At Last, The King (the Gray Havens)

“To the serpent low, said the King upon His throne:
‘You’ve deceived and lied.
My child has gone into exile.
But I will go,
I will make a way home…’

In the dark,
in the shadows,
Light has come.
In the quiet,
in the dead of night,
Glory, glory sang the angels in the highest –
At last, the king
is born to us to overcome exile.
Born to us a virgin’s son, this child
born to give His life for us…
Good news, good news, so glorious.”

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.-Isaiah 9:2

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth…And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.-from John 1 

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Lights

tree

Lights frame front porches, glow in windows, sparkle over still green bushes. Down the highway, shining bulbs spell out ‘PEACE ON EARTH’ like they do every year, giant letters tall in an empty field.

There is something about those lights…something more than how pretty the colors look against the fading cold-weather land.

Every Christmas season, it is the lights that bring tears to my eyes, bring a big grin to my face, bring me back to feeling like a kid. Wide-eyed and excited, my sister and I used to watch for houses all lit up and point them out to each other…I love to remember the long drive home from my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve with carols playing from the radio, the car filled with warmth, and the lights merrily brightening up the dark roads – it felt like they were there to guide us home.  I’d lean my head against the chilled window, looking for strings of white and colored lights, watching the stars in the sky, feeling  like the entire world was glowing in joy —  just like the night the brightest of stars and glory-bright songs blazed to welcome the baby Jesus.

Back then, I couldn’t  really name the feeling those lights woke in me.  I just knew they felt happy. I knew they felt alive. I knew they made me feel a yearning for something I couldn’t quite figure out, even in my much scribbled-in diary or between the pages of my favorite books.

I’ve found that word now:

Hope.

Sure, it may seem that a light is just a light. Colored strands of burning bulbs are only Christmas decorations.

But I think it means more. I think that there is hope in our collective decision to disrupt the darkness with lovely cheer. There is hope in a people who will, year after year, brighten the roadsides and long nights – refusing to end a year, no matter the hardship that it brought, in surrender to the darkness.

Instead of shutting out the world, we light up the town streets and shopping centers. We light up our churches and our homes. We light up our cars. I’ve even seen light-lined baby strollers.

Every year, we blaze out and say again – light is stronger than darkness. And, beneath the surface of all the Christmas jingle and jangle, those lights shine a brighter and steady truth.

The Light came into our darkness and overcame it.

Jesus came, when the time was right, and set our hearts alight with His glory.

He promised, when He left, that He would return and displace the darkness forever.

And as it seems the trouble increases all around, year by year, we choose to believe that His words are true.

We wait, ancient hope still new, for our Messiah to come once again.

These Christmas lights, they are sacred when we see their declaration:

we are keeping faith. We are keeping our home-fires ablaze, as a bride waiting for her soldier to return – prepared, always. Waiting, anticipating — expecting His arrival.

I see that giant declaration of  PEACE ON EARTH – words said again and again — and I pray that I won’t become numb to their meaning. May we not hear this year’s carols and declarations of goodwill with ears listening for the tinny sounds of a holiday, but with ears attune to His redemption song — His melody, His promise, His plan unfolding — knowing the seasons are in His hands and His voice is our hope…knowing that every season He brings only draws the day closer that will dawn with peace and His reign.

One day, this whole world will be alight with His glory…evil will have no place. Darkness will be no more.

Until then…for now…we light another candle. Plug in another strand of lights. Trim a tree. We do the small things we can do to ignite remembrance of Him, to light up our corners with the knowledge that He is ever-near to us.

We live in an Advent-Season always. We draw our light, every day, from the source of all light – our Savior, Jesus Christ. But in these days that celebrate His incarnation, I pray that we will delight in the mystery of His love…the beauty of His sacrifice…the blessing of stars and the moon and the sun that declare His wonder…and, yes, twinkling lights adorning mantles and Christmas trees. May we light up our season  in gratitude for what He has already done and in confidence that His light will guide us Home.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” ~John 1:1-5

(This post was originally published in December of 2012)

What I Really Need This Christmas

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Days are short and evening light no longer lingers.

But there are candles glowing and sparkly lights are draped over the tall tree in the corner. There is hot tea in my cup and music in my ears. There are the bright eyes of my children, their laughter loud and strong.

I am grateful. With all my heart, I am grateful.

And yet – who can look around and not feel grief in this earth, in the ever-expanding trouble we witness?

It is hard, sometimes, to reconcile the many good things in our lives with this heart-rending world. It’s hard to look into the brokenness. It’s hard to see the chaos and the fear.

But I don’t want to forget, as this Advent season draws nearer, that the point of Christmas was exactly this: God coming into the turmoil.

Jesus not only faced the brokenness, but stepped into it. His own body was broken, His own heart cried out in agony.

And the baby in a manger – this Emmanuel, God with us – may be commemorated once a year, but it is not a moment in time that can ever be packed away. His birth was the fulfillment of a promise and the spark of a new Day – His birth, His death, and His Life are the Hope we have to give to the world around us.

He came to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed. He came to tear down the separation between our hearts and God. He came to show us how to love each other. He came to change us and to bring us into the kingdom of God…can you see how Christmas was the beginning of a story that is still unfolding? It’s a story I want to live. It’s a story we must tell, again and again, in the way we love and in the way we give.

What we have been given — and what we have to give — cannot be bought, lost, or destroyed. It cannot be stolen. It cannot be silenced for His love will last forever. His presence abides in every circumstance.

His grace is what we needed, so desperately, and it is what we received. Maybe this is the year that we keep our ears tuned into Him and our hearts centered in Him. Instead of a season that brings stress and a striving for surface perfection, may this December bring a reigniting of our passion to share His grace! May we rest in His presence and in His promises, so that we can be strengthened and – in His name – shine into the darkness. We can follow Him into the brokenness, in the power of His Spirit, and proclaim good news – declare freedom! We can give what sustains both body and soul, we who have so much – oh, let us have open hands.

Let us hear His story again, look into the manger and remember the thrill of hope and life abundant.

May this season be a spark in our souls so that we burn bold and beautiful with His Light.

In Him was life, and that life was the Light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. -John 1:4-5

*Please join me during the month of December…beginning on Monday, I’ll be posting something every day to help us remember His love and His story…in a season that can be busy, I hope to offer at least a moment of stillness. I hope these posts help to keep our eyes on His Light and on the Hope we share every day of the year.*

Eyes to See

Haiti-homes-on-hillside

Sean jumped in the car after school today, threw a paper in my direction, and said “Read this!” As he buckled in, he announced that we needed to go home and find shoes that we don’t need or that don’t fit anymore. His school is participating in a program that will send shoes to countries like Haiti and will fund efforts to provide clean water in those communities.

“That’s awesome,” I said as we pulled out of the pick-up line and onto the road. “We can definitely do that.”

And then he proceeded to open up my eyes.

Here’s the thing: the country of Haiti being involved in this fundraiser caught Sean’s attention. We have the privilege of building a relationship, through Compassion International, with a little girl named Barbara. The kids write to her and are always happy when the mailman delivers the letters and pictures she sends to us. We have used the awesome resources Compassion provides to learn about Haiti and the life that Barbara and so many other kids have there. The kids think about her and pray for her every night.

Which is why Sean said – “See? It’s because of our prayers for Barbara! More people are helping Haiti and we can help them do it!”

I almost had to hit the brakes.

Because when he said Haiti, I was heart-happy that more hope and light were on the way to a country so in need of helping hands. But it did not occur to me that our prayers could have something to do with it…but why not? Doesn’t James 5:16 declare that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”? Doesn’t Jesus tell us in the gospel of John that if we ask in His name, we will receive so that the Father is glorified in the Son?

If we believe that God hears and honors our prayers, then yes – yes! – the faithful prayers of two boys and their little sister could most certainly be the catalyst for an elementary school in a small southern town sending shoes and clean water to the country they hold close to their hearts.

I wonder how much I miss because I am not watching for God’s answers outside of my expectations. I wonder how much I miss because I don’t realize that He is providing opportunities for me to pitch in and help carry out His plan.

I am so grateful that He sometimes surprises us with a tangible reminder that He is listening. I am so grateful that He has given me these little teachers in my life who sometimes stun me with their faith and with their knowledge that our God is active and present in our lives.

This weekend, may we all have eyes like my child – ready to see the hand of God in the details of our lives. May we remember that He hears us and He answers. May we listen for His voice, from whatever direction He may speak…and may our words speak out of active faith in Him! May we be ready to be a part of the answer to the needs we bring to our Father.

May our hearts be open to the delight and blessing of His presence…may we remember that we are lavishly loved and give of that never-running-out love to everyone around us.

Leaving the Light On: Let’s Make October Hope-Full!

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This may sound strange (and it may worry my neighbors a bit!) but sometimes it comforts me in the early morning darkness when I look out of my windows and see other houses with lights on. Like mine, there are usually only one or two windows lit from within…and I feel a sense of solidarity with whoever it is in that house. Because they, like me, are up and preparing for whatever is on that day’s schedule. I am glad to know that I am not the only one reaching for a cup of something hot to drink and I am not the only one taking the first steps of a new day. (Also, I’m probably not the only one wondering why it’s legal to wake up before the sunrise. ;))

The early-morning lights make me think of the late-at-night lights. Isn’t it wonderful to arrive after nightfall at your own home or a loved one’s home to find that someone left the porch light on for you? Someone has thought of you and made your path clear. They left a beacon to guide you home. That porch light or that lamp-lit window says you are not alone and here is refuge from the darknesscome in.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season– arriving at my parents’ house after it is dark. After hours of driving through the night, I love to spot their house. The entire yard is lit with twinkling lights and the house is lamp-lit and glowing from within.

It means welcome and it means find your rest herewe are waiting for you.

And maybe it sounds funny and maybe I don’t know exactly what this will look like, but I want to keep the light on for you.

Because sometimes it feels like darkness surrounds us. Sometimes it feels like the night is going to last always. Sometimes we feel hopeless. Sometimes we are just tired.

I want you to come here throughout the month of October to find my ‘porch-light’ on, the windows blazing with light…so that you will know that you are not the only one facing the day. So that, late at night (or in the middle of the day!), you will remember that you are not alone in this journey.

I want to hold up the “Lamp for our feet and the Light for our path”, which is God’s Word.  I want to remind you of our Hope that never fails, the Rest for our hearts — Jesus Christ. He says to us – you are not alone. Here is refuge. Come in. Find your rest. I am waiting for you. 

He is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not, can not, and will not ever overcome Him. (John 1)

It is time for us to turn on the porch light – the lamps – every light in the house! – so that the Father will be known.

It is time to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ with truth and hope.  It is time to take heart in the face of our trouble – because Jesus has overcome the world…it is time to proclaim and live in confidence that darkness and night will one day be no more! (Rev.22)

If you are a fellow blogger, facebook-er, or twitter-er…will you consider joining me and turning your own ‘porch-light’ on? Can we let the love and light of Jesus – in whom there is no darkness – flood our houses, our yards, our entire lives? Can we make October hope-full? I’d love it if you could share a verse, a prayer, a song on your own social media ‘porch’ or on the So Beloved facebook page throughout the month. Feel free to share links to your thoughts in the comments here…and to use the porch-light graphic to share the idea. Let’s take the hope we share on-line and live it out in our every day world.

It’s time to leave our lights on.

PicMonkey Collage

Lights

tree

Lights frame front porches, glow in windows, sparkle over still green bushes. Down the highway, shining bulbs spell out ‘PEACE ON EARTH’ like they do every year, giant letters tall in an empty field.

There is something about those lights…something more than how pretty the colors look against the fading cold-weather land.

Every Christmas season, it is the lights that bring tears to my eyes, bring a big grin to my face, bring me back to feeling like a kid. Wide-eyed and excited, my sister and I used to watch for houses all lit up and point them out to each other…I love to remember the long drive home from my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve with carols playing from the radio, the car filled with warmth, and the lights merrily brightening up the dark roads – it felt like they were there to guide us home.  I’d lean my head against the chilled window, looking for strings of white and colored lights, watching the stars in the sky, feeling  like the entire world was glowing in joy —  just like the night the brightest of stars and glory-bright songs blazed to welcome the baby Jesus.

Back then, I couldn’t  really name the feeling those lights woke in me.  I just knew they felt happy. I knew they felt alive. I knew they made me feel a yearning for something I couldn’t quite figure out, even in my much scribbled-in diary or between the pages of my favorite books.

I’ve found that word now:

Hope.

Sure, it may seem that a light is just a light. Colored strands of burning bulbs are only Christmas decorations.

But I think it means more. I think that there is hope in our collective decision to disrupt the darkness with lovely cheer. There is hope in a people who will, year after year, brighten the roadsides and long nights – refusing to end a year, no matter the hardship that it brought, in surrender to the darkness.

Instead of shutting out the world, we light up the town streets and shopping centers. We light up our churches and our homes. We light up our cars. I’ve even seen light-lined baby strollers.

Every year, we blaze out and say again – light is stronger than darkness. And, beneath the surface of all the Christmas jingle and jangle, those lights shine a brighter and steady truth.

The Light came into our darkness and overcame it.

Jesus came, when the time was right, and set our hearts alight with His glory.

He promised, when He left, that He would return and displace the darkness forever.

And as it seems the trouble increases all around, year by year, we choose to believe that His words are true.

We wait, ancient hope still new, for our Messiah to come once again.

These Christmas lights, they are sacred when we see their declaration:

we are keeping faith. We are keeping our home-fires ablaze, as a bride waiting for her soldier to return – prepared, always. Waiting, anticipating — expecting His arrival.

I see that giant declaration of  PEACE ON EARTH – words said again and again — and I pray that I won’t become numb to their meaning. May we not hear this year’s carols and declarations of goodwill with ears listening for the tinny sounds of a holiday, but with ears attune to His redemption song — His melody, His promise, His plan unfolding — knowing the seasons are in His hands and His voice is our hope…knowing that every season He brings only draws the day closer that will dawn with peace and His reign.

One day, this whole world will be alight with His glory…evil will have no place. Darkness will be no more.

Until then…for now…we light another candle. Plug in another strand of lights. Trim a tree. We do the small things we can do to ignite remembrance of Him, to light up our corners with the knowledge that He is ever-near to us.

We live in an Advent-Season always. We draw our light, every day, from the source of all light – our Savior, Jesus Christ. But in these days that celebrate His incarnation, I pray that we will delight in the mystery of His love…the beauty of His sacrifice…the blessing of stars and the moon and the sun that declare His wonder…and, yes, twinkling lights adorning mantles and Christmas trees. May we light up our season  in gratitude for what He has already done and in confidence that His light will guide us Home.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” ~John 1:1-5

Scene One: Action!

Once upon a time…it was a dark and stormy night…a long, long time ago, in a kingdom far away…these are all phrases that catch our attention. Why? It’s simple — they signal to us that a story is about to begin. Something has happened and we get to hear all about it.

If it’s a good story (one that keeps our interest), there’s going to be action. Events will transpire that change the course of the tale…and purpose runs beneath all of the details. Many times, that purpose is to help the main character go through a transformation of some sort, to let him or her gain knowledge or love or some other positive thing. The greatest characters are ones who step up to a challenge and risk it all to accomplish their purpose…

You know what I don’t like? Stories that have passive characters. It drives me nuts to see a character who never takes positive action. They’re reactive instead of proactive…so they just sit back and wait for life to happen to them. When you’re watching a movie, these are the characters that make you scream at the screen (usually something like: “Do something!” or “Run!” or “For Pete’s sake, just tell him how you feel!”). But, in spite of your frustration, they just go on with the flow without trying to change anything…

And some people think God is just like that. He’s pictured as an old, white-bearded, grandpa-sort of figure snoring on a Heavenly throne, watching the world without getting involved. Whatever happens just happens and He has nothing to do with it…

But this great history of humanity begins with attention-getting words that introduce us to a pro-active God!
“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” ~Genesis 1:1-5.

Here’s what I see in these first few verses of the Bible: God is a God of action! The first thing we learn about Him is that He created — He saw a void, and it was His nature to fill it with something beautiful that He could love. Did He have to make the heavens and the earth? Did He have to speak light into the darkness? Of course not…He could have continued on without this earth and without us. We need God to even exist — He doesn’t need us to remain the God that He is.  But because He is Love, because it is His nature to bring about good, He Spoke. He took action.  And He has never sat back, closed His eyes, and been done with His work.

It’s the opposite, in fact.  Every name of God that we find in His Word reveals another way that He is active and involved with the lives of His people. Just to name a few — He is Jehovah-Rapha (our Healer), Jehovah-Jireh (the Lord will provide), El-Roi (the strong one who sees), our Advocate, our Deliverer, our Redeemer.  Never buy into the myth that God is watching us from a distance, apathetic about our lives. He is closer than a brother, never forsaking us for a moment. He is ordering our steps, hearing our prayers, and working for our good.

He is the Light and where there is darkness, He wants to shine.  If there’s darkness in your heart, in your family, in your world…He is able and willing to speak peace and love into it.  He created beauty out of darkness on Day One of planet earth and He’s been doing it ever since…take this chance to be proactive and ask Him to step into your situation…He will hear you and He will make a difference.