Tested, Flawless, Faithful: The Joy of Mary

christmas tree ornament deer sq ch light DSC_0073 (1)

I love Mary’s prophetic song, often called The Magnificat. I love it so much that one day while I was listening to Bach’s setting of her words recorded in the book of Luke I was so overcome with joy I had to stop the car and get out to walk around a park beside the highway and give God my praise.

There’s a story behind this. One day, about ten or eleven years ago, after I decided to pursue a goal of knowing God better, I suddenly felt very drowsy. I took a nap on the sofa. Immediately I was in a dream.

In the dream I was struggling to speak. I felt the pressure of words building up inside me, but my lips were sealed. I could only communicate with my eyes. I looked to people begging for help, but they couldn’t understand me. I went out on the front lawn and collapsed with the effort of trying to speak. It felt like I was in labour.

A man who I know to be very skeptical about spiritual experiences beyond decently and in order pew occupation walked up to me and asked in a taunting tone, “So, do you have a prophetic word for us?”

The words burst out of me.

“In the future we will venerate Mary more.”

I was shocked. Why would I say that? I am fascinated by Reformation history and I was all too aware of the division caused by misdirected worship of Mary that replaced the centrality of Jesus Christ in some places. What an odd thing for me to say.

I was suddenly wide awake. I couldn’t have been asleep for more than a few minutes. I went back to work in my office and heard my daughter playing a podcast in the next room. The speaker asked, “Where are all the Marys? Where are the women who will lay down their lives to carry the Word to the poor in spirit? Where are the women who are willing to labour and give birth to God’s plans for revealing his goodness on earth? Where are the Marys who put Jesus Christ first no matter the cost?”

I had never heard of this speaker before, but the timing was so remarkable I had to pay attention. Like Mary I needed to ponder what this meant.

I looked up the word venerate. It means to honour and very much respect a person. It doesn’t mean turning them into God.

I grew up in a home divided by religion. My mother was disinherited when she married my father who came from a different expression of Christianity than the one that was assigned by her ethnic culture. The pain of that rejection led to defensiveness and I heard all the arguments from the time I was young.

Sometimes reacting to a practise that heads toward the ditch in one direction results in a practise that lands us in the other ditch. In my culture the place of Mary was downplayed. Her name only came up at Christmas. We did not venerate her as an outstanding person full of grace or the most blessed among women. I needed to pay more attention to her.

I realized that many prophets are entrusted with the task of delivering words, but she delivered THE WORD, Jesus Christ himself. She also prophesied when she sang:

My soul is ecstatic, overflowing with praises to God!

My spirit bursts with joy over my life-giving God!

For he set his tender gaze upon me, his lowly servant girl.
And from here on, everyone will know
that I have been favored and blessed.

The Mighty One has worked a mighty miracle for me;
holy is his name!

Mercy kisses all his godly lovers,
from one generation to the next.

Mighty power flows from him
to scatter all those who walk in pride.

Powerful princes he tears from their thrones
and he lifts up the lowly to take their place.

Those who hunger for him will always be filled,
but the smug and self-satisfied he will send away empty.

Because he can never forget to show mercy,
he has helped his chosen servant, Israel,

Keeping his promises to Abraham
and to his descendants forever.”

I studied The Magnificat. Mary, at a young age, had an understanding of God’s plan! She knew about his heart for the poor and humble. He shared his secrets with her and she treasured them. She knew that she was participating with God in the creation of something wonderful and that eventually all generations would call her blessed because of it.

My favourite song is probably Bach’s Quia Respexit. It’s as if I hear Mary saying, “He has noticed and respected little old me. Wow! In the future all generations will honour me by calling me blessed.” (My own extremely loose translation.)

So, I was driving down the road pondering the dream and the podcast as I listened to Et Exultavit Spiritus Meus (my spirit exalts in God my Saviour) and Quia Respexit (the object of respect) when it hit me. She got it! She and her relative Elizabeth, two mere women, understood that God was sending his salvation long before anybody else. (It’s makes me wonder what their mutual grandparents were like.) They were the first to recognize that this was the biggest event in the universe since creation.

That’s when I was overwhelmed with Mary’s joy. I felt her aha! moment.

A few days ago I took a photo of a Christmas ornament hanging on a tree. Something about the light caught in the shiny metal caught my attention. Metal is refined by fire. The deer represents the most humble and innocent of forest creatures. To me the photo speaks of the truth of promise, pure, tested, flawless, and ever faithful. It shines in those who humbly give themselves to the Lord so that his will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.

I read this last night:

But the Lord says, “Now I will arise!
I will defend the poor,
those who were plundered, the oppressed,
and the needy who groan for help.
I will arise to rescue and protect them!”

For every word God speaks is sure and every promise pure.
His truth is tested, found to be flawless, and ever faithful.
It’s as pure as silver refined seven times in a crucible of clay.

Lord, you will keep us forever safe,
out of the reach of the wicked.
Even though they strut and prowl,
tolerating and celebrating what is worthless and vile,
you will still lift up those who are yours!

(Psalm 12:5-8 The Passion Translation)

I honour and respect and am in awe of Mary the mother of Jesus.

Mary was the first to carry the Word, but the promise did not end with her. There are more Marys out there. Are you one?

Yes, She Knew

snow-greenbelt-img_5996

I love the song, Mary Did You Know? I was thinking about how much Mary knew as I wondered and wandered out in the valley with it’s traffic-muting hush of new fallen snow.

I also love The Magnificat, Mary’s prophetic response of praise after her cousin, Elizabeth gave her prophetic confirmation:

You are blessed, Mary, blessed among all women, and the child you bear is blessed!  And blessed I am as well, that the mother of my Lord has come to me!  As soon as I heard your voice greet me, my baby leaped for joy within me.  How fortunate you are, Mary, for you believed that what the Lord told you would be fulfilled.

Mary responded with her own prophetic declaration:

My soul lifts up the Lord!

My spirit celebrates God, my Liberator!

For though I’m God’s humble servant,
God has noticed me.
Now and forever,
I will be considered blessed by all generations.

For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
holy is God’s name!

From generation to generation,
God’s lovingkindness endures
for those who revere Him.

God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds.
The proud in mind and heart,
God has sent away in disarray.

The rulers from their high positions of power,
God has brought down low.
And those who were humble and lowly,
God has elevated with dignity.

The hungry—God has filled with fine food.
The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands.

To Israel, God’s servant,
God has given help,

As promised to our ancestors,
remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever.
(from Luke 1 The Voice)

Did Mary know?
She knew.

Elizabeth knew too. These two women had a greater understanding of God’s magnificent plan than the religious specialists around them. In the Christmas story God spoke through women as well as men and angels.

He still does.

A song of joy, great joy:

Save

Branch

Painting Recovery ch.jpg

But on this humbled ground, a tiny shoot, hopeful and promising,
will sprout from Jesse’s stump;
A branch will emerge from his roots to bear fruit.
And on this child from David’s line, the Spirit of the Eternal One will alight and rest.

By the Spirit of wisdom and discernment
He will shine like the dew.

By the Spirit of counsel and strength
He will judge fairly and act courageously.

By the Spirit of knowledge and reverence of the Eternal One,
He will take pleasure in honoring the Eternal.

He will determine fairness and equity;

He will consider more than what meets the eye,
And weigh in more than what he’s told.
So that even those who can’t afford a good defense
will nevertheless get a fair and equitable judgment.

With just a word, He will end wickedness and abolish oppression.

With nothing more than the breath of His mouth, He will destroy evil.

He will clothe himself with righteousness and truth;
the impulse to right wrongs will be in his blood.

(Isaiah 11:1-5 The Voice)

Waking Up

crocus cluster IMG_1015

“There is a forerunner spirit that comes out of Heaven and seems to wander the Earth looking for people who want to be ahead of their time; who are willing to pay a price to be in the full front of a move of God so that they themselves become a visual aid to the Earth about what is coming next. There is a price you pay for that, but there is also a glory attached to that because God is glorious.”

-Graham Cooke from Why Wounded & Betrayed Believers Are So Useful To God

 

The crocus is one of the first wild flowers to bloom in the mountains. My file of crocus photos overflows because I go snap crazy. The fuzzy purple flower is a forerunner that speaks to me.

“More to come!” it says.

There are people like that -forerunners. They seem out of place when they pop up in places of dormant expectations. Sometimes they are like the voices of children who wake too early – adorable, but annoying. When we can no longer ignore their cheerful and sometimes naive enthusiasm for a new day we reluctantly get up, go to the bathroom, put the kettle on and stare at the cereal bowls in the cupboard, trying to remember what it was we were looking for.

Sometimes forerunners are like cheerful signs of affection. A kiss to build a day on. An early morning crack of light sneaking around drawn curtains. They invade our acceptance of a cold dark season with hope. They have seen the future and they want to live in it now while the rest of us are still feeling sluggish.

I saw some of these lovely forerunners this week. They were singing, “This new season is going to be so good!”

Time to put the kettle on.

And You, My Little Son

norbury lake sun rays reflect  ch rt DSC_0075

“And you, my little son,
will be called the prophet of the Most High,
because you will prepare the way for the Lord.

You will tell his people how to find salvation
through forgiveness of their sins.

Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.”

– from Zechariah’s prophecy over his baby son, John (in The Message)

When Messages Conflict

Call Jan

I couldn’t attend the meeting. Icy roads, time pressure – the reason doesn’t matter – but the outcome of the meeting did matter. Decisions made there affect decisions made here. I asked three people what happened. They gave me three different versions and three different interpretations of the implications they each took away from the discussion. Had I not known these three people I would have thrown my hands up in frustration, but knowing their strengths and biases I actually had a fuller picture, even though they sometimes contradicted each other.

I thought about the way believers in Jesus Christ interpret their experiences and how they deliver messages. Of course, they are going to relate things differently. Take this phone conversation for example:

“Hello. This is Jan. Is Michael there, please?”
“No. I’m sorry, he just stepped out. Can I take a message?”
“Oh dear. I need some information from him. Well, just tell him to give me a dingle.”
“Okay.”

When Michael comes back I will probably say something like, “Jan called. She sounded a little stressed. You had better call her.”

I may add to the message because I heard something in her tone of voice that makes me feel she needs to know someone cares. I tend to interpret events through the lens of a mercy gift. But that’s just me.

Another person, who has a gift for administration or even prophecy might be more blunt, “Call Jan. She needs those numbers now! Let’s get this show on the road!”

An encourager might say, “Wow. You’ve been busy. I hope you had a refreshing break. I love the way you keep things running so smoothly. By the way, Jan called. I think she could use your expertise about now. Give her a call when you can. Your information is vital and we all appreciate it.”

A helpful, somewhat literal message-taker would be more precise. “Jan called. She needs some information – and she wants you to give her a dingle. What’s a dingle? Is it a candy? Because I can run down to the shops on my break and try to pick her up one, or however many come in a package, unless it’s a computer part, but if you give me the information I can order that online for you…”

The message can also be filtered through another person’s experiences or emotions:
“Jan called. Again. I was in the middle of something and now I have to start all over. Maybe you should consider putting someone who can work more independently in that position.”

“Jan called. Hey, is she seeing anyone?”

“Jan called. She sounded so sad. I know what it’s like to lose your cat. My little Pookie was so sweet…pass the tissue.”

“Jan called. She’s probably tired of waiting for you to get your act together too. Are we going to make the deadlines? What if we don’t? Will we lose everything?”

“So what’d you think of the game last night? Oh, there’s a message on your desk. That second half was crazy, eh?”

“Hello, Jan? He just came back from lunch.”
“Here. Talk to her.”

“I didn’t know you had eco-freak friends. What does bleeding-heart Jan want now?”

 

I wonder if some of our difficulties in communication derive from the assumption that our views should be the same without considering that our points of view may be quite different.

On my social media yesterday a post comparing a certain politician to Winston Churchill was immediately followed by another comparing the same person to Adolf Hitler. They are both my friends (the posters, I mean, not Winston and Adolf. I’m not that old.) Frankly, I thought both writers made good points.

Another friend, a tell-it-like-I-see-it communicator, charged into a discussion rather like a bull in a china shop who resented the porcelain figurines  for being so *#&*#ing fragile.

Yet another was in tears over a video of a grandfather who announced his own death so the family would gather together. I didn’t say anything to her but I can tell you from experience there are limits on the number of times a person can get away with playing that trump card and then using the captured time to criticize, complain and spread gloom and misery everywhere. I’m not hard-hearted but, you know, my history is different from hers. I’m going to see that video commercial through a dusty lens.

Some people who  hear God’s communication with them (through scripture verses that stand out to them in virtual neon lights, or dreams, or an internal or even external voice, or through other circumstances) have a message to either pray about or deliver to others for the purposes of building people up and expressing God’s love and concern. But they also have lenses.

Would to God we all started out mature enough to see through Jesus’ eyes without any of our own stuff getting in the way. Some are more capable of this than others, but nearly everyone needs to learn to quiet their own heart so they can hear and repeat the message more clearly.

Besides interpreting what we believe the Lord is telling us from the viewpoint of motivational giftings he has placed inside us (e.g. mercy, encouragement, prophecy, teaching, serving, giving, administering) most of us will interpret through lenses that still contain residue from past disappointment, or perhaps fear, or fatigue, or guilty self-defence. We are also affected by geography, ethnicity, denominational leanings, and political or educational history. Sometimes there is a lot to un-learn. That’s why we need each other.

We need more than one perspective and we need to help each other heal so our perception is more accurate and our hurts and assumptions do not taint the message so much. We also need humility to realize that we may only have part of the picture and that someone who sees things quite differently may not be entirely wrong but could have another crucial part that adds dimension. Paradox and all that. (Or one of us could be missing it by a mile. It happens. Humility and all that.)

Yesterday I had lunch with an insightful friend.

“How do we find a point of connection with all this confusion and disagreement going on lately? “ I asked her.

“Stories,” she said. “There’s a reason why most of the Bible is a narrative. We learn from stories. We need to listen to each others stories. We connect through stories – and everybody has a story.”

I realized the reason I found the three different versions of the meeting helpful is because I knew each one of these people’s stories. They knew mine. We understood each other because we have spent time listening to each other. I knew where they were coming from and why they interpreted events as they did. We have connection.

The same exact facts and interpretation repeated over and over do not necessarily represent unity. Hearts connecting? That’s unity.

It’s a journey.