Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What Kind of Book are you Writing for your Life in 2014?

When I got on Facebook this morning, I saw this picture that a friend had shared. I started thinking about it.

Kyla Bateman Arsenault's photo.

Seeing as today is New Year's Eve - the last day of 2013. Tomorrow is a new year. And for many of us we see it as an opportunity to start a fresh. That turning of the calendar page to a new year often signals a new start in our lives.

The challenge of this picture to write a good one when we start the new book of our lives for the new year . . . it sort of seems impossible to choose to do that - to choose to write a good one. Yet, it's also what I and most other people I talk to want for the new year.

 The challenge is that we don't have complete control over everything that happens to us. We will have good and hard things that happen to us and to the people we love in our lives that we can't control. So, does that mean it's impossible to write the book of our lives for 2014 a good one?

But, even though we can't control events that happen, we can still choose how we respond to those events. Whether things are good or hard that happen, we can make the choice of our response to them. That's where we have the control to write a good one when it comes to our book for 2014.

So, what kind of book are you going to write for the year 2014 in your life? What choice will you make in how you respond to the things that happen that are out of your control?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why do I Write?

Why do you write?

That's a question I was challenged with a few weeks ago. Someone from a writer's group I'm a part of posed this question to us and challenged us to write a post on it. (Here's a link to the post that started this conversation.)

It's a question I hadn't thought about before, but it was not one that left my thoughts easily. As someone who calls themselves a writer, it's probably a question I should have the answer to. No, I'm not a traditionally published author, but I write . . . and I write a lot.

So, why do I write?

I write because it's how I make sense of the world around me.

I write because it's how I make sense of things that are happening in my life.

I write because it's how I remember all the things that happen in life that I don't want to forget.

I write because it's how I notice all the little things in life.

I write because it's how I remember all the little things that happen in life that I don't want to forget.

I write because it's how I notice all the little things in life.

But, most of all, I write because it's something I can't not to. Even when I'm not posting things here, I'm still writing. For me, there's nothing like sitting in a coffee shop or a park with a pen and notebook and writing whatever comes. (Yes, I'm one of those people who still writes everything with a pen and paper first.)

Writing excites me. It energizes me.

And it frustrates me . . . often.

But, even when it's hard, I can't stop, because I truly believe it is something God gave me to do. It definitely isn't something this "numbers are fun" person who hated English class in school ever thought they would be doing.

Writing is a gift from God for me that I can't imagine my life without anymore.

That's why I write. My answer to the question posed in my writer's group.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Branches bend low
With the weight of the snow
A blanket of white
Reflecting the light
Of sun brightly shining
Each step I take crunching
On fresh fallen snow
The world seems to glow
Light all around me
Beauty is all I see
Quietly waiting
Silence not breaking
The branch soon lets go
A fresh shower of snow
Branches so green
Are now what is seen

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Baby Changes Everything

I've always wondered about some things when it comes to the visit of the Magi from the east (Matthew 2:1-12). Jesus was prophesied as the Messiah for the people of Israel. They were God's people and the one holding our hope for a Messiah.

Yet, the Magi from the east had studied the prophecy themselves and were waiting for it to be fulfilled. And they knew it was important enough for them to make the journey to see Jesus after His birth.

To me, this seems almost to be a glimpse into Jesus' mission to welcome everyone as God's people - the requirement being the heart, not being born to the right parents.

From His birth, Jesus was removing old lines that divided people. Among the first to worship Him were shepherds, outcasts within the Jewish people, and Magi from the east, those outside the Jewish people completely.

Jesus came for each and every one of us. He welcomes everyone. A little baby that changed the whole world. Like the Christmas song says, "A baby changes everything."

Jesus was the baby that changed everything.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A New Look at a Familiar Story

This is probably the part of the story I'm most familiar with. It is the part I've seen in almost every Christmas production I've watched. Luke 2:1-21 - the birth of Jesus and the visit from the shepherds.

A census is decreed. Joseph had to go to his hometown to register. Joseph takes Mary with him to Bethlehem and while they are there the time comes for Jesus to be born. The inns are all full, so they end up in a stable and that's where Jesus is born.
Angels visit shepherds and tell them of the birth. The shepherds hurry to visit and then told everyone else on the way as they were leaving.
(If you want the full story, click here.)

I wonder if you're like me and you sometimes miss the beauty and the wonder of stories like this, because of the familiarity of the story. I stop paying attention to the details because I think I know what's coming next.

As I was reading this passage and spending time on it, I didn't have any new discoveries. Nothing jumped out at me as significant. I was actually left with a lot of questions to think about.

For those of you who prefer a post that wraps up with some kind of conclusion, this is your warning that this post won't that. I'm going to share the questions I've been thinking about in regards to this passage.

As you read through the questions, I encourage you to take a fresh look at this familiar story. Think afresh about this account. Let the significance wash over you again.

"He went there with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child." (vs. 5)

What was the relationship like between Mary and Joseph at this point?
How did Mary feel about taking a journey like this at this point in her pregnancy?
How did Joseph feel about his journey having to happen now?

"She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them." (vs. 7)

What was the reaction of Joseph and Mary when they could only find a stable to stay in?
Were they relieved? Frustrated? Worried?

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over the flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified." (vs. 8-9)

Why did God choose to send His angels to shepherds?

"Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
     'Glory to God in the highest heaven,
          and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests'." (vs. 13-14)

Why did God choose to make such a production out of telling shepherds this message?
What did the angels look like when they all appeared?
Was there music? Dancing? Loud voices declaring the words?
Is it something that can even be properly described?

"When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord told us about.' So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby . . ." (vs. 15-16)

Were the shepherds pondering why they had been chosen?
Was their response one of disbelief? Excitement? Confusion?

"When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." (vs. 17-18)

What did the amazement of the people who heard what the shepherds were saying look like?
Did anybody have to go right away to see it for themselves when they heard it?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

God's Word Never Fails

In my last post on the angel's message for Mary and her response to it, I skipped one verse in the angel's message. I didn't want to ignore it. It struck me when I read it and I wanted to spend more time on it.

"For no word from God will ever fail." (Luke 1:37)

In this one simple sentence, the angel spoke of one of the greatest truths about God. If God says He will do something, we can be sure that it will happen. It may not happen according to the timeline we wish it would, but it will happen in God's time.

Even the birth of the Messiah was an example of this. Old Testament prophets spoke of the Messiah to come. The law of the Old Testament that they were still living by pointed to the Messiah. But that didn't mean the Messiah came when the people of Israel may have wished He would come. They had been waiting for a long time and I'm sure many of them would have given up hope or found it very difficult to hold on to hope. But the message of the angel to Mary was proof of the truth of what He said in Luke 1:37.

No word from God will ever fail.

I think this verse jumped off the page at me because it's something I needed to be reminded of right now. It's a reminder I've needed often in my life and I would guess the same is true for most who call themselves followers of Christ.

When life is hard or things aren't going the way we had hoped they would, it can be easy to stop believing God will do what He has said He would do. We begin to doubt that what God's Word says to us is true, because we forget that God doesn't promise this life will be easy or happen exactly as we wish it would. He promises that He will be with us through it all. And that is true even when life isn't going what we would deem to be well.

I don't know what is going on in your life this holiday season, but whatever is, I hope you are able to take encouragement from Luke 1:37 and the incredible promise it contains. For no word from God will ever fail. In the midst of whatever life has brought, we can rest in the promise that God will never leave us to get through it on our own. That's exactly what we're celebrating this time of year - that God came near to us.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trusting God's Plan

What would it have been like to be Mary and have a visit from an angel? Especially an angel with the message Mary heard?

The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you."
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of a greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; His kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:28-33)

The angel appeared to Mary with the message after God had been silent for 400 years. There had been no prophets speaking God/s message to Israel. God had been silent. They had heard nothing.

And then an angel shows up with a message for Mary. A message that would have been difficult to believe.

Mary questions the angel about how.

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:34-35)

So, not only was God speaking after 400 years of silence, the message was also that a miracle would occur. I don't know about you, but if I had been in Mary's shoes, I would have been wondering if this was all real at this point. I would have had a hard time believing God would choose to break His silence by speaking to me.

I love Mary's response to the message the angel brought:

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled." (Luke 1:38)

Whatever questions or doubts she may have had, Mary chose to trust God. She chose to move forward with the message from the angel and trust God with whatever happened.

I wonder how I would have responded. Would I have chosen to trust God as Mary did? Or would I have allowed my doubts and fears to cause me to try to run from what I was being told?

What do I do today when God asks me to do something? Do I respond as God's servant? Or do I run the other way?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

God's Interruption for Joseph

I appreciate the writers of each of the gospels has a different way of looking at the events that happened when Jesus was born. They each emphasize different things, but all of the share things that are a part of the story.

Matthew chooses to focus on Joseph and how he responded to the events. We don't hear much about Joseph in Scripture after Jesus' birth, but he would have raised Jesus like one of his own sons after His birth.

When I try to imagine the conversation when Mary told Joseph that she was pregnant and the child was God's, I find it difficult. I can't quite figure out how you would tell someone that.

But, it's a bit easier to imagine how Joseph would have responded. Matthew tells us what Joseph was planning to do in response: "Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly." (Matthew 1:19)

I sometimes wonder if Joseph said anything when Mary told him or what he would have said to her when she did.

Did he just sit there quietly unable to say anything?

Did he choose to stay quiet because he didn't want to say anything and hurt Mary with his response?

Did he have words of disbelief for her story?

Whatever Joseph's response when he found out, we know that his initial decision was to keep it quiet and divorce he so that she wouldn't face public disgrace.

But a visit from an angel in his dreams changed all of this. The angel confirmed what he had been told by Mary (Matthew 1:20-21). That message from the angel changed his life. Whatever he had thought before, not that he knew the truth, his life wouldn't be the same.

Over the last few months, I've been a part of a Bible study looking at the book of Jonah and how God interrupted his life with a new thing to do. Jonah had a choice in how to respond to God's interruption in his life.

In Matthew 1, we see that Joseph also had to choose how he would respond to God's interruption in his life. Would he choose to still take Mary as his wife, even when it would seem scandalous to those in Jewish culture? Or would he move forward with his plans to quietly divorce Mary?

Would Joseph step into God's interruption and be a part of God building His kingdom? Or would Joseph see it as an interruption and run from it?

We know that Joseph chose to participate in God's plan and take Mary as his wife. Joseph chose to join God in building His kingdom, even if he didn't fully understand it at the time.

We can learn from Joseph's example here about how to respond when God interrupts our plans. Joseph made the choice we should make - he chose to join God. That doesn't mean it was easy for Joseph. He would forever face disparaging opinions for doing so, but he went with God's plan anyways.

It may not be easy for us to go along with it when God interrupts our plans, but it will always be worth it.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Prince of Peace

In his prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah gives four names for the coming Messiah that describe what His ministry would be about. Each of these names is significant. They talk about Jesus' ministry while He was on earth and the way He ministers to us till today.

Prince of Peace

Jesus is the ultimate bringer of peace. Not necessarily the kid of peace we always think of and often wish for. Jesus doesn't come to remove all conflict and trials from our lives. He comes to bring us peace in the midst of those things. He came so that even when life is hard around us, we can still have the confidence that we will get through it because Jesus is our Prince of Peace.

How do we allow Jesus to be our Prince of Peace?

We take all our worries and concerns to Him. Over and over in the New Testament, the writers encourage us to take our worries and concerns to God.

"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus also talks about the foolishness of worry. And points us to God in the midst of everything.

Jesus is our Prince of Peace.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Everlasting Father

In his prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah gives four names for the coming Messiah that describe what His ministry would be about. Each of these names is significant. They talk about Jesus' ministry while He was on earth and the way He ministers to us till today.

Everlasting Father

Earthly relationships will always have issues and challenges. They will break down. And they will be far from perfect. But they are glimpses of what Jesus was coming to be as the Messiah and still is today for us.

Jesus is the One who will always be there to care for us and to protect us from destruction by our enemy. He will never fail us. The prophet Isaiah was telling us this when he spoke of  the coming Messiah.

The challenging part of seeing Jesus as everlasting Father, is that we get it mixed up with the sometimes challenging reality of our earthly relationships. Because we take our mixed up human relationships and see our relationship with God as being the same way.

But, Jesus wants to come and transform our view of God as Father. When we look at Jesus' relationship with His Father, we see an example of what our relationship with God as Father should be like. We have to allow Jesus to come in and transform our understanding of God as Father, because this descriptor of  God given by Isaiah is just as important as all the others.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mighty God

In his prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah gives four names for the coming Messiah that describe what His ministry would be about. Each of these names is significant. They talk about Jesus' ministry while He was on earth and the way He ministers to us till today.

Mighty God

Jesus performed many miracles during His time on earth. His power was undeniable, even though people tried to attribute it to other things. He was accused of doing things by the power of the devil, when that would not have made any sense. For Jesus to do what He did while He was on earth, He would have to be a mighty God.

     1. having, characterized by, or showing superior power or strength
     2. of great size
     3. great in amount, extent, degree, or importance; exceptional

If those are definitions of the word mighty, I would say they all apply when we're speaking of Jesus.

A mighty God can step in and act on our behalf for our good: Jesus came to do that for us. He was coming to as the Messiah to restore relationship with God and that meant He would step in on behalf of His people - both then and now.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wonderful Counsellor

In his prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah gives four names for the coming Messiah that describe what His ministry would be about. Each of these names is significant. They talk about Jesus' ministry while He was on earth and the way He ministers to us till today.

Wonderful Counsellor

Jesus is the best counsellor we will ever have. He will always know what to say and how to direct us. And His advice will always be the best advice we can take.

     1. excellent, great, marvelous
     2. a sort that causes wonder; amazing; astonishing

This first of that definition makes sense to us in this: Jesus is excellent at being a counsellor. But, as I think about it, I realize that the second part of the definition is also true in this: the counsel that Jesus gives may be beyond what we can grasp or be so great we do stop in amazement.

     a person who counsels; advisor

Someone can be a counsellor in the formal sense or in more of an informal manner. Sometimes a mentor, friend, or family member offers counsel in the form of helping us figure out which direction to go. Other times, it may be something more formal in getting help to deal with something going on in our lives.

Jesus does all of these things for us in a manner that no other person ever could. Jesus is our wonderful counsellor.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Coming Messiah

For to us a child is born,
     to us a son is given,
     and the government will be upon His shoulders.
And He will be called
     Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
     Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of His government and peace
     there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
     and over His kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
     with justice and righteousness
     from that time on and forever.
                                     Isaiah 9:6-7

One of the more well-known prophecies of the coming Messiah from the words of the prophet Isaiah. I've heard them often in Christmas performances and songs over the years.

In just a couple of verses, the prophet Isaiah conveys amazing truth about the Messiah. Isaiah declared that Jesus would come from the line of David and that His kingdom would never end. Both of these important.

But, in the middle of all of this, Isaiah gives the Messiah some amazing names declaring what He will be.

Wonderful Counsellor.

Mighty God.

Everlasting Father.

Prince of Peace.

In these few words, so much of what Jesus's ministry on earth was is described. And they speak of what His ministry still is in the lives of those who follow His story.

When I read prophecies like this, I often begin to wonder about what thoughts would have gone through people's minds when they first heard those words. When we read them today, we do so with the benefit of history and knowing they were being fulfilled. But, the people Isaiah spoke them to, they didn't know. And that makes me wonder how they would have responded to those words in the moment.

If they truly grasped the reality of the words they were hearing, what would they have been thinking about? Would they have been looking for the Messiah continually then? Or did they get tired of waiting and forget about the words of prophecy?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

How Many Kings

From the fall to the birth of Jesus, all of Scripture points to a coming Messiah. It points to a promised One who would restore the relationship between God and man. Even all of the Levitical Laws of the Old Testament point towards Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of them all.

And this in the time of year we celebrate that the promised Messiah did come. This is the time of year we celebrate His birth - His miraculous birth to the least likely of people for a king to come from. A birth that many at the time and many today still miss the significance of. Or if we catch the significance, we may have a difficult time keeping that our focus in the midst of everything else that happens this time of year.

As Christmas approaches this year, I've been feeling personally challenged to spend more time that I usually would digging into what Scripture shares with us regarding the birth of the Messiah.

That's where this blog will be going for the coming weeks - at least most of the time.

Right now, a favourite Christmas song of mine.