Yes, She Knew

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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

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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

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“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

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“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.

First Response

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“Who is this in royal robes,
marching in his great strength?
“It is I, the Lord, announcing your salvation!
It is I, the Lord, who has the power to save!

(from Isaiah 63)

On the morning before the slaughter in Paris, while I was still asleep, I heard a voice. It woke me.

“42! 63!”

This has happened before, so I asked, “Psalm 42?”

“Isaiah 42.”

I looked it up. It’s starts with a prophecy about the Messiah, his character, his role, his manner and his purpose.

I looked up Isaiah 63. It has a similar theme of a Father who fights evil on behalf of his children.

Both passages end with a description of His sorrow when the people he desired to save turned to their own methods, even other gods, instead of calling on Him and responding to Him. In Isaiah’s time He left them to their own devices for a while, but continued to call out to them over and over through his prophets.

Many times in history God’s people have prayed crying “‘Anah!” to Him. “Hear us! Respond to us!” (A discussion of the word ‘anah here.)

Many times in history Yhwh has prayed to his beloved, “‘Anah!” “Hear Me! Respond to me!”

For a few days I didn’t understand why he would direct my attention to these passages. Since then I have seen many responses to the triumph of evil in Paris and Kenya and Syria and many other places in the world. Love them all! Kill them all!

Can we just admit that if there was a sure-fire method of solving this situation without exacerbating horrible actions or being captured by the evil spirits behind it ourselves, that it would have been done by now? We have lost our innocence about both the nobility of armed conflict and the consequences of doing nothing when we hear the cries of victims of evil aggression.

In our own family, this very week, we are still fighting World War II. My mother-in-law barely escaped death or an internment camp as a young teenager when her family’s home in Rangoon, Burma was bombed by the invading Japanese. Their savings were in that house. They lost everything and fled on the last military transport to India. Now, as her short-term memory loss requires us to take measures to protect her she feels like her own family is confiscating her savings and threatening her freedom by sending her to an old person internment camp. (She refuses to live with us.) In her mind history is repeating -or perhaps the war has never ended- and that which she feared most has come upon her.

I remember my mom describing the beatings she and her brothers suffered on the way home from school as ethnic Germans living in Canada during the war. No one took the time to understand that they were running from both the Russians and the Germans. No one noticed that their older brother was fighting for the Canadian army in the Netherlands. When Hitler’s troops arrived in my grandfather’s village they killed 1/3 of the population in one day. Stalin had already killed my grandmother’s family. I see the Syrian refugees fleeing violence as unjust as the pogroms of Russia a century ago also being met with rejection from all sides.

Some of our extended family were still in Germany when the battle lines were drawn up. Let me tell you no one hated Hitler more than a German boy drafted to the Russian front! But if you were Ukrainian like my husband’s grandparents and saw a German boy in a tank coming toward you, it was not a good time to offer hospitality. It is not easy to love your enemy and love your children at the same time. We desperately need wisdom and discernment.

I am a grandchild of refugees who still lives with the consequences of war. I am so grateful that Canada took my family in! I am grateful Canada heard the cries of the victims of injustice and made room for them. I am grateful that many were willing to lay down their lives to fight injustice. Now I am even more grateful to those, like the intercessor Rees Howells, who fought the war on their knees. We will never know this side of heaven how much intercessors, those who war in the heavenlies, did to bring peace.

Now it is time for those who hear his voice to respond.

What am I saying? History has proven that our methods of solving problems like ISIS are horribly inadequate. I have heard people say, after they have tried everything they can think of to save themselves in threatening circumstances, “Well, all we can do now is pray.”

I hear my heavenly Father say, “Make Me your first response! It is I, the Lord! It is I, who has the power to save!”

“Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.
He is my chosen one, who pleases me.
I have put my Spirit upon him.
He will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout
or raise his voice in public.
He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.
He will not falter or lose heart
until justice prevails throughout the earth.
Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.” 

(from Isaiah 42)