By Becky Miller
“The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14
The birth that changed the world must change us also.
Many years ago our family attended a small country church on Easter Sunday. I remember nothing of the sermon, but I have not forgotten the old gospel anthem that was sung. The music was simple and repetitive as were the lyrics. But somehow the words touched my soul and have stayed with me.
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,
When at the cross the Saviour made me whole.
My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.
Such a simple expression of God’s incredible gift to us, but how complex is our ability to use this gift. Once we have God’s glory in our souls, what are we to do with it?
We can keep it in a box and look at it when we pass by.
We can display it like a talisman, boastfully sharing our gift.
We can put it in a safe to hold for the time we might need it.
Or we can invest it and share the profits it reaps with those around us, knowing that no matter how much we give away, there will always be enough left for us.
What changes when we decide to share God’s grace?
We become kinder.
We become open to others.
We can accept the outsiders, the weak, the lonely because that is what Jesus did.
This may not be an easy task, but remember God became flesh and lives among us. That can change us, and what we may not be able to do on our own, we can do in partnership with God.
The birth that changed the world must also change us! Or we have wasted the best portion of the gift.
May the glory of God shine in our lives!
By Lee Weems
The boom of the thunder awakened us. Pounding rain was falling on the roof and we were thankful to be inside. In the dark night, the winds whipped the rain around while we experienced another March storm. Memories of severe storms and flooding from last year stirred thoughts of Wimberley and the families whose houses were swept away. Some persons experienced the tragic death of a loved one.
During spring break, youth and sponsors from Woodland gathered with a multitude of other youth and adults to invest time in the San Marcos and Wimberley communities. The volunteers equipped with paint brushes, rollers, hammers, saws and compassion provided a presence of God to the battered communities north of San Antonio.
Lent allows us a time to explore the questions and struggles of life. This is a time to ask questions – Why do disasters happen? We can ponder the uncertainties of life and confess that sometimes events happen that don’t make sense.
Lent offers a time to pause and to allow both silence and reflection to remember our foundation of life during the stormy weather. We need to back away, catch our breath and remember a bigger story.
Psalm 118 continues to be an essential reading in my spiritual journey, especially during Lent. This psalm invites the faith community to remember the days of darkness and affirm the Light that shines even behind the ebony shadows.
“Re-member” means to put the parts together. Psalm 118 is a congregational song of “re-membering” and affirming. This psalm allows us to reconnect with our life story. No doubt, along the way, each of us have been powerful and pivotal moments. The people of Israel had some tough times. This psalm contains a list of the crises and tough times in their history.
Psalm 118 is a public worship hymn. Woodland gathers as family of faith each Sunday. We come to re-member that our faith journey is jagged. Within a short distance from where any of us stands, someone has known the struggles of divorce, illness, death, relocation, or times of forced change. Confession allows us to acknowledge the bruised and broken, the confused and critical times along the path.
When this psalm was read responsively, the Hebrew people were invited to affirm a greater truth, “God’s steadfast love endures forever.” Hesed, the Hebrew word, proclaims the covenant love of God to the people of God. In our fractures and failures, disappointments and destruction, God never gives up on us and his enduring mercy surrounds us.
As we worship, there are spoken words, hymns, prayers and silence. We can confess times of insecurity and uncertainty. Together we speak aloud the great truth to one another, “God’s steadfast love endures forever.”
The storms of life are weathered and God’s steadfast love embraces us. Let us hold firmly to Hesed and trust God to gently hold us. Then we move forward into a world that knows pain, and become ambassadors of hope.
By Lance Mayes
Joy seems elusive at times; sometimes non-existent for long stretches of me. Such is the case for Israel. These were dark times. No joy. No hope. No way out of the mess they were in. Captivity was no fun for God’s chosen people. Where are you, God?
Many of us today can relate. You want a child and you wait. You pray and you wait. You hear nothing except for happy and crying babies. Moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, friends and admirers oohing and aahing over the little ones. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are times of isolation and hiding. Where are you, God?
Maybe it is depression or another mental illness. No light. No hope. No activity. No joy. It takes everything in you just to get out of bed. You let things you used to be passionate about slide. Darkness rules your nights and days. Where are you, God?
Both of these are not just in my imagination. They are real experiences to me and my family. We prayed and waited for a long time before we adopted Nicholas and then Leah. We are so glad God answered our prayers in God’s time. We love our kids! We are honored to be their parents! God brought light to our darkness through them.
We also face depression and other mental illnesses. Parenting is not for wimps, especially parenting kids with challenges. Many days are dark. And then, God sends some light through a loving friend, a caring teacher, a wise doctor, and many others.
This promise of light and joy for Israel came in the form of a baby years later. This baby grew up and as the Messiah brought us grace and joy. Thank you, God for your grace, your light and your joy in our lives. We rejoice together!
By Bettie Reddick
The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
And, until then?
May I not harden and brace in the face of life situations, but may I soften and yield to what is and not to cling so desperately to my perspectives and even to life itself
And, until then?
May I not put off joy. Human beings have the God-spark in us and may I be conscious of it in myself and others
And, until then?
Embrace what is. Respect and cherish others which is possible only if I respect and cherish myself
And, until then?
Know that someone is dancing with me; that is faith
And, until then?
Experience and share grace, which makes people fall in love with God
And, until then?
Be at ease with not knowing
And, until then?
Be the person God intended me to be
The earth will be full of Knowledge when the word spoken becomes the word heard
We will swim in the ocean of God’s mercy and that ocean will heal creation and cause all of creation to co-exist in harmony.
By Christie Goodman
I recently had to pack up and move into a new office. Working for a non-profit sometimes means tightening your belt a bit. So, like Nikki Blair wrote about recently, I had a lot of culling to do. And since my new office is smaller than my old one and has more windows (yea!), I had to make some decisions about what could go on the walls.
One thing went undebated: my Garfield poster. I’ve never been a Garfield groupie, but this poster is special. I bought when I was in junior high school. With bent edges and faded colors, it has accompanied me for years, hanging in my school lockers, in my college dorm rooms and later in my various offices. It shows Garfield with his chin on the ground with droopy eyelids. He looks miserable. The first thought-bubble above him says:
“Oh boy, am I down,
down, down, down, down.”
The second and third bubbles say:
“Down, down, down,
dooby doo, down, down…
comma comma down
dooby doo down, down.”*
Joy is the song in our hearts. Sometimes it sounds like the fanfare of trumpets. Other times, it whispers our gratitude.
Joy is not the same thing as happiness. Happiness is based on circumstances. Rev. Michael Cheuk says: “Joy is not the product of outward conditions; it is the by-product of inner transformation.” Joy is habit of seeing light in darkness.
Galatians lists joy as one of the fruits of the spirit (5:22). And Luke even describes Jesus as being “full of joy through the Holy Spirit” (10:21).
In the Christian calendar, we proclaim our joy during the season of advent, anticipating the birth of the Christ child. But, today, we are in the season of Lent – looking forward to the most joyous event in Christian life. Interestingly, the Greek word for joy, “chara” is related to “charis,” meaning grace.
Grace. Gratitude. Joy.
Rev. John Claypool wrote, “Only when life is seen as a gift and received with the open hands of gratitude is it the joy God meant for it to be.”
Yes, God wants us to be joyful.
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
*Ahh, Neil Sedaka. See http://www.azlyrics.com/
By David Dillingham
How many people have you known who have made poor decisions in a quest for happiness?
The joy of Christ extends well beyond the boundaries of human happiness. Joy is always an indirect result of the receiving and giving of grace. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, gives detailed instructions for how we must treat one another in order to discover real joy.
Be devoted to one another in love.
Give preference to one another in honor.
Be diligent and fervent in your service to the Lord.
Rejoice in hope.
Persevere in tribulation. Remain in an attitude of prayer.
Don’t be hypocritical.
Avoid evil like the plague. Cling to that which is good.
Happiness may come and last a short while as a result of receiving a material gift.
But the advent of joy comes from being filled with the hope, peace, and love offered by God With Us, Emmanuel, the Prince of Peace and Lord of Lords.
When grace fills our lives with Jesus’ love and moves freely to and fro, we’ll suddenly discover ourselves filled with joy.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing!