Saturday, December 20, 2008

Be an Angel

It’s been at least five and probably more years since I’ve had a new cell phone. The antique I’d been carrying around had outlived its ability to maintain a charge for more than just a couple of hours. And so, my husband graciously bought me a new phone for an early Christmas gift—blue tooth and all.

Well, technology has changed quite a bit in the past five years! The person who sold us the phone said he actually took a class on how to use this model. A course! On this model alone! As you can imagine, I’ve yet to make it through the mini-encyclopedia of instruction for the use of my new toys. Last night, I charged both phone and blue tooth to prepare for this morning’s trek into the leavings of about eight inches of snow from yesterday’s storm.

As I left the house, I fumbled with the phone and blue tooth to get them sync’d. The car was cleaned off, but the driveway was a mess! My neighbor and his son kindly pushed the car over the mounds of snow left by the plow, and I proceeded cautiously up the snow coated street, and then up the side road/ramp to the highway. That’s where I was when my phone rang! Dang blue tooth still wasn’t sync’d! I reached for the phone—a legal and logistic no-no. The tires spun helplessly in the wet pile of snow between the entrance and exit sides of the ramp. I put the transmission into reverse, and rolled/slid to the wrong side of the street, the back bumper inches away from the guard rail. Now I was really stuck! No forward or reverse motion would move the vehicle an inch! I sat wondering, “Now what?”

Several cars exited the highway and passed on my right to get around the car. In a matter of moments, a man appeared wearing an orange hooded coat with his union advertised on the back in black lettering, and a large shovel in hand. He looked at the situation and declared in an Italian accent, “You’re really stuck!” He didn’t wait for my response. He began to dig each tire out of the muck with great care. After a good ten minutes of doing so, he walked back to his car and reappeared with a bucket of salt, and began to sprinkle it in front and back of each tire.
At this point, I said to him, “It’s like you’re an angel!” He laughed shyly and just kept working. When he finished with the salt, he came to my window and told me how to “carefully” maneuver my way out. Fearing I might undo all his work or end up with hitting the guard rail, I asked if he would mind getting the car out, and lifted the keys to him.

He smiled again, and without a word, took the keys and drove the car onto the merge ramp of the highway. He got out of my car, handed me the keys and gave a kind warning to drive slowly and carefully! I reached out, gave him a big hug, and pronounced a blessing on him for his great kindness. He reciprocated the hug shyly, same smile on his lips, and went on his way.
I prayed for him for most of the drive. I prayed that he would receive 100-fold blessing. And then, I wondered why there are so few who would go so out of their way for a stranger.

As children of the King who have been given so much, we need to look for such opportunities to bless someone. To give as it has been given to us. This is the life of worship--to be the hand and heart of Jesus to the world. And this does not necessarily mean we need to go on the mission field, have a tent revival, or stage great evangelistic outreaches unless that is what God’s call is for us.

Check out the mission field you are standing on. Whenever you have an opportunity, encourage a child. Put a smile on a stranger’s face. Help an elderly person with their packages. Have a kind word for an obviously frustrated and overworked employee of a store you are shopping in. Give an anonymous gift to someone. Send someone a card just to say you were thinking of them. Or help a stranded person whose car is stuck in a snow bank! Ask the Lord for opportunities for “words of gold in settings of silver.” (Prov. 25:11) Tell Him that if He opens the door for an opportunity to bless someone, you’ll walk through, and then watch those doors swing open.

Today, God sent to me a sweet, Italian angel. I want to encourage you, go and be someone’s angel. I promise you, you will go away uplifted, and you may never know whom you may meet and how you may effect someone’s eternity!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Mouse's Tale-A Christmas Story

Just a reminder to all of us—we need to keep close to our hearts the reason we celebrate during this time of the year. Actually, we should keep close to our hearts every minute of every day the amazing love that brought God’s Son from heaven’s throne to earth’s filthy stable that precious night.

Psalm 8:3-4 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?

It boggles my mind to consider what He did for me. Who am I that He is mindful of me? The Maker of the moon and the stars and the One who keeps them in their places cares about me! I’ve asked a thousand times, “Why?” I may never fully comprehend on this side of heaven, but I am so very grateful.

And during this season, I pray that we can all keep fresh this attitude of awe in spite of the distractions, the hustle and bustle of commercialism and the state of the nation’s finances. (Which are NOT our Father’s finances, but that’s another blog!)

I offer this little story to you. It rises from the reality that all creation recognizes and declares the glory of God! Let it be my gift to you, along with a prayer for a blessed Christmas, and a prosperous, joy-filled, dream-come-true New Year!

A Mouse’s Tale
© Kathy Lebron 2008
The stable door quietly closed, and there we were once again without humans in our modest dwelling. Most of us returned to eating, sleeping, and keeping protective watch over our young and one another as we had always done before that amazing night.

It seems like only yesterday. But it was truly the most exciting thing that we could ever have imagined happening in a docile place like this! It began when a simple couple arrived at the stable with the owner of the inn which is attached to this barn. The woman's belly was very large, and she seemed very uncomfortable as she was ready to bear a child. Because of the census that was decreed across the country, everyone had to travel to the place where they had been born. So, there were many visitors in the town in those days. By the time this couple arrived, all the local inns were already filled. The innkeeper was not always the kindest human, but his own wife had recently had a child, and the very expectant mother must have pulled on his heartstrings!

So, that night, the innkeeper himself moved the large, brown horse from his stall, cleaned the area, and laid fresh hay on the ground before leading the couple into it. As he did, I heard my mouse spouse call to me from our safe place in the back of one of the other stalls. "Perry S. Winkle," she whispered heavily, "Come over here right now before you get caught!" I always know she is serious or angry with me when she says my full name. But something about these folks made me want to be present in the stable instead of scampering quickly under a haystack or into the small hole in the wall where we reside, like I usually would when humans come into the stable. And I continued to watch the scene unfold as the man and the innkeeper did what they could to make the woman comfortable. Because she was in great pain, the innkeeper left to find a midwife—the event was imminent.

Then it happened! A man-child was born in our humble stable! Although births are a common occurrence here, this one was—well--unique! It was as if a blanket fell over us—peace and light seemed to flood the air. The man-child gently whimpered as the midwife cleaned him and wrapped him in a soft cloth. Then the man did the oddest thing! He emptied one of the feeding troughs and filled it with clean hay. He picked up his new Son, and laid him into it.

I watched the drama from under the manger, and was overcome with the strange quiet that filled the room, despite the braying of the visiting donkeys, and the bleating of the sheep. Who would have thought of such a thing? One of the donkeys almost stepped on my tail as she drew close and tenderly sniffed at the manger; her eyes bright and curious. If I'm not mistaken, she was the donkey who came with the couple when they arrived. The parents of the man-child looked on, joyful and tired after their arduous journey and the eventful night.

The family stayed with us for many days. All the animals got used to having humans in the stall, which was not so common an occurrence. I was fascinated by the love that surrounded and flowed from them. My mouse spouse and I loved watching the parents as they held their baby, whispering to one another and smiling down at their Son.

Some time later, I could smell something peculiar with my pointed black nose. An unfamiliar, sweet fragrance poured through the air. Humans dressed in deep, rich colored garments and strange headwear visited the family. Although they appeared to be important and even regal, they actually bowed down very low when they saw the child! The tassels from the neck of one of the men suddenly tickled my tail, and I scurried quickly into the hole. After a while, my mouse spouse and I carefully ventured back from our hiding place to observe these kingly visitors presenting gifts to the child’s parents. The mother smiled at the men, and laid the presents next to the sleeping child.

I could go on and on about this miracle that occurred in our little stable…the way the mother looked at her baby as she cradled Him in her arms…the visitors’ awed reactions to the child, the peace and joy that resided in our barn while He was there…

The time came for the family to move on. All of the animals quietly watched, and as she prepared to leave, the mother patted some of us on the head. She looked right down at me, and smiled warmly, the child sleeping soundly in her arms. Despite our tumultuous introduction, the woman and I learned not to be afraid of one another, and could actually cohabitate quite peacefully!

And so the door quietly closed and they were gone! We would never be the same. We had been touched by this special family, and it would never really be over behind our little stable door.

A prophet long ago said,"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." We believe it was this very prince who was born among us.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Are You Lord God Almighty?

Most of us are familiar with Michael W. Smith’s “Agnus Dei.” For as long as I’ve sung this song, the lyric “Are you Lord God Almighty?” has provoked me to think about how much of my life is truly given over to God.

Is God really my ALL IN ALL? I think that for those of us who are blessed to live in the Western world, it is difficult to separate God from the material possessions that become idols to us. We think of God as the one who:

Supplies all of our needs according to His riches in glory
Gives as we give, pressed down, shaken together and running over
Wants us to prosper and be in good health even as our soul prospers
Rejoices in the prosperity of His children
Is the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills and owns all the silver and gold
Will not withhold any good thing from them that walk uprightly

And these are off the top of my head—I’m sure there are many more examples. They are all Scriptural and true. But I believe we have the impossible task of separating the gifts from the Giver. We live in a culture that teaches us that the more we have, the better our lives are. And the more designer labels we accumulate, the better people we must be. If we tithe, the Lord will truly bless us with more of these material things we can’t seem to live without.

But what if life took away everything that we hold dear? How would we manage if we were in Job’s shoes? Could we, like him, continue to worship the Lord?

If God is truly my all in all, then if everything else is stripped away, and He is all I have left, I’m okay! I’ve said this to a number of people—churched people, in the past few weeks as I’ve meditated on this. (And in these few weeks, much of what I thought was sure and secure in my life has been stripped away, including my job and ministry.) More times than I’ve liked, the response has been one like, “Yes, because if everything is stripped away, He will return it 7-fold,” or “He will take care of you,” or “He will provide…” And this is exactly what I do NOT mean.

And it is not that I’m okay because He will take care of me, because He will never let me be put to shame, because He is my provider…if this is my attitude, then it’s not about HIM, it’s about ME. I must know that if I never have anything but Him for the rest of my life, that’s enough because HE is my all sufficiency, my delight, my all in all! Not because of what He can or will do, but because He is. Period.

I have meditated on these things as I drive my nice car to my nice home to eat my nice dinner. But the reality of what I’m saying was revealed in its beauty as I listened to Bebo Norman give a testimony at a recent concert. He spoke of a man who I believe lived in Tanzania in a hut made of cow manure. The man was asked, “If you could have anything, what would it be?” The man thought but seemed not to be able to answer this question. He finally responded, “I and my family have Jesus Christ. We do not need anything else.”

I still cannot completely wrap my mind around the simplicity of needing NOTHING else but Jesus. However, I dearly desire to be at the place where I can sincerely say that I have Jesus Christ and I do not need anything else.