Sore Afraid

shadow-1

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

– Plato –


In the gray dusk, the little girls skipped at my side next to the wall of the empty school building.

“Look at our shadows!” I pointed out my 5’10” shadow, looking disproportionately squat next to the shorter, equally-thick shadows of my small friends.

The nine-year-old giggled. “When Ingrid was little, she was afraid of her shadow.”

I turned and smiled at her seven-year-old sister.

The older sister continued. “She thought it was a monster chasing her.”

I nodded, raising my eyebrows. “That’s understandable.” The girls went on. I hopscotched behind them in the parking lot, trailed by the furiously-hopping three-year-old grunting with the effort of keeping up with the “big kids.”

I smiled to myself. “She was afraid of her shadow,” I mused. “Aren’t we all.”


This sin. This sin that so easily besets me. It crouches, lies in wait for me. And it catches me, pins me down, time after time.

For me, it’s unbelief. For another, anger. Or pride. Or jealously. Or fear. Whatever form it takes, sin sinks in its claws and refuses to let go.

And so, we become like little Ingrid–afraid of our shadows. Terrified of the past that trails us. Frightened that we will never get away from the monster chasing us.

We all are followed by a shadow.

But… I have learned a few things about mine.

1. My shadow is not a reflection of who I am

That squat, distorted blackness that follows me is not me.

Sometimes I sin. In fact, often I sin.

But there is a new, free me. I am a redeemed self: upright, and solid, and joyous and more like a reflection of my Savior than my shadow ever was. 

I am not my past. I am not my sin. I am not my regrets. I am a new girl, all washed and alive and real.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17 –

2. Only light brings shadows

When knowledge of my sin drags me down, I realize something: only a changed heart sees the darkness of sin.

Until the sun dawns, there is no shadow.

Until Christ dawned upon my soul, I did not know how black my heart was. I could not understand how grievous my unbelief, my pride, and my rebellion were until the darkness fled before His light.

“What came into being
through the Word was life, 
    and the life was the light for all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.”

– John 1:3-5, CEB –

3. Even the shadows can be redeemed

“Redeemed” means bought back, restored, or put to new purpose.

Jesus does not erase the memory of my sin, but He does repurpose that sin.

You see, the Light controls the shadows. Just like the sun’s position puts my shadow in a new perspective, Christ’s coming to me puts my sins in a new context.

No longer do I stand condemned. Now, even my shadow is part of my story.

Even my winding past is part of the journey that led me to my Savior. Even the lessons learned by heartbreak, or the sting of rebellion’s consequences are tools in my Master’s hands. Hateful though my sins are, my God is greater than my mistakes.

Sin is never a good thing.

But a good Savior can make even the crooked things straight.

Even the darkest past. Even the guiltiest mind. Even the worst sin. Even the rawest hurt.

Dear Ingrid: You do not have to fear your shadow. 

Dear Self: You do not have to fear your past.

Because, “if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7, NKJV).

Morning has dawned, and the shadows are nothing to fear.

My shadow is my tutor, teaching me that I have been made new, I have stepped into the light, and nothing will stop my God from turning all to my good and His glory.

If I were in the dark, I could not even see my shadow.

But I am in the Light, and my Jesus leads even my shadow by the hand.


 Thank you Atalie Bale Photography for today’s perfect photo!

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Repost: Why We Must Zakar

Nativity-4

Last year, I wrote this post as a reminder of why celebrating Christmas is something I hold dear. This time of year, people are especially hungry for love and meaning in their lives, giving us a great opportunity to share the gospel. So, whether you celebrate this season or not, please take time to remember the coming of our Lord and reach out to those around us who have no hope. Because we have hope, sisters! This day, and everyday, we have joy in the most precious gift ever given: God Himself coming to pay the price for our salvation. That, truly, is cause for celebration.


“He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy. He, the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute.”

 – Augustine of Hippo –

Zakar is Hebrew for remember.

Some things must be remembered.

One set of people holds these things dear by celebrating them all year long, because these things permeate all days, not just one or two.

Others recognize this, but also value a set-apart day–needing a reminder of the wonder, a day to refresh all the year’s living.

One of these days is Christmas.

We’ve always celebrated it at our house. And yet, dear friends choose not to. It’s okay, really. One of those things God lets us choose—let those who celebrate the day, do it to the Lord. And those who don’t—they do it for His glory as well.

And truly—Christmas. Christ with us. Emmanuel, always—not just on one holly-decked square on the calendar, but forever.

It’s the same with other days.

It’s impossible to cram into one day the wonder of His rising, of His death-quenching. It’s ridiculous to think it can be stuffed into a hundred thousand Easters. Millions of Sundays would not suffice.

A day of Thanks—as if all the other days were to be full of complaining? Not at all. But something in the soul is refreshed that the idea is important enough to have a day of remembrance. A day when the whirling-away  and the head-spinning and the busy commercialization must stop so that thanks can snuggle deep into the soul.

Just as a friend is every bit as special the rest of the year as she is on her birthday. Just as special. But to have a special day to say it? This is good. Maybe your friend knows you love her all the time. Friendship—her life—is just as much to be celebrated any other day. But that one day is for you—not her—in a way. Yes, on that day you thank God for her. But really…who is it that needs reminded of the wonder of having a friend? She may get presents on that day, but it is you who receive the greater gift. You are reminded of just how much you have, on her birthday.

Isn’t it the same for His birthday? The date does not matter. The tinsel does not matter—neither do the molasses-dark cookies shaped like pudgy men or the lights twinkling or the cinnamon drifting from the kitchen or the gifts nestled under an everlastingly-green tree.

The Tree

Ah—but the tree can remind us, help us Zakar. Some call it pagan. Whoever, ages ago, worshiped a tree or chronicled it as a symbol of paganism—this man did not corrupt God’s trees. The trees on this planet still lift leafy faces to the heavens. They don’t hang down or die away because their purpose has been stolen away. Not at all. Still, tree crowns grow high, pointing skyward to a Creator enthroned beyond our glory-stealing schemes.

And that one spicy pine or fringy spruce or musky cedar with which the halls are decked–its green fades a bit when the life is cut off at the roots. The holder of lights, stretching out limbs to cover everything, guarding the secrets till the Christmas dawns. An everlasting tree dying. Something like an Everlasting God-Man dying, cut off to be the gift. The Holder, Maker, Shaper of light, stretching out His limbs to cover it all, to flood every sin with bloody grace.  The great Secret of the ages, foretold in a host of whispered, echoing prophesies, now shouted out to the world. Emmanuel! Emmanuel! He’s here, with us. With us!

The Gifts

The gifts remind us. Those oddly-shaped packages swathed with way too much metallic wrapping paper. The little tucked-in-the-stocking goodies. Every tiny sneaked-in item that a relative crept around the store with, trying in vain to keep secrets on a mass shopping trip where every family member ends up hiding, arms full, in a separate checkout line.

“Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts, the gift of God to man – His unspeakable gift of His Son, and the gift of man to God – when we present our bodies a living sacrifice.”

– Vance Havner –

Gifts remind us that God stepped down out of splendor to be curled and vulnerable in a womb. Christmas is a refresher course in generosity, a day when prayers seep in deep and stinginess can seep away. A special set-aside time when a hunted-for gift is placed in quivering, open hands and delight begins its ecstatic dance in two pairs of eyes. Close your eyes and remember. Zakar for a while.

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given…”

– Isaiah 9:6 b –

The Nativity

Okay, so the wise men weren’t really there that first night that the angels proclaimed the royal birth. But a glance at the manger, at the faces bowed in awe, they too can help us Zakar.

“He lived among us…He made a throne out of a manger and a royal court out of some cows. He took a common name—Jesus—and made it holy. He took common people and made them the same. He could have lived over us or away from us. But He didn’t. He lived among us.

He became a friend of the sinner and brother of the poor. He touched their sores and felt their tears and paid for their mistakes. He entered a tomb and came out and pledged that we’d do the same. And to us all…He shared the same message. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me….I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also’ (John 14:1,3)

Some pretend that He doesn’t exist….Others hear Him, but don’t believe Him. It’s not easy to believe that God would go so far to take us home….But then a few decide to…venture out of their corners….”

– Max Lucado, from When Christ Comes –

While the contagious laughter rises around you and the coffee mugs clink together in the sink and the lights on the Christmas tree twinkle off the glittering ornaments, remember why He came. To seek and save the lost, so they could come home. Isn’t Christmas a foretaste of a forever-home?

“Some pretend He doesn’t exist.” That He never came. That Christmas is about hullabaloo and December 26th sales, chubby mall Santas and seasonal eggnog.

“Others hear Him, but don’t believe Him. It’s not easy to believe that God would go so far to take us home” (emphasis mine).

Zakar. God did “go so far to take us home.” Remember this, savor it with all your might. He came once. And He will do it again.

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.”

– Sigrid Undset –

For this Christmas, and every other, remember all His goodness.

Zakar. Always.

Thank you to Atalie with Atalie Bale Photography for today’s lovely Christmas photo!

Earth’s First Noel

rowan-in-the-snow

“Every year, people sing songs like “The First Noel” at Christmas, and many wonder what a “noel” is. In French, joyeux noel means “Merry Christmas.” Our modern English word comes from the Middle English nowel, which Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defined as “a shout of joy or Christmas song.” The roots of the word are the French noel (“Christmas season”), which may come from the Old French nael. This, in turn, is derived from the Latin natalis, meaning “birth.” Since Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, it was natural for people to refer to the celebration as the “nativity” or the “birth.”

– “What is the meaning of Noel?”, gotQuestions.org

I wondered about this word “noel.” So when I did some research and found that one of its meanings is “shout of joy,” I knew I wanted to explore that idea further. Beyond the Christmas carol, Christians carry this spirit of Noel with us all year long. The coming of God’s own Son to redeem us is truly cause for us to shout with joy.

Will you join me in shouting of His love today?

“This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ.”

– Frank McKibben –


The beginning wasn’t anything to take you by surprise.

A woman laboring hard, her husband by her side,

A child birthed into a world of filth and noise and sin,

A countryside asleep and a country dead within.

 

Of all the ways for a God to be born, in a stable out of sight,

When He could have split the heavens, he could have lit up the night.

But he lay inside a trough, a sight reserved for the least,

As the shepherds paid their homage to the birth of heaven’s King.

 

Earth’s First Noel broke forth, a chant over the trees,

While the sheep looked on in wonder, the shepherds fell on their knees.

A royal birth announced with a song that Christmas night.

Earth’s First Noel was a cry of joy, a glimpse of coming morn,

“The God above wills good to men, and the promised Christ has come.”

 

Across the sands, across the years, I think of the height,

Of the love of the God of ages, only hours old that night.

I smile at the caroling, full of wonder, full of peace,

Wond’ring if I’ll hear someday the song that bid the shepherds to the feast.

 

When the Last Noel breaks forth, a trumpet through the trees,

While the world looks on in terror, the saints fall to their knees.

The royal King announced with a song of piercing light

Earth’s Last Noel, a cry of joy, the birth of eternal morn,

“The God above wills good to men, and the promised Christ has come.”


“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.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”

– Isaiah 9:6-7, NKJV –

The Way of Communion

winter-church

“He [Jesus] was born in a barn to show what God thinks of human pride, of human ambition, of human loftiness,
of human hardness…of those who turn to religion only because of what they think it can do for them…
of those who always insist on having a place at the high table and are miserable when others are put before them…
of those personal jealousies and those family feuds that mar the fellowship with God.”

 –Handel H. Brown


God with us. Emmanuel. 

Of all the powerful, wonderful names for our God, I think Emmanuel is my favorite. Encompassing His limitless divinity and His incredible humanity, Emmanuel is the name of the Savior who came to the undeserving and undesirable, to make us His.

When Christmas comes each year, I love celebrating His coming. But this year, I keep thinking about how Emmanuel is the way to communion. 

But, what is communion?

Communion, much like our word community, stems from the Latin word communionem, originally derived from the word for common.  Communion means “fellowship, mutual participation, a sharing,” according to this etymology site.

Today, we call the Lord’s Table “Communion,” but in reality, our taking of the bread and cup are only a tiny of piece or symbol of the true communion we have because of Christ’s death and resurrection. We remember that we too are “crucified with Christ, but nevertheless” live (Galatians 2:20). In Christ, our body of sin has been conquered and we have been raised as new creatures.

But, long before land, water, grass, daisies, diamonds, or time, there was communion.

God, as three distinct persons, communed with Himself. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit had an eternity past of unceasing pleasure, power, and majesty, exulting in each other’s company.

But God purposed to institute boundaries in the boundlessness of eternity. He spoke time and light and matter into being. He shouted out for planets to spin into motion and stars to begin their ages of twinkling. He called for birds to stretch newly-spoken wings and fish to dive in newly-wet seas.

And then He breathed on dust. Worth sprang from worthlessness, all because of His exhale. He shaped an image-bearer, one made to find ultimate satisfaction only in His presence. Then, because He could and wished to do it, He made another image bearer, a woman this time. She, too, was made to find joy in God.

But, even from the beginning, God set into motion the breadth and depth of communion: not only was mankind made to be with Him, but each human was made to be with other humans. Just as the Trinity fellowships eternally, God created His people to do the same.We were made for community.

Sin, however, destroys communion.

Think about it. In pride, I set myself on a pedestal. In greed, I push anyone out of the way to get what I want. In desire, I trample the needs of others to satisfy my own lust.

Do you see our isolation?

We all seek our own way. Marriages crumble. Siblings stop speaking. Friends turn traitors. Churches split apart. We run to our rooms, our homes, our shopping malls, our entertainment and shut out the world–because it’s just too hard to fight for togetherness when the world is so full of sin.

So we give up. We stop trying. We let the relationships fade. We let the doors slam. We lock our own doors and think “Good riddance.”

This is why God sent His son into the world: to save the sinners driven away by their own self-destructing natures.

This is why there is Christmas.

Jesus came to the wandering and the lonely and the lost and He made a family for us: His Bride the Church.

The work that he completed 33 years after the first Christmas took away the power of sin to isolate us. God’s presence is no longer closed off to us. We have access to Him, and through Him, the means of communion with one another.

So, we are to be about our Father’s business, bringing others into this communion:

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

– 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, ESV –

Our culture is drowning in isolation. For them, commercial Christmas is full of gap-widening greed and memories of lost relationships.

But true Christmas–true Communion–is God’s grace breaking down the walls of isolation we’ve built for ourselves. Abiding in Him, we extend our fellowship to fellow believers. And, just as Jesus came to us, we have to go out, bringing in the lost and lonely into communion with the God who is with us…Emmanuel.


“We can never hope to capture the Christmas spirit and make it our own unless we understand that God is so much greater than we ever thought He was. We thought we knew all about God. The incarnation proved us wrong.”

Dan Schaeffer

Harbinger of Mercy

Sunrise


 by Shelbie Williams,

October 7, 2011

“Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the Lord will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.”

– Isaiah 60:1-2, NKJV –


When morning paints the thin air gold

And stencils the clouds with silver linings,

Then all the dark hills their life-green unfold,

The rocks like embers gleaming.

 

Oh, Morning, harbinger of mercy’s store,

Creation of the Most High Lord,

Declare thy Maker’s praise the more,

With snowy clouds and flowers’ bud.

 

As this live sun unfolds its ray

To shine on my o’erflowing heart,

It faithfully sprints on the race of day,

Rejoicing in the morning’s start.

 

Maker, Father, Redeemer, Lord,

What faithfulness is Yours!

Before mornings were, Your plan was formed,

The first morn blushed awake when You gave the word.

 

Night soon did fall, and with it man,

But morning came again, just the same.

Unshaken in Your sovereign plan,

O God, You loved beyond our shame.

 

Though day and night pressed on for years,

Darkness reigned, and with it tears

Of sorrow, grief, and sin,

But sun-drops of light could still get in.

 

But hush! Look up! The Morning Star

Has dawned. Bow down and give Him awe.

For the dark has gone–true light now shines,

Piercing this darkest heart of mine.

 

Each morning as the sun peeks out

Into a world still sinning,

I believe that soon a morn will come

And Light will have no ending.

 

Oh Morning, harbinger of mercy’s store,

Shout praise unto Salvation’s Lord.

Declare thy Maker’s praise still more,

For Night has fallen ‘neath His victory sword.