Christmas 2016

I wrote the following as a submission for a published devotional.  My submission wasn’t chosen, but maybe it will bless someone — Christmas, 2016.

It touches every one of us.  It blares across the headlines in the news and plays out across our country and world.  It also comes to every one of us personally.  It may come as sickness.  Or betrayal.  It may come as sadness.  Loneliness.  Pain.  Death.  This. The darkness of sin’s consequences.

And it doesn’t just touch our lives through the pain and destruction wrought by others upon us.  If we are honest we must admit that this sin lives in me and you.  That we create darkness through the consequences of our sins.

“The way of the wicked is like deep darkness.”  (Prov. 4:19.)  “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to Him but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  (Romans 1:21).  “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.”  (Romans 7:14).  “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”  (John 8:34).

Yet, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”  (Isaiah 9:2).  This is what we celebrate today.  A great light.

“In the beginning … God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Gen.1:1).  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”  (John 1:1, 4-5).  “Jesus spoke again … he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”  (John 8:12.)

We celebrate today that the light of life came as a tiny baby.  To our weary, dark land.  We celebrate because the light of life has invited us to follow Him – because He has offered to quench the darkness within our souls with His light.

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6).  And so, “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  (1 Peter 2: 9).  “You are the light of the world…Let your light shine so that all men may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  (Matt. 5:14, 16).

And so, friends, let it be light!  In my life.  In yours.  Here on earth.  Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Expectations and Disappointment

 My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.  (Jeremiah 2:13).  Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant.  It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.”  This is what the Sovereign LORD the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”  (Isaiah 30:12-15).  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.  (2 Chronicles 20:12).  
If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water … Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.  (John 4:10, 12).  “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. – So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (2 Cor. 4:6-7, 18).  “[O]ne thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 3:13-14).  

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.  (Mark 14:3).  But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. (Phil. 2:17).

What is it you seek to fill your cistern with?  What kinds of things do you tell yourself, “if I could: win this game, achieve that goal, have this relationship, fix this problem, have enough “followers,” influence the right people…?  Friends, even where our “goals” are beautiful, good things, if we seek to fill our cisterns with them, we will be disappointed. Have you sought to satisfy yourself with God’s blessings and gifts rather than God Himself?  Come to the Well.  Be filled.  Be poured out.  In sacrifice, let Him flow through you.


I had the misfortune of listening to much of the second presidential debate on Sunday.  Although Kagan keeps abreast of current affairs, I diligently avoid them.  I was sickened, distraught and angry. Then, worried.  (I literally had visions of myself and our family trying to find food, shelter and warmth in the middle of winter in a post nuclear blast landscape.  My babies!  I’m not equipped to take care of my babies in a post-apocalyptic world!).

In short, I became burdened by the state of affairs of our country.  Not only by the national spectacle that is the race for President, but also by the moral degradation that has gotten us here.  In talking with a friend, I realized what I’d been doing.  I’d been taking the burden of national affairs upon my shoulders.  So, I surrendered it back to God.  I realize how silly that sounds.  I, Becky, have no responsibility for the behavior of the presidential hopefuls.  I have no control over who wins or loses (yes, I will vote, but really, out here with our meager college electoral votes, we don’t count).  But, I was taking responsibility for it.  Ownership of it. 
Over the last few days, the Holy Spirit has been reminding me of how worry is really a symptom of pride in my life.  Arrogance that I can change something by worrying.  Too, He reminds me, worry is lack of faith.  Lack of trust in God.  
He has been reminding me to do what I can and have faith that He will take care of the rest.  And He is good.  So, friend, I offer these beautiful verses as a reminder of who has called you and the living hope that He gives despite the situation you may be facing.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  (Matt. 11:28-30).  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing,s why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the filed, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!  (Luke 12:25, 28).  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  (2 Cor. 10:5).  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – (1 Peter 1:3-4) – Therefore, prepare your minds for action: be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  (1 Peter 1:13) For you know that is was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.  Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.  (1 Peter 1:18-21).  And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to His purpose.  (Romans 8:28).   

His Grace

But he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect through weakness.  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  1 Corinthians 12:9-10.
 ‘Not by might nor by powerbut by my Spirit,‘ Zechariah 4:6

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”  Ephesians 6:10

I was not, nor will I ever be, ready to be a parent.  Whenever I feel as though I am starting to get the hang of it, my heart and mouth spew out impatient anger or ignore that little foolishness and defiance one time too many and I fail myself, my kids — and the Lord.  

I’ve been particularly concerned about my oldest these days.  She’s shifted out of her preschool years and into her young childhood imperceptibly this last year or so.  I am so proud of her, but I see within her a reflection of myself sometimes … My self-righteousness.  Inclination to judge others while completely ignoring my own wrongdoing.  Vanity.  Exclusion of others.  The world is this child’s to conquer and she has all the right stuff to do it — but I desperately don’t want her to conquer and achieve in the world’s economy while utterly failing to understand, appreciate and welcome her place in God’s economy.

So, as we approached registration for kindergarten, I panicked.  What had I been doing this entire 5 years she has been with me nearly every minute of her life?  Had I trained her to make wise decisions choosing her friends?  Had I impressed upon her that the heart of her actions is what really counts, not merely the level of outward obedience?  Is she kind and loving?  

I thought that, perhaps, the best thing to do would be to keep her home for another year.  Or, at least only send her to half-day kindergarten — so that I could have more control over her circumstances than full-day kindergarten.  Particularly in light of the fact that our smallest baby boy is due in August.  How could I possibly keep track of what was going on with Jubilee in school in a sleep-deprived zombie state?

I still haven’t — Kagan and I still haven’t — decided which schooling option is the best for her.  But I see now, how some of my concerns were utterly foolish.  I cannot know everything that is going on in my child’s heart.  I cannot shield her from making wrong decisions — I cannot even shield myself from that!  God can use my weakness.  Me being weak is what He needs to do His best work in me, because then I am out of the way and He can truly be my power and strength.  That I am so arrogant to feel that my best mothering is done in times I feel good and am making wise decisions shows how little I tend to trust Him day to day.

What if my best mothering occurs by God’s grace?  Sampson was the strongest man on earth — but it wasn’t ever because of anything He did — it was because God caused his strength to grow as his hair grew!  What if my best moments as a mom are those which occur by ‘dumb luck’ (aka, God’s engineering and nothing of my own).  

I think this might just be so; so, give me Jesus.

An Old Tent

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed, but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

Before I had kids, I had no idea how many aches and pains my body could sustain and still function. I thought I knew how it feels to have my body just kindof, crap out on me before I had kids. Well, now having kids, and lacking the sleep I need to properly function, I have a much better idea of what being burdened in the flesh is.

And, boy. Do I now know groaning because of this body. After all, we recently had the stomach flu. And there might not be anything quite like having the stomach flu in the middle of the night while simultaneously trying to take care of your nursing baby.

This earthly tent is full of decay, even though I’m not “old” by any stretch of the imagination.

So, it’s good to remember, at times like these, when pain is causing me to groan, that there will be a time when the mortal will be swallowed up by life. God’s promised that to believers. And, sometimes, during a worship service or prayer or even some hard-core Bible studying, the Deposit guaranteeing what is to come has given me a taste of the eternal.

What a paradox we Christians are here on this earth. And God who made us like this on purpose. So, I will leave this rambling post with the following encouragement, if you find yourself currently groaning to be clothed with the heavenly dwelling: do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18


Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

This passage just blows me away. 2 Corinthians was written by the apostle Paul. Paul, who was given the forty lashes minus one 5 times, (2 Corinithians 11:24-25) beaten with rods three times, (2 Corinithians 11:24-25) imprisoned on multiple occasions (Acts 16:16-38, etc.) stoned and left for dead (Acts 14:19-20)and eventually murdered for his faith in Jesus.

Paul, who went from being a wealthy zealous Jewish leader to an impoverished Christian missionary without a salary or pension. Paul suffered all of these things and yet calls his poverty, severe beatings, multiple unfair imprisonments and hard work “light and momentary troubles.”

So often in my life, I experience one or two things a day that don’t go my way: I am awakened in the night by a crying baby who won’t go back to sleep; I have to wait a week to purchase a certain item for myself because we are living “paycheck to paycheck”; we lose a motion at work …. and these troubles seem exceedingly important, weighty and permanent.

Yet, compared to the troubles Paul faced, my troubles shouldn’t even be defined as troubles. They are annoyances, not troubles.

But, instead of getting down on myself for getting wrapped around the axle about these things, I wonder what it was, how it was that Paul would define his troubles as “light and momentary” because, certainly from the time he was converted to the time he was eventually martyred he experienced issues like I chronicle above.

So, what was it? How can he, almost casually call his troubles light and momentary? His focus. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

This is so much of the time my problem. I get focused on me. Now. What I want. How I think things should go. Today. I get wrapped around the axle about goals I’ve set for things on this earth in this life and I can’t handle someone, something, or just “life” getting in the way of my program.

I am so selfish that I get blown away by a couple of adjectives Paul uses to describe the hardships he faces in this life. I think these verses are pretty clear that I need to get my focus off myself and on Jesus. His plan for this or that. Eternity. What these things are going to matter in the real long run.

So, the here and now, the working to “get ahead,” have a little something for myself? That’s temporary. The giving a little of my time, money, and energy to God? That’s eternal. God will take care of the rest. (Matthew 6:26-34).

But, can I be honest? I have a really really hard time with this concept. More often than not, I choose me, here and now over the eternal. Obviously. That’s why Paul’s description of his hardships blows me away.

So … not that you have to air your own foibles here … but, maybe this verse is challenging you to think about whether you need to change your focus, too. How would you describe your “troubles”? Light and momentary or weighty and long-lasting? Is your description of your troubles an accurate one?

There is Freedom

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:12-15

There’s this old Darrell Evans song that just sings this verse, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!” Then it says, “there is peace, joy … where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!”

I’m going to sound un-patriotic here, but until recently, I think my idea of freedom was this self-serving idea of “do whatever I want to do” instilled in me by my American heritage. You know, I grew up knowing that I have my “rights” . You know, my “rights” from the Declaration of Independence to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness….among other things that are complicated by hundreds of years of Supreme Court decisions that nobody really understands …


While the founders of this country had some lofty ideas – and it’s probably good, in a government setting, to set forth ideals that will allow a person to live and do basically what they want – this mind set is completely wrong for people personally. Or, at least, it’s wrong for Christians to have the idea they have these “rights,” personally.

Freedom, in God’s economy, is not the right to pursue what makes you happy. It’s freedom from the bondage of sin. Freedom to know our Savior and pursue the road He has set before us. And that road, many times, is ceding my wishes and needs and rights to serve other people.

People who drive me crazy. People I can’t stand. People who are just plain wrong. Even when I’m really tired and cranky and broke.

This passage in 2 Corinthians really points out how different God’s economy is. The Spirit of the Lord is freedom, which we experience when we finally understand the message of Christ. We experience this freedom when Christ unveils our minds and when this happens, God starts transforming us to become more like Jesus and our faces, our lives reflect Christ who selflessly laid down his life for human beings who hated him. God’s freedom leads, not to more ability to pursue my own goals, but the ability to lay down my wishes, wants and desires to serve others and find joy, peace and fulfillment in that service. Because it is serving God.

Freedom doesn’t champion my rights, but others’ needs.