Tag Archives: Jesus

He made himself nothing

I have been reflecting on what Christ renounced to live here on earth.

 “rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In his book Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge, Dallas Willard states that we are to live as Christ would have lived our specific life.

“As Jesus’ disciple… You are learning from Jesus how to lead your life as he would lead your life if he were you. Yes, the very life you have…there isn’t a person on this earth Jesus couldn’t have been. .. he relinquished supreme power. He learned to live  in the kingdom of God as an ordinary human being…He could live in your circumstances now.” P. 54

He could have been any one of us. Instead he was a carpenter’s son, living on the wrong side of the Pax Romana. How would he have lived your life in particular? Perhaps that is part of what he gave up- the ability to live all lives, to be omnipresent and to see humanity from every perspective. Jesus was only able to live the one life here on earth, just as we are limited. We can only see with the single pair of eyes that God created for us. How would Jesus have used my blue eyes in America in the 21st century?

Our prayer might be to catch glimpses of his omniscient vision as Creator and Savior. As C. S. Lewis encourages us,

But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.

C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism

In this way, may he teach us as the all-knowing God of the universe, and may his pattern as a man speak to us of his compassion and wisdom as he also was limited in his humanity.

Advertisements

Holiness in the Humdrum

2014-winter 001

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”  I Peter 1:9a

My life is holy.

However, my days are filled with cooking oatmeal and making turkey sandwiches, sauteeing vegetables and filling the dishwasher.  Every day I either do laundry or clean a bathroom.  From early morning I am trying to review the steps to dividing fractions, or listening to a ten-year-old recount the events which created the Varangian Guard, while playing a board game with my three-year-old.

Is your life holy?

Are you frequently stuck in traffic?  Do you often reflect on how to avoid the next mandatory meeting at work?  Doesn’t it seem like there are thousands of daily annoyances?

Holy?

My life is bursting full of blessings, too many to enumerate, but so often holy is just not how I feel.  How is it possible to have holiness in the humdrum of daily living?  Perhaps God has not yet given me any real troubles in life, because I still seem to find daily living enough of a challenge.

The waves must have been high, the wind sporadic, strong, unpredictable.  He had seemed so close until Peter had stepped out of the boat and onto the crashing, rolling, unholy sea.  And yet he had walked.  Not because he had the power to do so, not because of his own significance, but because he had fixed his eyes on Jesus.  Then Peter remembered who he was, but forgot who Jesus was.  And everything seemed ordinary and horrible.

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid.”  Matthew 14:30

Peter’s eyes were fixed on Jesus.  For a little while.  I am not necessarily afraid, but I feel I spend too much time sinking when I should be staying focused on him.

Is there holiness in folding socks?  In putting mittens and boots on little ones?  In the humdrum activities of every day existence?  In paying bills?  I am thankful I do not have to concentrate against tumultuous waves and stormy seas, because, honestly, getting dinner on the table and the children in bed are enough sometimes.

“Often times we are not taken over by evil powers, but we are taken over by trivial powers.”

This is a quote  from a sermon our minister delivered back in November.  It speaks, to my dismay, at my lack of focus.  I want to be focused on Christ, so that when my three-year-old gives me a hug, I can see how holy we are.  I want to know that when my oldest asks me a question about Arabian horses I can know our conversation is a prime example of the holiness in the humdrum.  Christ has imbued our every moment with his purpose and his grace.  I must not look at my life as though I am walking through a storm.  Or a mundane path.  Instead, he is guiding me, upholding me by his grace.

My day to day life often seems trivial and insignificant.  I am distracted.  I nag.  I fix my eyes on trivialities, petty demons which I create, instead of “fixing [my] eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  Hebrews 12:2a

Conquering the trivial powers.  Fixing my eyes on Jesus.  With sincere love for one another, loving one another deeply from the heart. (I Peter 1:22).  These three boys waking up in my kitchen, wondering if they can eat the last waffle, deserve to experience some of that purpose and grace.  And let me not forget my husband.  He is holy, too.  And may I not forget you.  May my frustration in household chores and boredom with laundry never rob you of a kind word.

You are holy, as well.

Point

There are times when I gaze upon my oldest son, A, and just feel profoundly blessed. In these moments I feel both thankful and competent in parenting him. When I truly look and see him for who he is in all his astounding intelligence, quirky behavior, and compassionate, tender heart, I am humbled and proud that he belongs to this family. I am happy that God placed him here in our care. Then there are those other times. No, I am not a horrible parent, nor does my love waver. And yet there are other times, other times when I am quick to lose patience. Quick to think that Asperger’s is just an excuse today for disobedience and callousness (Did I just say that out loud?). Quick to actually tell him that I have already answered that same question four times in a row. During these times I begin to feel disatisfied and overwhelmed. How in the world will I parent today, much less through the weighty days ahead of me?! How could God find him a home here? Why has he entrusted me with so much?

Motherhood can be overwhelming.

Then, I think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a young girl. How did she get through it?

“May it be as you have said.” Luke 1:38

A is a precious soul whom God has entrusted to me and my husband to raise, nurture, and point in the right direction. Mary, however, was given the Creator. How is it even possible to train God? How is it possible to teach God to fold laundry? to breathe deeply before he gets upset? to pray?

“With God all things are possible.” Luke 1:37

Did Mary feel overwhelmed, impatient, unworthy? How did she cope when she just didn’t feel capable? When she didn’t have an education? creativity? energy?

“for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.” Luke 1:49

There are times when my grandiose plans for the day, or the year, seem to overshadow the simple fact that A, S and G need me to point them to Jesus. There are a myriad of things they need to learn before they reach eighteen, but no task is greater than pointing them to Jesus.

“[Mary] treasured all these things in her heart.Luke 2:51b

As a mother, Mary knew that in order to teach the Son, she had to spend time with the Father. As a mother, I struggle with teaching my son, because I so often fail to spend time with the loving Father. He pointed the wise men toward Bethlehem by a unique star. The shepherds ran, dazed and excited, pointing others to a lowly stable in Bethlehem. Life skills and social skills are important, but what is vital is that A know Jesus. Someone needs to point the way.

I recently sang the old Christmas carol, “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Part of the third stanza prompted me to think of Mary and Joseph as vulnerable, as vulnerable as I am.

See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise,
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.

They struggled. They were small, as small as a stable. All Mary had was her willing heart. She knew how to point.

Motherhood is overwhelming. Although I may not be as competent as A deserves, I am always able to point, to point to the One who inspired a unique star.

Holy is his name.

The Quiet Thrill of Advent

Holiday2013 039

Proudly, S has just reached the double digits.  It is unbelievable to me that a decade has already breezed by since his perfectly round, smiley face entered the world.  Now that the homey and family-oriented celebrations of Thanksgiving and S’s birthday are over, there will be another blur, and then we will be up late wrapping last minute Christmas presents.  Have you begun to feel the stress and hurriedness of the season?  In between history lessons, shopping, preparing meals, bed time stories and mopping the kitchen floor, I highly doubt there will be much time for me to find a clever Christmas craft.  Let’s face it – boys just do not care about making snowmen out of pom-poms and cotton balls.  Yet, I want them to find the holidays meaningful and memorable.  I want them to internalize the truths of a Christmas advent.  It is not just about Christmas shopping, baking and cookies; it is not just for the fun of hand crafts, but about being joyful, deeply thankful, and expectant as we imagine peering into the feeding trough of a stable in the Jewish countryside.

Christmas, in so many ways, is already for children.  There are presents.  There are cookies and cocoa.  There are parties.   And so, I hardly feel like a killjoy when I invite my children to sit down with me to open the Bible and read some prophecies.  These prophecies from the Old Testament help us to define the signficance of Advent, a patient, watchful waiting for the Promised One.  Do I believe that A, S and G are as excited about doing this with me in the evening, as say,  licking the cookie dough off the beaters?  Hardly.  Do I believe they fully grasp the profundity of Christ’s incarnation?  Of course not.  However, even G, at three years old takes his emotional cues from us, his parents.  He is excited when we are.  He is calm and happy when we are.  These are the seeds as a parent I wish to plant: Christmas is a time to be quiet and thank Jesus; Christmas is a time to share the beautiful stories with those you love.

Holiday2013 040

The following are some of the beautiful stories we will be sharing in the evenings.  I have listed the  prophecies of Christ which deal specifically with his birth and identity.   We will be choosing one per evening.  I have no visual aid, but if you have a crafty idea for how to make this more visually appealing for little ones, by all means let me know!  I am just choosing not to stress over this, but to allow God’s Word to work on little hearts at this time of year.

ADVENT READINGS WITH CHILDREN

Genesis 3:15 – Man has done bad things, but God always had a special plan.  Jesus is the answer to our problem.  He came so we can be friends with God.

Genesis 22:17-18– God even reminds Abraham of the promise.  Everyone will be blessed because of Jesus.

Isaiah 7:14– Jesus will born to a girl not yet married.  Jesus will be human, but completely from God!  His name will mean “God with us.”

Isaiah 9:6-7– Jesus will be our peace.  He will last forever; He is God.

Jeremiah 23:5– Jesus will be from David’s family.

Psalm 2:7– Jesus is God’s Son.

Psalm 132:11– Jesus will be a king on David’s throne forever.

Micah 5:2 Jesus will be born in the small town of Bethlehem, the town of David, but will also be God.

Jeremiah 31:15– Jesus will be protected by God, even though the King will try to destroy him.

Hosea 11:1– Jesus will spend time in Egypt under God’s protection, and be called out of Egypt as someone very special.  This verse has so many fulfillments.  It may be interesting to discuss with older children how Hosea could be talking about Israel and Jesus simultaneously.

Zechariah 6:12-13 – Jesus is the “Branch,” a word sounding like Nazareth or the town where Jesus grew up.  He is both our priest and king combined.

Luke 1:26-2:20– Many of the prophecies above are already seen fulfilled.  THIS is why we celebrate Christmas.  Our LORD has come.  The angels rejoice, and so do we.

Christmas Eve and morning will be filled with tearing into packages, squeals of excitement, and Lego boxes littering the floor, but I hope over the years my boys will also remember the quiet thrill of waiting for Jesus’ coming.  An advent not just for uncovering the chocolate behind the flap on the calendar,but  instead an invitation for watchfulness through the centuries, for celebrating a Jewish baby for the world.

Holiday2013 041

SEAMLESS

Recently some friends and I were discussing how history is naturally written from different perspectives, with different agendas or intentions, if you will.  We also discussed how this is not always a purely negative thing, but merely part of the purpose of historiography.  This concept is conveyed even in Scripture.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all addressed their gospels to a slightly different audience, stressing different aspects of Jesus’ words and ministry.

As our church family has been reading through the Bible this year, we are also nearing the end of Scripture.  Reading Christ’s death last night I noticed something new, or perhaps something I had not thought about in awhile.  Fabric – two distinct fabrics- appeared simultaneously as a powerful symbol in Christ’s death scene.

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.  The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15: 37-39

Two histories of the same historical event.  Two fabrics.  Two different fabrics.

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining.  This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another.  “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” John 19:23-24

Mark describes a Jewish curtain ordered and designed by God Himself.  John focuses on a garment given to a Jew by the Romans.

Each historian creates significance from a textile.  One is negative, the other positive.  One says, “No more!”  The other cries out, “Forever!”

Mark says the temple and the priests are no longer needed.  They are imperfect. They are obsolete.  The temple curtain is ripped from top to bottom.

PILGRIMS TOUCH CASING CONTAINING ROBE REPORTEDLY WORN BY CHRIST ON DISPLAY AT CATHEDRAL IN GERMANY--Pilgrims touched a casing containing the "'Holy Robe" in the cathedral in Trier, Germany, April 15. The ancient town of Trier marks the 500th anniversary of the first public appearance of the Seamless Robe of Jesus, reportedly worn during, or shortly before his crucifixion. Some 500,000 pilgrims are expected to visit the relic through May 13. (CNS photo/Wolfgang Rattay, Reuters)

John says only He is necessary.  He is perfect.  Even his simple garment makes a statement; it is woven from top to bottom.  It is eternally intact.  His plan was seamlessly finished.

Jealous of Thoreau

I am jealous of Henry David Thoreau.  Yes, I do know he is deceased, but I cannot help it.  I am still jealous.

001

After reading several chapters of My Side of the Mountain, a story of a New York boy who decides to live out on his own in the Catskills, A is doing some preliminary reading on Thoreau.  As he  is starting to do some research for his eventual essay, I began to re-read bits of Walden, various quotes from other sources and came upon this –

I think I cannot preserve my health  and spirits unless I spend four hours a day…sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”

 DSCF2290_1672

Exactly!  If I could just spend half my waking hours away from all people, I would be replenished and peaceful.  I could handle the rest of the day.  This is fairly close to how I spent some of my time in my 20s.  It was glorious.  I was a Thoreau in a city park.  Now, I am a mom of three boys with scarcely a moment to myself.  Mr. Thoreau, my spirits are failing, but a hibernation to Walden Pond  seems impossible.  Four hours a day?  Four consecutive minutes seems a stretch.

 DSCF2254_1643

Given the opportunity I would not change my life, but am I the only one who complains about what I do have?  The children are needy.  Life, at times, seems tedious, and I can be easily preoccupied.  My schedule is crowded.  The house constantly needs attention.  Mr. Thoreau, how do I carry with me the quietude of the forest?

 Beautiful, beautiful day!

Mr. Thoreau, I think I may be talking to the wrong person.

 study in sunlight and leaves

Jesus was constantly surrounded by people.  They were always following him and grabbing for him.  They were needy and insensitive.  He had a great deal he wanted to accomplish in any given day.  Did he get distracted?  He was often side-tracked by the crowds.  He was never able to spend four hours a day sauntering anywhere.  And yet his “health and spirits” always seemed strong.  Even in fatigue he never lost his temper; his compassion and vision for people never faded.  He had the eyes and heart of God.  He had an insatiable desire to spend time with his father.  He pulled away.  Even for a moment.  Often times a moment was all he was afforded.  Yet it was enough.

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.  But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  Luke 5:15-16

"I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers!"  -L.M. Montgomery

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”  Mark 1:35

Jesus, teach me to pray.  And let it be enough.