How graciously God deals with me. He is not a God that superimposes himself in my life, but he is present to the extent I invite him to be.
From my childhood, I remember a picture of Christ standing at the door knocking. It hung on a wall in my grandmother’s home, and curiously enough, there was no door handle visible as Christ knocked. Recently, I heard someone say that the handle to the door of your heart is on the inside. Christ did not come into my heart except by invitation when I opened the door from the inside. Today, he resides in my heart as Savior, but he moves through the rooms of my life only to the extent I allow him the freedom to stir, renovate and change me. He is such a gracious resident who waits patiently for me to give him free reign.
Most recently he was gracious to give me a good report from the CT scan I had earlier this month. I was not expecting good news regarding the cancerous tumors in my lungs. Living with a terminal illness like cancer forces you to take nothing for granted and to know that the worst is always a possibility. Yet the report came back saying that since July 2012 the tumors had grown “only slightly!” The oncologist wants to see me again in six months, but he said there would not be another CT scan until this time next year! That will be the longest period I have ever gone between scans.
God’s graciousness continues in the way he uses that still small voice to keep me on track with even the most mundane things in my life. You may find this amusing, but it is part of how I recognize God in every aspect of my life. I juice fresh vegetables as part of my health regime. To be sure, it is a messy project, so I juice a lot at one time and freeze it for future use. That still small voice reminds me when it is time to take more jars out of the freezer so they will be thawed when needed. Juicing is something I felt God wanted me to do, so he helps me be faithful to it. No, God is not my errand boy or my secretary. To me this speaks to the depth of his interest in every aspect of my life and how closely we are aligned and commune.
That still small voice in gracious tenderness smites me when I fail. God does not run roughshod over me in my failures. He deals with me gently and, if need be, firmly but always in love. He never leaves nor forsakes. There are things other people seem to get away with that God won’t let me off the hook about. I am not envious. I am constrained by a loving and gracious God who desires only his best for me. Over time, this resident has become the Lord and King of my life because I have surrendered to his gracious tenderness and allowed him free reign in all the rooms of my heart and life.
The Lord be praised for his gracious goodness!
I was well on my way to a “Bah! Humbug!” Christmas season. It started in July. For some reason, July marks the beginning of my thoughts of Christmas for I know that soon Christmas will begin showing up in department stores long before the last rose of summer has faded. July is also the tipping point towards the end of another year. The negative feelings within me continued to escalate; and when the Christmas ads began in earnest on TV in November, I was completely disheartened by all the secularism and merchants pushing to make their annual sales quotas. This year the total lack of any reference to “the reason for the season” was pervasive and I was very disheartened. As far as I was concerned, Christmas with all the hype could be cancelled and I would not miss it at all!
In my humanity, I thought if I were God, how would I want my son’s birthday commemorated? Certainly the birth of Him Who is my Savior is worthy of celebration but what is a fitting commemoration? I am not sure I have a clear answer to that question even yet.
It seems to me that so many of the traditions of Christmas that were well-intentioned initially have now become distractions. Take the giving of gifts for instance. Because the wise men brought gifts to Jesus, we now give gifts to one another. Many a sermon has been preached on the significance of the gold, frankincense and myrrh. These were wonderful gifts to a babe born into difficult circumstances. At the time of his birth, he had no home, no clothes – nothing but a manger bed. Today we are cursed with abundance and that makes gift giving difficult. The time we spend at shopping malls or on the internet searching for that perfect gift draws our hearts away from our Christ who was (is) the perfect gift.
Things began to turn in my heart when I attended my church’s annual Christmas concert, an event geared to the community. This year the program was very simple but powerful in its message to me. The beautiful music warmed my heart; the powerful reading of appropriate Scriptures rekindled hope; and the artful delivery of the shepherd’s story brought to life a touching perspective. My heart was turned to Christ, and now I could truly enjoy this season.
There was conviction of sin in this process as well. I had to confess that I had allowed the world to dictate my thoughts and attitudes and to influence my enjoyment of the season. God graciously and tenderly plowed my heart and helped me refocus on what a wonderful gift was given to me when Christ was born. So, with great joy and rejoicing I send greetings to each of my readers and pray God will set in your heart a refocus on Christ and why he had to come into this sin-cursed world. “What shall I give him? Give him my heart.”
Merry Christmas! The Lord be praised!