{re}fresh

Month: January, 2014

Joseph: the Father Who Obeyed and Stayed

by ivyjonah

JosephJoseph, her fiancé’, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. Matthew 1:19 NLT

“Have you seen him?” I questioned my mother.

Her face scrunched up, hinting at her fatigue. Sweat glistened on her forehead, but she stopped, took a deep breath saying, “Who?” I knew she was trying to be patient.

“Joseph! Joseph is missing again!”

She sighed deeper. She knew my little brothers loved this hide-n-seek game, but she was busy.

I wanted our Nativity Set to be complete. Joseph was family. He needed to be found. Yes, Mary and Jesus were important…okay, maybe the most important, but I wanted a dad on the scene.

“Phil? Kenny? Did you boys hide Joseph?”

I stomped into the living room and plopped right on our sofa. As I squished into the cushions, something sharp jabbed me. YES! I’d found Joseph again! The daddy was back! I even told Joseph he was going home.

After all those years I always point out Joseph to our visitors.

If we scour the Word of God, we see that Joseph, the father of Jesus, was not relegated to a back seat, nor was he missing. He was engaged to a girl name Mary. I could imagine her eyes twinkling when she came into his presence. She was quite young and still at the age for giggling. Joseph, being a man of good character and very respected, strolled around with his shoulders squared saying “Yes that Mary is mine. She’s a fine and pure one. We will come together and have children to love.”

Soon, the news of her untimely pregnancy comes to public light.

Joseph looks into his beloved’s eyes, as he thinks of how to spare her the shame. He thinks divorcing her–breaking their engagement quietly–will be best. Yes he is sure of it, as he hugs her to return home. He tries not to remember the quaking of her body.

He, being a follower of the Law knew it would have been acceptable to handle it so.

During that night, Joseph bolts up in bed. Sweating from every pore, he wills his heart to slow down. An angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him that the child Mary conceived is from the Holy Spirit; a son, God’s son, Jesus, who will save God’s people from their sins.

When Joseph awoke, the Bible said, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him to do.

He obeyed, when he could have left.

He stayed when he could have run, saying “Not mine!”

He laid down his “rights” and in humility said yes to God

Yes…He is a key player in Emmanuel’s saga.

He is an example of obedience and faith without 100% understanding and without all the answers.

Father God, I am so happy that You have placed ordinary folks, like Joseph, in the Bible. When we look his story, we realize that he was given a message with direction with no magic wand to help. He did what he needed to do, and chose to obey You, to stay with Mary and fulfill his role in Your story. We too, will find ourselves at our own crossroads time and again. As You gave Joseph the strength, help us to obey You too. By our example, may others be wooed into the Kingdom of Light.

 

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Godportunities

by Rob Dunne

travelling-and-flying-when-pregnant-454He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. I John 4:8

Stale recycled air filled her twenty year old lungs. Soaring through the air at five hundred miles-per-hour added to the weight of her third trimester pregnancy. The seatbelt sat uselessly on the cushioned seat bearing only the secondary benefit as a flotation device. Trips to the bathroom were a regular occurrence as the growing infant rested once again on her swollen bladder.

All of the inconveniences of travel would not prevent my then pregnant mother from getting to Thailand to visit my father serving in Viet Nam. Every difficulty endured was well worth the love of his embrace.

Mary made an even more difficult journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem. Rather than recycled air, her lungs tasted the dust of the Palestinian roads. Her seat was likely the firm back of a donkey and her frequent bathroom breaks occurred behind cramped bramble-filled bushes. Certainly not a journey for the fainthearted.

Upon their arrival, the innkeeper told Mary and Joseph that there was no room for them in the inn. Their only option was a stable holding the animals. Jesus’ newborn head did not rest in a cradle from Pottery Barn but in the manger used to feed barn animals.

The innkeeper clearly lacked a sense of compassion. I am certain Joseph said his wife was about to give birth. While there may have been no rooms for rent, he could have offered his own room to the young couple. Yet the innkeeper sent them out back to the barn. What on earth was he thinking?

The innkeeper missed out big time. He blew an opportunity to show love and compassion to a couple in need. Most importantly, God gave him the chance to be one of the first people to see the Messiah. Following the birth, he surely questioned why shepherds were visiting the young family. Certainly, the wise men from the east must have raised his eyebrow. Perhaps the bright star hovering over the stable gave him a clue that there was something special about this family.

As we begin the New Year, we need to watch for Godportunities. Almost daily, we are given the chance to show someone compassion. Hurting people respond when others love them. Don’t be like the compassionless innkeeper. Keep your eyes open for Godportunities. Who knows, God may have something amazing in store for you!

*To learn more about Rob Dunne, please visit our Contributors page.

Distractions and Eternal Christmases

by Wendy

Image from heartwhispers.com

Image from heartwhispers.com

by Wendy Coy

Our creative God surprised me that night.

The intoxicating Christmas opportunities drowned out His soft reminders. Parties, people, delights, sweets, baking, making and wrapping filled my days.

All was not well, however. Paradoxically, in the middle of the brightest, most delight-filled season in recent memory, my heaping guilt mushroomed into a dark cloud of separation.  “Surely,” I thought, “surely when I concentrate too much on holiday distractions, God is disappointed.  Yes, He is watching and disapproving my diversions, waiting for me to get this season right!”

To be sure, I celebrated His birth, and celebrated it well, but I felt distant and disparaged. I heard and believed the nagging alienating voices, and the chasm between me and the Holy One grew larger.

Weeks passed, and too many deadlines loomed. Urgent took over important as my internal panic button screamed relentlessly.  Figuring Jesus didn’t care (since I’d gotten myself in this muddle), I considered fighting through the obligations on my own, but my  angst protested too loudly to ignore.  “I can’t do this, God,” I screamed, too frustrated to cry.

And then it happened.  Snow cancelled one event; another plan fell through;  several deadlines postponed.  Finally, able to stop, my anxiety subsided, and that’s when I saw Him, standing right there in the doorway of my imagination, smiling at  the ornaments just barely completed by Epiphany.

Wait!  He was smiling at my distractions??  He nodded, and I knew.  He cared.  He fully intended to walk through that doorway, straight into the middle of my preoccupations.  He wanted to pull up a chair, sit down, and work on my distractions WITH me.

I didn’t expect Him to be right there in all my distracted places –the sunroom of card-making; the dining room of cookie-baking;  the living room of handmade gifts (overflowing with unmet deadlines). But He was there, and He stayed, silently clearing my schedule, erasing dates from the calendar to give me more time.

This is not a Jesus of the Heavenly Encounters. This is a Jesus who comes into my world and changes it.  He is not my spiritual critical parent.  Instead, He chooses to woo me with His help, His care, His attention to the things that matter most to me.

Shoulds disappear, and He covers me with His peace.

Listen, my heart.  This Jesus doesn’t settle for just one celebration of His Incarnation;  This is a Jesus of eternal Christmases.  He comes into our world minute by minute, not just calling me to His purposes, but joining me in mine, until we move together to a Bigger Plan.

I look up at Jesus, still unsure, expecting Him to chastise the Martha in me, calling me to “choose the better part” and be like Mary.  Instead, He picks up a dishtowel and walks over to the sink.

Now what, God?

by Dawn Aldrich

livingsacrificeMary awakens. Her newborn, wrapped in rags and lying in a crude straw filled bed, beckons her. Tired from traveling and birthing she had little time to ponder the night’s events—the angelic fanfare and surprise visits from burly shepherds. Busy with all the mundane tasks like feedings and swaddling changes, Mary might have thought, “Now what, God?”

Not the life you’d imagine for the mother of God’s son, but just as she was chosen for her faithfulness and servant heart, Mary remained loyal to God’s teaching, even in the midst of the everyday. After eight days, she and Joseph, “took [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to offer him to God as commanded in God’s Law: ‘Every male who opens the womb shall be a holy offering to God,’ and also to sacrifice the ‘pair of doves or two young pigeons’ prescribed in God’s Law,” (Luke 2: 22-24 The Message). 

This imagery of Mary’s obedience, offering and sacrifice sets and example for our own lives as we ponder all God may have prophesied over our lives. 

Each January 1st we awaken to a new birth of sorts that holds endless possibilities, but soon enough, we get stuck in all the striving and the failures that we lose sight of what God’s trying to accomplish. We might even catch ourselves asking, “Now what, God?”

And just before we forsake our calling and crawl back under the covers, a clear voice rings true and beckons us, “Rise!” It says. “Arise, shine for your light has come…” (Is. 60:1). Ah, yes. Emanuel has come and despite our failures, He says, “I am making all things new,” (Rev. 21:5).

If only we’d grasp his hand and rise. He’s called us into a daily, moment-by-moment grace journey where every day we rise anew. We never rise that Jesus doesn’t offer to clothe us in his right-ness. All he asks is that we present an offering to God—ourselves and everything we do—daily.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him” (Romans 12:1 The Message).

In our serving up eggs and bacon, the laundering, our mothering or fathering, our writing or speaking, engineering or oil changing—in the most mundane of everyday life—God asks us to offer up everything to Him. Serve one another as though we were serving Him, because when our life becomes a living sacrifice? It becomes the BEST thing we can offer Him.

And when we offer God our all? He transforms us—renews our minds and changes us from the inside out until we’re grace-filled and able to discern his voice and follow His lead.

“… fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it…” Romans 12:2a The Message.

Ever wonder, “Now what, God?” Do like Mary did and make your life an offering, a living sacrifice.

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