Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Nyla, the Shepherd's Daughter
This is a fictional story. A story borne out of my desire to be standing next to the manger when my Savior was brought to earth in the form of a baby. The only way I could think to have that happen, since I'm a girl, would be to be a little girl whose biggest wish was to spend the day with her Father in the field with the sheep. Finally she got her chance and on that day the Angels came and told them about this newborn Baby King. (Scripture taken from the NLT version of the Christmas story found in the book of Luke)
"But Mama, whyyyyyyy can't I go? I'm really good at keeping an eye on things! Just this morning you asked me to keep an eye on Mara while you ran to the market, and when you got home you told me I did a great job! Pleeeeeeaaaaasssseeee, may I go to the field with Papa?" Nyla pled with her mother as they pulled the bucket up from the well. Her greatest desire was to spend time in the fields with her father, brothers, and uncles. I guess you could say she was the original tomboy.
Nine year old Nyla was Peter and Deborah's daughter. Peter was a Shepherd by trade. He cared for a flock of 800 sheep with his brothers, Dan, Paul, Isaiah and Jordan; his sons, Asher, Abraham and Benjamin, and a few men from the village who had become more than coworkers, but were much like family. She was always there to help with the sheep whenever she could. Shearing time meant carrying the wool in from the wagon to her mother and then joining her in spinning it into yarn to make the blankets they would sell in the marketplace. When a newborn lamb was in need of care she would often be asked to help care for it. She loved the sheep and lambs, but most of all she loved her Papa, and, contrary to cultural tradition, he adored her, too.
Peter knew it wasn't right to let his daughter think she could do the things the boys could do. It would not be helpful to her when she got older and got married, that's for sure. She would be too much like the man she married if he wasn't careful. He couldn't help it, though! She was such a hard worker and, unlike his sons at times, she had a gentle connection with the sheep that made it easier on all of them when they needed to calm the herd down. As much as he hated to admit it, she, of all of his children, was the natural shepherd. Surely Jehovah created her that way for a reason, right? What would it hurt to have her join them in the fields this time? His mind was made up, he'd talk to Deborah about Nyla coming with them for the next trip out.
"OH, Papa!! THANK YOU! thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!! I'll be the hardest worker out there, just you wait and see!"
Nyla had just been told she would be coming with the men to the fields for the next few weeks. She was thrilled beyond belief! SHE was going to the fields! Little did she know, though, that she was in for a lot more than spending time doing what she loved to do. Her life was about to be changed in a way she had never dreamed.
"That Nyla sure is a hard worker, Peter" Dan said to his brother. "Now I know why you wanted to let her come with us. It was a good decision. Jehovah help her future husband, though!" The men all laughed at Dan's joke and nodded in agreement.
Nyla was thoroughly enjoying every task she was given by her father, uncles and brothers. Every day she spent in the fields was like confirmation that she was to be a shepherdess. She dreaded the day when she would have to marry and become a wife and mother who stayed home and cared for the house, kids and chores. She was made to be in the fields caring for the sheep and reveling in the wonder of the world around her.
There were times, when she had night duty, that she would sit and stare at the stars above her. She would recall the scriptures her father had read saying the heavens declare His majesty and knew it to be true. Being a ways outside of Bethlehem, in the stillness of the night with just the bleating of the sheep to remind her she was not the only being on earth, she couldn't help but sit in awe of Jehovah G-d. Her family took the Torah seriously. Jehovah was very real to her. She wondered about the Messiah sometimes, too, asking the sky if it would happen in her lifetime. Would she know Him when He came?
Maybe it was Herod.
NO! He was so mean! So full of himself. Certainly not the kind of servant-leader the Messiah would be.
Nyla sighed and prayed in her heart that she would recognize the Messiah when he came. A sheep bleated then and pulled her out of her revery, back to the task at hand.
They were all standing around the fire when it seemed the sky burst into flame. It was so bright! What on earth??? Not one of them remained standing for long as they fell to their knees in fear. These men (and one little girl) who were to be brave in the midst of danger were kneeling with hands up to shield their eyes when they heard the voice.
"Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
The men (and one little girl) slowly stood up and murmuring of questions could be heard as they wondered what the angel meant. They didn't stand for long, though, as they fell to their knees again seeing a vast choir of angels join the one who had spoken. They burst into song like none they had ever heard before.
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
Nyla knelt with the others, her eyes wide and her mouth hung open. The Messiah? THE Messiah? Really? But the angel said he was a, a, a BABY. The Messiah was a baby? He was supposed to be a King, but how would a baby save the world?
She finally realized the angels were gone and her father, uncles and brothers were talking about going to Bethlehem to see this newborn baby. She needed to keep on task! She wasn't about to miss this opportunity!!!
None of them had stopped talking about the angel's visit and discussing what they might find when they got to the city. It would be so crowded with the city jam-packed full of everyone there for the census. How would they find Him?
Nyla was too small to be noticed by the men, so she simply walked along with them looking up and talking to Jehovah in her heart.
"Oh, Jehovah! How incredible my life is in You! First I get to spend time in the fields doing what I love, and now I'm on my way to meet the Messiah! Who am I that my life is so blessed by You? What a surprise, too, to be told the Messiah isn't actually a grown man, but a baby! A BABY! Ah, will Your creativity never end? A nine year old girl made to be a shepherdess, and a Savior born like all of us. Like each star I see in the heavens Your ability to catch us off guard never ends."
"Father! Look! Behind that inn. There seems to be a glow coming from the barn. Could that be? The angel did say the baby would be in a manger. Isn't that strange, Father? That the Messiah would be born in a barn and laid in a trough the animals eat out of?"
"That is strange, indeed, little Nyla. However, we must remember what Jehovah tells us in the Holy Scriptures - His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He will never cease to amaze us in the ways He works if we just keep our eyes open looking for Him at work. Let's go see what that glow is all about."
So Nyla and her father, uncles and brothers walked toward the barn behind the Bethlehem Inn to see what this strange glow was. As they drew nearer they noticed the animals seemed to be unusually quiet and, was it possible they were....reverent? A hush seemed to encompass the barn. A holy hush. The city bustled about, but as they drew closer it was as if the sounds melted away like the snow from their clothing when they came down from the hills.
Nyla couldn't help herself. She started to walk faster and faster until she nearly ran to the door of the barn to peek inside. What she saw was breathtaking!
Laid in the manger - the very place from where the animals ate - was a bundle of cooing newborn. His mother was beside him, and his father on the other side. Cows, sheep, donkeys and other barn animals surrounded them. They all faced the manger, too, as if they knew this baby wasn't just a baby.
As Nyla stood transfixed the baby's mother (the Messiah has a mother?!) looked up and smiled.
"Come, little one. Meet your Jesus."
Nyla started. Did she say "your Jesus"? MY Jesus? Yes. Yes, she knows that this baby isn't hers, but ours. Our World's Messiah. She knows.
Slowly Nyla made her way to the manger where the human form of her Heavenly Messiah lay. She could not stop the tears from rolling down her cheeks. She could not help that her hand reverently reached out to hold the hand of the very One who had come to earth to save the world. She could not have stopped herself from kneeling if she had tried. This. This baby was a KING. He wasn't just a newborn child, but He was a Savior - a Messiah - sent to earth from God.
There was no stopping the others, either. As they knelt in reverent worship of a baby they knew was their Savior, the baby's Mother and Father looked on in awe. How did they know? How did they know to find them here?
Of course they knew. They themselves were visited by angels, why would Jehovah keep this child a secret?
As Nyla knelt she felt a hand on her head and looked up. Mary, the baby's mother, had gently laid her hand on Nyla's hair, and she had the sweetest look of contentment on her face. Nyla knew the angel was surely sent from Heaven to bring them to this place. She knew, too, that her life would never be the same. Not only would she be a shepherdess, but she would be a storyteller to anyone who would listen. She would tell all she could about the night her life was changed. The night she met and held hands with the Messiah
Monday, December 15, 2014
Luke 1:26-38 NLTIn the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you! ” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail. ” Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
In a world where people are seeking grace -
In a world where people are seeking answers -
In a world where people are seeking what they cannot explain -
CHRISTMAS MUSIC IS TELLING THEM WHERE TO FIND IT!!!
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
I was reading this morning the account of Zechariah In the first chapter of Luke. Luke was telling about when Zechariah took his turn in the Sanctuary to burn incense to God and was told he and his wife (both in very advanced years) would be expecting a child. There were a number of things that struck me throughout the passage. Here are a couple of them. Maybe they'll resonate with you, too.
1) In the Message version of the passage (Luke 1:8} it says Zechariah finally got his ONE TURN to serve in the sanctuary. The New Living Translation as well as the NIV says, "he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary..." and the KJV says, "...his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple...." The point made was that the high priests - the very people meant to be closest to God and chosen by Him - waited (patiently?) for their lot to be chosen so they could go to meet with Him.
HALLELUJAH!! We don't have to wait!! As believers in His Son, Jesus Christ - a baby born to a virgin, fully God yet fully Man, crucified for our sake; Risen to conquer the enemy of our souls - WE DON'T HAVE TO WAIT!!!! We. ARE. in His presence - always. His spirit resides in us, and He is available to us without having to wait for our turn to arrive.
I don't know about you, but that's pretty much a WOOP! WOOP! moment in my morning!
2) This one is a bit more sobering. (God does that, doesn't He? It's akin to the "which do you want first? Good news or challenging news?") Picture Zechariah, an aged man. A man whose anniversaries number in the upper double digits. A man who has prayed since his wedding night that he and his bride would have the opportunity to be parents. Picture him in the sanctuary - igniting the flame to light the incense, humbled by the awesomeness of being alone in the inner sanctum of the very God he has devoted his life to, maybe quivering a bit with the grandeur of the task, and I can't help but wonder if his heart's silent prayer was "Lord? Do I really trust You? I've prayed for years a prayer You have not answered the way I want. I love You with everything in me, but can I trust You to care for me? I offer this incense as a sacrifice for the people I serve...I give You thanks and praise for all we have seen You do in our lives...I believe You are the One True God Who will not be explained, but can I trust You with my greatest desire?"
Picture yourself in that place.
Maybe you've been a believer for years - maybe you're married to an unbeliever and you've been praying for their salvation since before you even said I do. Maybe you're in pain and have prayed for delivery for much longer than you thought you'd have to. What is your heart's silent prayer? As you serve Him, worship Him, share Him with others - what would you NOT be saying out loud for fear that someone may call you a hypocrite (or worse yet, you find that He isn't who you say He is)?
Do you see that? GABRIEL APPEARS! An ANGEL! Not Roma Downey with special effects, GABRIEL!!! Do you think Zechariah's heart stopped? Just a little? I know when I'm focused on a task and my husband walks into the room and suddenly appears before me my heart stops - and he doesn't glow! Imagine Gabriel appearing where no one other than the High Priest is supposed to be! The passage says Zechariah was paralyzed with fear. A completely understandable reaction. However, after he hears what Gabriel says to him you'd think he was talking to his, I don't know, brother-in-law or something! I'd like to think my eyes would be wide open, my ears equally so and I'd defintely take the time to listen to what is said.
Zechariah listened...but then he doubted what this miraculously appearing, brilliant and beautiful being sent straight to him from God Himself had to say to him.
I'm a bit disappointed in Zack here. Really? AN ANGEL JUST SPOKE TO HIM and he's saying, "hahaha - yeah, right."???? Seriously?
But that's the sobering part.
I've done that.
I've doubted God's Word. I haven't had a brilliantly clothed being from heaven appear before me and whisper sweet somethings in my ear, but I've read and "heard" Him speak to my heart.
And I've doubted what He said.
Y'know, the whole process is pretty familiar. Zechariah looks forward to spending time with God in the inner sanctuary of the temple - we look forward to spending time with God when we go to Church, during our quiet time, when we go on retreat. Zechariah believes in God - we believe His Word and have chosen to place our trust in Him. Zechariah approaches the altar with expectation - we open God's Word expecting to be taught, changed, made better. We are not that different from Zechariah.
We even doubt, don't we?
I have my own stuff I'm processing through with God about the challenge and triumph this passage is, but that's for me to work through with God. You have your stuff, too, so I'll let you go there with God. In your processing, though, ask Him to reveal to you what you're not trusting Him with. What are your silent heart prayers? This will take time - it's possible He will reveal it to you in a flash, but I've also seen Him take a longer time with the answer (usually I've seen that because to reveal it right away would be like cutting open a cocoon for a butterfly to fly free. You'd be free, but not strong enough in your faith to withstand the attacks of our soul's enemy).
So, are you willing to turn the Zechariah in you around? Take time each day to notice Him - to notice God's creativity and work in your life. I personally lay out a challenge to find 15 minutes of absolute quiet (no distractions - mute your phone, turn off the radio, have a pad of paper and pen beside you where you can write down what items on your to-do list try to distract you so you can get back to focusing on God) and just listen. It takes practice - don't beat yourself up because you don't quiet down immediately. It's taken me a lot of years to train my A.D.D. mind to quiet itself so I can hear my Father's voice.
We are capable of turning the Zechariah around and, instead, being an Elizabeth who says, (my paraphrase) "huh. so THIS is how You do it? Alrighty then. Let's go!"
Here is the text from the Message version (sometimes I like to read it in this version so my thinker doesn't have to work so hard on what's being said and can instead focus on what it's saying). If you'd like to read it in another version you can go here and choose another translation.
Luke 1:1-25 MSG
So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught.
During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.
It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering.
Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear. But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God.
“He’ll drink neither wine nor beer. He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”
Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”
But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time— God’s time.”
Meanwhile, the congregation waiting for Zachariah was getting restless, wondering what was keeping him so long in the sanctuary. When he came out and couldn’t speak, they knew he had seen a vision. He continued speechless and had to use sign language with the people.
When the course of his priestly assignment was completed, he went back home. It wasn’t long before his wife, Elizabeth, conceived. She went off by herself for five months, relishing her pregnancy. “So, this is how God acts to remedy my unfortunate condition!” she said.