Great with Child

The language used to describe Mary’s condition in the days and hours leading up to His birth was she was “great with child.” Obviously this meant she was full term or she had carried Him for about 38 weeks from the time of conception. The scriptures do not elucidate the emotions she might have experienced as she reached the time of her delivery. There were a lot of unknowns. The quintessential expectant mother really didn’t know what to expect. Had this young and tender virgin ever witnessed a birth? It was usually a midwife or someone who had gone through the birthing experience that assisted in a delivery, so that would exclude her. Did she have morning sickness early in the pregnancy? In this last trimester was she having lower back pains? Were her feet swollen because she was retaining water? Was she having difficulty sleeping because the infant was pressing on the walls of her uterus in an effort to descend into her birth canal? Is it irreverent to ask was she irritable, exhausted and frustrated with the “gotta go, gotta go” syndrome? We assume she was immune to these prenatal discomforts since she was the mother of the Immaculate One. I don’t think her unprecedented conception exempted her from the legacy of Eve. The first mention of pain in scripture is associated with childbirth. “I will multiply your pain in childbirth and you will give birth in pain.” It would seem logical since she is giving birth to the Savior that will relieve the pain of all who suffer, that she would be spared. Logical yes but not likely.

“Great with child” not only describes the largeness of her belly, but that she was carrying the greatest promise ever personified. His birth weight cannot be measured in ounces since He was “the fullness of the godhead bodily; the eternal weight of glory.” Let’s turn this diamond of truth and see another facet. A peasant girl was pregnant with preeminence which gives the term “great with child” broader meaning. There are similarities between Mary’s conception, gestation and delivery and His birth in us. I am sure to suggest that seems reprehensible since she was a virgin. We were void of any virtue when He was conceived in our spiritual womb. Nevertheless, when you were overshadowed from above, the Holy One was conceived within you. You, too, may have dealt with unknowns for months as you awaited His appearing in your life. As He is growing within you, the aforementioned discomforts you experienced are bringing a delivery that will deliver you. Do you awaken some days with emotional nausea? Is the weight of what you are carrying back breaking? Experiencing periods of insomnia and irritability? Feeling intense internal pressure? He is taking form in you in the same way He was formed in her. The pain of the pregnancy is proof that His eminence is imminent. He is pressing through you to reveal Himself through you. You are great with child.



Bah Humbug

The catchphrase Bah Humbug originated with the notorious Charles Dickens character Ebenezer Scrooge. It is associated with a disgust for modern Christmas traditions. The name Scrooge has become a word that means miserliness and misanthropy or a strong dislike of humankind. There are many sincere Christians who refuse to participate at Christmas because its commercial and compromises the teachings of scripture. They adamantly cite that you can’t prove Jesus was born in December, Christmas trees have a pagan origin, giving presents promotes greed and materialism, Santa Claus usurps the preeminence of the Savior etc. etc. I certainly respect the convictions of Christians who hold these beliefs. However, I would caution them not to succumb to the Scrooge spirit that tends toward denigrating fellow believers who see these traditions differently.

What if we looked at it this way? December 25th coming at the end of the year is just one week away from a new year. Even if He was not born in December, His birth brought to all of us the possibility of a new birth and a new beginning. The tree we gather around adorned with lights and ornaments is a reminder of His death on a tree that brought light to a dark world and beauty to the ugliness of our time. The presents positioned at the foot of the tree wrapped in festive wrapping creates anticipation that what has been concealed will soon be revealed. In His presence the daily presents of His grace and mercy will take an eternity to unwrap. Santa Claus is the epitome of joy and generosity given the one caveat that he is keeping a list of who’s naughty and nice. Therefore, we can take narrative license and make him nice even when we are naughty.

One of my fondest memories of Christmas past was the excitement in the eyes of my children on Christmas morning and now I relive it in my grandchildren. I think it’s a reminder that it is so easy to lose your childlikeness as a believer. At the end of the day we need to focus on what is redeemable and make the holidays His holy days. I think He must look past the commercialism and on to the hearts of parents and loved ones who give gifts because they love one another. Bah Humbug? I don’t think so. Whether people are aware of it or not He is the Spirit of Christmas.


Bethlehem or Bedlam

In the days leading up to Christmas I will be blogging on topics relative to the season. The mere mention of the word Bethlehem summons the idea of where He was born. Obviously the Who is more important than the where, but we would be remiss if we did not make note of the location of the incarnation. Bethlehem was a suburb of Jerusalem and means house of bread. It is certainly appropriate that the place of His birth bears that name since He is the very staple of life that satisfies the gnawing hunger of humanity. The lyrics of carols describe it as the “little town that lies in stillness.” and the place where “the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.”
Consider the irony of another place with the same name taken from Wikipedia. The Bethlehem Royal Hospital is a psychiatric hospital located in London, also known as the Hospital of Bedlam. No longer based at its original location, it is recognized as the worlds’ finest and oldest institution to specialize in mental illness. The word bedlam, meaning uproar and confusion, is derived from the hospitals’ prior name. Although the hospital is now at the forefront of humane psychiatric treatment, for much of its history it was notorious for cruel and inhumane treatment. It was the epitome of a madhouse or insane asylum.

Relatively speaking, the word insanity not only describes those confined to asylums, but also to those all around us who have the appearance of being insane. The diagnosis for psychosis ranges from genetics to trauma, but a more shocking discovery is that many suffer from mental illness due to their perceived thoughts of Gods’ thoughts of them. Bedlam has so besieged their imagination that they are convinced their iniquity has eclipsed His innocence. Their mind is no longer a manger where He lays down His sweet head. There is no greater example of innocence than an infant, but every infant has been born in bedlam or in a state of confusion about who they are and who their father really is. He was the only infant born in Bethlehem in innocence. He took his first breath in a stable that reeked with the dung of animals. Born among the beast, the incorrigible are introduced to the incorruptible One. The invitation to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night is still extended to us who were born in bedlam. We don’t have to live in the benighted world of iniquity and insanity. Come to Bethlehem and have an encounter with His innocence.


The Heart of the Matter

There are over 600 muscles in the human body and much speculation about which one is the strongest. There are several ways to measure a muscle’s strength. In terms of continuous power your heart is the most powerful. It pumps over 2,500 gallons of blood every single day. When your body is at rest it never stops. It beats 100,000 times in a day, 35,000,000 times in a year and 2.5 billion times in an average lifetime. The heart is a synonym for a myriad of things. For example, wholehearted, halfhearted, cold hearted, kindhearted, heartless, heart of stone, heart to heart etc. etc. So, it’s obvious that what I want to address is not the organ nestled in the left center of your chest that tirelessly pumps blood through your body, but the part of you that pulsates with passion. The Psalmist said, “Out of the heart flow the issues of life.” Jesus said, “Where your heart is, is where your treasure is.”

There is nothing as disheartening as to be doing something your heart is not in. I wonder how many people who are reading this blog are in a job that has turned them into a occupational zombie. You are unmotivated because what you have to do no longer moves you. You are doing what you have to do instead of what you really want to do. The old axiom that we should “do what we love and love what we do” sounds too utopian in a world driven by debt and a scarcity of jobs. I am not naive. I understand we start out with dreams then life happens. You know the other old axiom that grates on us is, “life is what happens after you have made your plans.” If that’s the case, and it seems to be for so many, then does that mean you have been given a life sentence of going through the motions with hardening of the arteries or attitudes? Maybe that was a little cheesy, but you get the point.

First of all, you need to realize that what you do does not define who you are. Who you are defines what you do. Moses worked for his father-in-law as a shepherd for 40 years which seemed to be a complete contradiction to what had always been in his heart. A shepherd who thought he was supposed to be a savior. An emancipator relegated to an employee. Then, God began to speak to him from, of all things, a burning bush. Maybe He spoke to Moses through this medium because his original burning passion to be the deliverer of his people was now only a dying ember.

Secondly, know that what you do “for a living” does not necessarily have to be what you are living for. Getting paid for what you love to do may or may not happen. However, how many times have you heard professional musicians and athletes say they never started out with the intention of being paid? They just loved the music or the game. What’s your passion? Is it music, art, writing? Whatever it is, do it for Him and do it for yourself. My four year old granddaughter is always giving me pictures she has drawn. Granted she has to tell me what her drawings are depicting, but I am always excited to get them because she is excited and she did it for me. They may be enigmatic to others, but to me they are exquisite. Our Father does not critique the expressions of our heart. He just wants your heart to overflow with what you love to do because He loves it too. It may not matter to others, but it matters to Him.


You’re Thankful for What?

Your’e Thankful for What?

Customarily we give thanks on Thanksgiving day for family, friends, health, and material blessings. The scriptures are replete with admonitions to be thankful “for” what we have been given but also to be thankful “in” our situations. So, I dare say we would think to be thankful for and in the following:

I am thankful for my enemies and critics because they inadvertently teach me unconditional love and humility. As the saying goes, I have learned far more about myself from the criticism of my enemies than I ever will from the flattery of my friends.

I am thankful for the job I didn’t get because even though it may have made me more comfortable financially it may have incurred the debt of losing my destiny.

I am thankful in trials because it has taught me the truths of trusting Him that I may have never learned if my life was always copacetic.

I am thankful for people who tell me what I need to hear and not just what I want to hear.

I am thankful for selfish people because they remind me that I need to be more selfless.

I am thankful when my good deeds go unnoticed and unappreciated because it reveals my true motives.

I am thankful in disappointment because He has another appointment.

As you can see, this list of things to be thankful “for” and “in” are paradoxical. One of the most profound statements Paul ever made was, “In……. everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Thanksgiving gives you perspective on the troubling and trifling things in your life. You may not always know why things happen, but you can always know the will of God is to be thankful in it.