In the Bleak Mid-winter, Sissel
In the Bleak Mid-winter, Sissel
In the Bleak Mid-winter, Sissel
After hearing reports from friends this weekend who were eye witnesses to marvelous goings on in other parts of the world where people are hungry for God and Holy Spirit came in power, I actually felt a little discouraged. I wept. Why not here?
We are so comfortable, so complacent. Would we walk two days to have the chance to learn more about Jesus Christ? Would we meet night after night, year, after year, to pray for our people and for those who would try to stifle and kill us, like they do in places where being passionate about your beliefs means laying your life on the line?
We are I am so complacent. The biggest problem taking up space in my worry quotient right now is how to get my dishwasher fixed when the only repairman in town is going on vacation for a month. God forgive me.
There must be more than this.
After a night of waking to the sound of weeping and wailing (I really don’t know where it came from) I got up with the chorus of this song on repeat in my head. I’m learning to pay attention to things like that. I haven’t heard it in years and I didn’t know any of the other words until I found a YouTube version with subtitles (such as they are). It spoke to my heart. It is God who parts the waters, not me. My task is simply to keep my eyes on him.
He is up to something. Just watch.
Bruce Springsteen, the prophet. Who knew? Enjoy.
(Mary probably refers to Mary of Bethany who wept for her brother Lazarus before Jesus raised him from the dead. Apparently the “booing” sound at the end is actually people calling “Bruce, Bruuuuuce” and “smoked the world with a 2×4” should be “smote the waters.”)
Note to self:
Even if you are on the right path you’ll get run over if you just sit there. –Will Rogers
“Then write this to the angel of the Church in Laodicea: ‘These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation: I know what you have done, and that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish that you were either cold or hot! but since you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I intend to spit you out of my mouth! While you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and there is nothing that I need’, you have no eyes to see that you are wretched, pitiable, poverty-stricken, blind and naked. My advice to you is to buy from me that gold which is purified in the furnace so that you may be rich, and white garments to wear so that you may hide the shame of your nakedness, and salve to put on your eyes to make you see. All those whom I love I correct and discipline. Therefore, shake off your complacency and repent. See, I stand knocking at the door. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will go into his house, and dine with him, and he with me. As for the victorious, I will give him the honour of sitting beside me on my throne, just as I myself have won the victory and have taken my seat beside my Father on his throne. Let the listener hear what the spirit says to the Churches.” (Revelation 3:14-22)
com·pla·cent [kuh m-pley-suh nt] adjective
1. pleased, especially with oneself or one’s merits, advantages, situation, etc., often without awareness of some potential danger or defect; self-satisfied, smug.
2. pleasant; complaisant.
Grandma sang this song. About forty of us kids would be crammed into the Cumming’s basement rumpus room for Happy Hour Bible Club after school on Thursdays. We sat cross-legged beside the mountain of jackets and snowpants that threatened to avalanche on us. Snow-soaked socks flopped off the ends of our feet in the too hot after being too cold temperature quandary that was our norm. My Grandma stood beside her flannel story board and “did the actions” to this song:
Zacchaeus was a wee little man
And a wee little man was he
He climbed up into a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see
And as the Lord came passin’ by
He looked up into that tree
And He said, “Zacchaeus, you come down!
For I’m going to your house for tea
For I’m going to your house for tea.”
I know now the last line is usually “coming to your house today” but coming to your house for tea made perfect sense to me, because on days when Grandma wasn’t teaching Happy Hour Bible Club at four o’clock on Thursdays, tea was either happening at Mrs. Stuart’s house or Mrs. Page’s house or at her own house around a quilt stretched out on a frame in the living room.
Here’s the story as told in Luke 19 without Grandma’s creative embellishments (Zacchaeus quickly ran out and bought raisin bread and milk in her version):
Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.
When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”
Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.
Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
Genuine encounters with Jesus are life-changing.
The story I heard was that tax collectors in Israel at the time were even less appreciated than tax collectors in our time. Apparently they not only collected money on behalf of highly resented foreign occupiers, but they had to “raise their own support” and frequently turned the screws to squeeze out a little more cash flow for themselves.
I used to think that Zacchaeus’ change of heart came after Jesus sat down with him at the kitchen table and gave him a good talking to, but the story in Luke says Zac made his announcement after Christ simply addressed him by name and announced he would be Zac’s guest. Jesus said he was seeking and saving the lost and that day was Zac’s day. I bet he went to Jericho specifically for that one man.
The eagerness of the tax man and his desire to see Jesus, the quick response of admitting fault, and changing his ways, tells me this man had a heart that was already softened.
May my heart be so prepared to change when Jesus calls my name.
I’m going to go buy some raisin bread and milk now.
Sometimes it don’t come easy.
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:5)
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17, 18)
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. (Titus 3:1, 2)
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand,
and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.
And endurance develops strength of character,
and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.
And this hope will not lead to disappointment.
For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Then sings my soul,
my Saviour God to Thee.
How great Thou art.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
I often wonder if many of the people who buy lovely posters and trinkets with this scripture verse printed on them are aware of the context. Jeremiah gives this message to a people who are in the midst of the worst possible calamity they could imagine. He writes quite clearly that they face a 70 year exile. He tells them to plant gardens, build houses and seek the welfare of the people who destroyed the Judean way of life.
God’s timetable can be so different from ours. We can be assured God is at work even we can’t see what he is up to.
One of the people who read Jeremiah’s letter was Daniel. Think of it, Daniel was in service to a man who destroyed or confiscated his family’s property, removed their rights and freedoms, probably killed many friends and relatives and to top it off turned him into a eunuch, which has got to qualify as traumatic sexual abuse.
And yet, and yet…
Daniel is a faithful and trusted civil servant. When he interprets the king’s dream, which he knows is bad news, he says that he wishes the dream was about the king’s enemies and not the king himself. In spite of severe persecution he is faithful to his God, and God allows him to see beyond his circumstances. God lets him in on his plans, even though Daniel doesn’t have a grid for what he sees.
I stopped for lunch near the Alberta border a couple of days ago and I read my Bible as I sipped a thermos of coffee. The passage for the day was about Jesus taking his closest friends up a mountain where they were allowed to see him transfigured into a brilliant figure talking with Moses and Elijah (the law-giver and the prophet). The guys were overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do with such an experience.
Then came the hard part, the part their Master told them about several times, the part where he was arrested, sentenced, and executed. In those dark days before his resurrection, they must have wondered what that mountaintop experience was all about. What power must have been at work beyond their valley experience! The fulfillment of God’s plans were already in motion as the promise of the ages was arising in that dark place.
As I meditated on this passage I glanced over to my left, towards Crowsnest Mountain. This is what I saw. It was a pay-attention moment.
(Click on photo for larger version)
by Jenn Johnson
“Go your way.
Eat the fat and drink sweet wine
and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready,
for this day is holy to our Lord.
And do not be grieved,
for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
For my American friends, Happy Thanksgiving!