Remember

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“I need to worship because without it I can forget that I have a Big God beside me and live in fear.

I need to worship because without it I can forget his calling and begin to live in a spirit of self-preoccupation.

I need to worship because without it I lose a sense of wonder and gratitude and plod through life with blinders on.

I need worship because my natural tendency is toward self-reliance and stubborn independence.”

~John Ortberg

No Other Way

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“[God desires] not that He may say to them, ‘Look how mighty I am, and go down upon your knees and worship,’ for power alone was never yet worthy of prayer; but that He may say thus: ‘Look, my children, you will never be strong but with my strength. I have no other to give you. And that you can get only by trusting in me. I can not give it you any other way. There is no other way.'”

~ George MacDonald

Even the Weakest

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I almost missed it. The rose on the diminutive plant in the foil-wrapped pot sat on a shelf in the corner of the shop. Elaborately decorated artificial Christmas trees lined the aisle, grabbing all the attention.

It couldn’t have been more than an inch across, this tiny delicate rose, but in the midst of manufactured razzle-dazzle tinsel and bauble it humbly declared integrity from its cradle of dirt. The rose was real, living, growing, opening to the winter light streaming through a dusty window.

I almost missed it. But then I didn’t.

Thank you, little rose, for sharing joy just by gathering the light from a single sunbeam as you sing your song on an out-of-the-way shelf. I see you. I hear you.

Lo, how a rose e’er blooming from tender stem has sprung.

 

Human strength and the weapons of man
are false hopes for victory;
they may seem mighty but they will always disappoint.

The eyes of the Lord are upon
even the weakest worshipers who love him—
those who wait in hope and expectation
for the strong, steady love of God…

 

As we trust, we rejoice with an uncontained joy
flowing from Yahweh!

Let your love and steadfast kindness overshadow us
continually, for we trust and we wait upon you!

(Psalm 33: 17, 18, 21, 22 The Passion Translation)

Tested, Flawless, Faithful: The Joy of Mary

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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?