A mouse is a timid little creature, who under almost any circumstance when confronted with a dangerous situation will choose the option of flight over fight. This is a very logical position, given the non-threatening physical characteristics bestowed on the Mouse: short legs, a round body covered in white hair, a small mouth with smaller teeth, and a roar that closely resembles air slowly leaking from a balloon. A snake, on the other hand, seems content with fighting first and asking questions later. In fact, a snake rarely asks questions at all, they just strike. Also logical, because a snake’s body is designed for stealth, attack, and creating fear in an opponent or prey. It is not a coincidence then, that many snakes eat mice, so choosing to run, as opposed to joining a snake for dinner, is another good choice for a mouse. Sometimes though, running is not the first option.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die”
“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
Genesis 1:1, 27; Genesis 2:15-17, 25
But God gave us the gift of free will, so that our love and adoration to Him would be real, and honest. Unfortunately, that left people to make their own choices, and their own mistakes. That first mistake lead to the end of paradise.
“He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.”
Genesis 3:10, 13
Mankind soon discovered that a life separate from God was no picnic, yet our suborn pride kept getting in the way of good choices. (Of God’s choices)
“So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.”
Exodus 1: 11-14
The moment Adam and Eve left the garden God started planning our return to Him, our eternal righteousness. He chose Moses, and unlikely hero to be a leader to His people.
“One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.”
“God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Exodus 2:11-12; Exodus 3:14
Pharaoh did not obey God’s demands easily, but eventually relented.
During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”
Exodus 12:31, 32
God’s people escaped Egypt, but their stubborn pride once again got in the way. So, a journey that could have taken 11 days, took them 40 years to complete. Only one person who fled from Egypt crossed the river Jordan.
“Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”
“Then the Lord said to him (Moses), “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”
Exodus 33: 3; Deuteronomy 34:4
For thousands of years we struggled to follow in God’s way. We fought Him, then obeyed Him, then fought Him once more. He sent many prophets to remind us of our divine destiny, but we just would not listen.
“The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites.”
“No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side.”
Judges 6:1, 33
However, God’s plan for us was in full swing. He was sending forth great leaders and prophets to tell of a chosen one, a Savior for all time. Salvation was on its way.
“The LORD swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke: “One of your own descendants I will place on your throne.”
“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.”
Psalms 132:11; Isaiah 9:6,Jeremiah 23:5-6
Now was the time; God’s plan to right what was wronged in the garden was now in its final stretch. As foretold by dozens of people, the Savior of mankind would be born in Bethlehem. King of Kings; Lord of Lords. The Messiah.
“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” ”How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Luke 1:26-35; Luke 2:4-7
For all of eternity God planned for Christmas day. Everything that transpired in history, from the garden to Abraham, Moses, David, and Mary: God’s overarching plan was to rid the world of sin, and bring all of humanity back home. To do all of that, He needed to enlist the help of His Son.
Why, after the many times people let Him down, why would God keep trying to bring us back to Him?
One word: Love
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Merry Christmas! This is your day to celebrate.
It’s Thanksgiving Day, and during this month our home has undergone the transformation from scary Halloween ghosts and witches, to the earthy displays of leaves glowing in autumn red, pumpkins greeting friends from the front porch, and the smells of morning pastry floating from the kitchen. The sun has only graced us for two hours, but the hustle of cooking for multiple meals, final touches on table decorations, and last minute cleaning is well underway. We love Thanksgiving Day because we get to host the event – which means family will be arriving soon, bringing with them the laughter, love and fun that defines the day.
This story is the prototype of my next book, a year long weekly devotional featuring short stories that kindle long thoughts about God. Fifty-two stories, hundreds of new ways to think about your relationship with God, and hopefully in an interesting and engaging way. Let me know what you think.
Outside my window on the fourth row, the runway raced underneath faster and faster until the nose of the jet lifted, dragging the rest of the 737 with it. The two powerful engines overpowered gravity for the moment; but eventually gravity would win the battle, it always did. So our pilot’s most important objective became choosing where and when the aircraft would submit to gravity and return to earth. Everyone on board flight 765 that day preferred the surrender be accomplished gently, on a runway at the Denver airport.
Last night was a long one for Bill; too little to eat, too much to drink and way too little sleep. The alarm only accentuated his pounding headache, so knocking the clock on to the floor of the hotel room seemed a fair exchange for waking him this early. Rolling out of bed, Bill walked, in not so much of a straight line, to the bathroom. What he saw in the mirror was not a pretty sight; although the mirror had been cruel to him for many years now, so he should have expected nothing less. Before washing his face Bill looked at his reflection in the mirror. The bloodshot eyes were no surprise; most mornings were met with varying shades of red surrounding black pupils. His once thick, black hair was thinning across the top and offered more grey than black. The sagging bags under his eyes were pronounced, looking like a wave of exhaustion pulling down his face. There is a crooked scar just under his right eye, a reminder of falling asleep while driving home late one night from somewhere that he should not have been. The morning beard is a staggered mixture of white and black. Why did the architect of this hotel make the mirrors so big? There was nothing here Bill wanted to see.
Lynn (Mom) walked from the kitchen, where she was making breakfast, to the landing midway up the stairs, “They are in your top drawer on the right side, with all your other socks -same place that they have been for the last four years; and remember the rule of not shouting in the house?”
“Yes Mom, thank you.” ‘You’ was drawn out in typical adolescence overkill. Kallie was the middle child in this busy household.
Kaizer, our 100 pound lap-dog, can suck the negativity and anger right out of anyone, his enthusiasm for life fills a room when he enters it; as does his enormous head, long and lean body, and huge feet. His tail can be compared to nuclear energy; it is meant for good, but when it’s near a coffee table where any breakables are on display – the incredible force of his nonstop, speed-of-light tail can only leave destruction and heartache behind. He is one of two dogs whose home we share (note the implied ownership – they hold the mortgage and have never made a payment), and without them our home seems empty and too quiet. Kaizer is a good dog (and Harley – so are you).
As the year ends and we transition to another, it is commonplace to reflect on what we have done, and what we have left undone. Too often though, reflection on the past morphs into a self-inflicted mental beating, centered on our perceived shortcomings. We tend to focus on the bad, and forget about the good we have done. The discussion becomes a stream of, “I didn’t…”
I didn’t lose ten pounds.
I didn’t get that promotion.
I didn’t find full time work.
I didn’t save, or invest as I had planned.
I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t……
A little negativity can erase a lot of greatness, if we let it. Our pastor spoke about this phenomenon in an excellent sermon, and I’m sharing just two if his thoughts, but they are very important. When the “I didn’t” takes over, remember:
You are better than you think you are
You matter more than you think you do
Why? Because it is true, and because God said so. We are not the center of the universe, God is. But, sometimes we are much closer to the center than we think.
Happy New Year!
Thanks for reading.
STARTING NEXT WEEK, RATHER THAN SENDING THE ENTIRE MESSAGE IN AN EMAIL, I WILL BE SENDING A LINK BACK TO MY WEBSITE WHERE YOU CAN READ IT. I PROMISE IT WILL BE EASY AND FAST. – Michael
In the shopping mall, or in the parking lot adjacent to the mall, as we approach Christmas Day the intensity increases in almost geometric proportions. In other words, it can get pretty nasty out there. Not with everyone, and not to astronomic levels, but on average the anxiety index goes up as we near the big day. And, if you are one who believes that welcoming the New Year is the second most important day of the year, then the stress will last until sometime in January. There are moments, perhaps days, when the stress dissipates, allowing joy to sneak past the barriers of hurry and rush, bringing forth that smile for which we all search. Why are all of us so determined to self-inflict stress, drama, anxiety, and heartache into the holiday season? Could it be our unnatural, yet all-encompassing need for perfection? Everything needs to be just right. The need for “right” usually isn’t even for us; it not an “about me” complex that rules the emotional landmines cluttering the shopping, cooking, and decorating scheduled for today. No, we need everything to be just right for everyone else. It is the giving part of our celebration which provides such amazing joy and unprecedented weariness in the same instant; it’s the Yin and Yang of Christmas. I say it is time to keep the Ying (amazing joy) and throw out the Yang. I am promoting the idea that not being perfect is okay. Imperfection is the pavement on the road to happiness.
A favorite tradition during the Christmas season is the placement of lights on your yard and home. Christmas lights are like fireworks that don’t burn out and fall from the sky, but stay bright, as long and often as you wish. Glowing colored lights of all shapes and colors: red, yellow, green, and now even purple, in shapes of stars, balls, icicles, and angels. Trees and bushes are engulfed by multicolored webs, transforming dormant green and brown plants into glowing beacons of electric wizardry. Suddenly, a fog filled and chilly evening has become a scene of Muppets playing in the neighbor’s yard, Charlie Brown and his gang playing baseball on the roof, Santa and his gift filled sleigh rocket to a chimney from a nearby light pole. Scenes of white glowing deer amongst (You guessed it), white glowing circular trees surround the Magnolia Tree in the front yard, and air filled Polar Bears standing along an Igloo – magically rise for the evening show, only to deflate at midnight. Occasionally, a scene of wise men, a man and woman, and a baby find their way onto a yard to tell a different story of light.
Lighting our homes in celebration of Christmas is a beautiful tradition that I hope lives forever. Of course it should, since the tradition has already survived for over two thousand years. The first year there was only one light, but it was fantastically bright, and thought it could be seen by millions, was only noticed by three. It is a light that has never gone out since, and never will.
Have a very Bright and Merry Christmas.