_1504But for now, I’ll have to be content with what I can see here and now. I invite you to do the same—today—tomorrow—everyday. Pause. Look for it. Then worship the God of the wonder that is before you–a baby’s toes, a babbling brook, a tiny flower tucked in a dark corner, or the flavor of the first sip of coffee in the morning.

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Snow Drifts

DSCN0104.JPG

by Linda Barrett

 

Kind and gentle the snow falls

Drifting into what is now.

A world of brown fallen leaves and winter bleakness

Cold barren trees

Stand erect against the gray sky and gathering snow.

White on black, black on white

Snowflakes land softly, coating all in purity

Like holiness—slow and steady—soft and sure

Truth by truth and step by step

The earth welcomes the slowly growing blanket of clean, blinding whiteness

So do I

Come blanket my heart with holiness

The slow and steady gift of your gentle and holy grace

The invitation for your presence is open.

Drift in, O Lord and cover me.

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The Potter’s Work

pottery-wheelSometimes the potter’s work is very messy. Pounding. Probing. Dizzying. Painfully slow. Hot. But his work is also sure as he moves with every turn on the wheel to create a vessel he’s envisioned—a vessel that’s useful and beautiful in his eyes and one that resembles Jesus, and therefore himself.

If I am his, then I am “also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”

Perhaps, if I could see through the potter’s eyes, I’d appreciate where I’m headed and the work of love, kindness and gentleness that he is doing within me. Perhaps if I could hear him speaking over me as he works, I’d hear a few things.

“Ah yes, that’s looking more like my Son.”

“Oooh, that won’t do, let’s remove that bit of debris.”

“I like the way that’s coming.”

“I think it’s going to need a little more depth,” he’d say as he sticks his fingers, then his hand into my life to create a wider and deeper container. “I want this vessel to hold more, so it can give water others.”

An on and on it’d go. Beautifully. Faithfully. Tenderly. Speaking over me and handling me with the force and tenderness I need.

It’s good to remember that I’m being held while in the middle of my trials and conflicts, and that God has a good purpose for them. His hand remains on me. In fact Scripture also says, that I’m to count it all joy when I encounter trials, knowing that the testing of faith produces endurance. I should allow endurance to have its perfect result, so that I can be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

“Becoming” is a slow and often painful process, and it’s one that won’t be completed until I see Jesus face to face. Until then, I’ll work on trusting in the potter’s faithful hand. And as much as I’d sometimes like to, I won’t jump off the wheel. After all, a lump of clay has no legs, and he has me in his loving grip and he won’t let me jump.

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Time to Rest, Read, and Regroup

Grayton BeachI’m at the beach (or was when I wrote this). It’s not any ordinary beach. It’s the section of glorious seashore known among southern Americans as 30-A. It’s a wide stretch of sugar-white shore line, aqua and blue and/or green waters and mostly gentle waves. It’s one of the South’s best kept secrets, but much to my dismay, a Scottish family, a German family, and two Canadian families were set up near us this morning. And as we left a man from Connecticut and his sister from Pennsylvania joined the people basking in the beauty of the sunbaked shoreline. I’m afraid the word’s out. 30-A is an international tourist attraction.

My husband and I come here each year to flop. And we do. We plop our chairs on the beach. Prop up our pop up veranda, and then flop in our chairs until nature makes us move.

During this time I catch up on reading. Raymond saw my stack of books—about 12 inches high (way too many words for one week) and he asked, “What is that about?” “Well, I don’t know what I’ll be in the mood to read on any given day.”

Among the books stacked there is my Bible (can’t leave home without it), Solo, and a book of poetry and essays. There’s an auto-biography, a non-fiction best-seller, and a workbook I’m working through with women I mentor. There are three novels, one I’m re-reading because it’s so good and people I know recommend the other two to me. Titles and names are at the bottom of this blog.

Why am I telling you this? Because so much of my life is spent in motion. Pauses like this, where I take time to consider other people’s ideas, the way they live in the stories written, the choices they make, and the wisdom they offer, are an important part of growth. And it takes time and space to grow.

We hurry too much. If we discover we aren’t living a well-rooted, centered life but a life that is hypocritical or ill-fitted instead, we often hurry through the awareness—not even trying to see what needs to be done to recover.beach-at-grayton-beach

Reading and meditation allows us time to pause—unlike a television program or movie. We can reach the end of a paragraph or poem and stop—long enough to become convicted or encouraged or reminded of some deep truth that invigorates and feeds our soul. Sometimes I pause after an especially well-written sentence. “The skin of her neck folded turtle-like onto her collar and the hair at her forehead was fraying like an edge of cloth.” (Sue Monk Kidd; The Invention of Wings p 247 Viking 2014). (Isn’t that awesome!)

Rest does that, as well—allow us to pause. As I flopped on the blanket beneath our little tent, I thought about things I had read. I dozed. Awakened to think a little more. Prayed a little. Worshiped a little. Journaled a little.

I often use these weeks of sea and surf to contemplate where I’ve been headed, where I need to go, and how I’m going to get there. I regroup.

As a result of this time, I’ve written—lots. I’ve also got a blog plan. Which is also a nice thing. I’ll reveal that in the next couple days. Onward we go.

Meanwhile, I want to thank you readers, for your faithful reading of my blog posts. I want to always, always give you insight into the things I’m seeing and hopefully as I do, you will see, too. Or, if you like, disagree with me. That’s okay, too.

Books:

Holy Bible, NASB

My journal (unabridged and unedited and unpublished)

The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd

By Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante

The Search for Significance, by Robert McGee

Seasons of Your Heart, by Macrina Wiederkehr (essays and poetry)

Solo, ESV

A Lesson Before Dying, by Earnest Gaines

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Quereshi

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin

 

 

 

 

 

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