Make Time for Wonder

    On this Christmas Eve, I offer you a few thoughts from my heart to yours. Sharing heart to heart is itself so . . .  central to life and so much this time of year brings forth deep emotion.  At this time of year in particular God brings to life for me certain memories, much as He makes new again the realization that He came and “pitched His tent among us.” Because I hope to prompt wonder in you, I’ll try to keep my words brief.

One memory that comes to me is of the insightful and pleasant prose of Ken Gire in his Moments with the Savior, like this excerpt from a prayer which follows his contemplation of the wise men’s search (and discovery) of the promised King:

Thank you for the stars and the dreams and the Scriptures and the many ways you reveal yourself. Give me eyes to see you in the circumstances of my life, ears to hear you in the Scriptures, feet to find you in the Bethlehems of this world, hands to bring you my gifts, knees to bow before you, and a heart flowing with worship.

I suggest that wonder is an essential for worship—but the press of time and the Season make wonder even more scarce at Christmas. Maybe that is part of the Enemy’s plan. I think the wise men had to make time for their search—while even Israel’s spiritual leaders were busy about the things of YHWH, those who made time to seek Him were richly rewarded. Again, I encourage you even now to make time for wonder. Perhaps you should take a deep breath through your nose, pause, then allow it to flow out your mouth—Jesus, quiet my heart—then re-read the quote, a bit more slowly and as from you to Him.

One fairly common memory for me at this time of year is a new realization of being tired . . . perhaps exhausted or drained would be more accurate. Perhaps you can relate. Several years ago this feeling resulted in my use of a photo of a used tea bag as the image representative of a line (What then can I bring Him, empty as I am) from James Taylor’s In the Bleak Mid-Winter. It came to me again, with tears, a couple of weeks ago as I listened to some children singing songs about Jesus’ birth—longing to give Him something of real worth, but sensing I have nothing left to give.

Part of why I like James’ version of this old poem is his use of instrumentals to introduce the song and its movements; God uses those chords to take me to a place of peace. In that peaceful place I am able to think on the Creator-Sustainer God who loves you without limits, and came in a helpless infant Jesus to show you how much! The empty as I am line opens the final thoughts of the poem, and through them Papa ministers to my heart.

What then can I bring Him, empty as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I could bring a lamb.
If I were a Wise Man, I would know my part.
What then can I bring Him?
I must give my heart.

Our heart is what it’s all about. Amid the rush of the Season, does He have yours? I won’t dwell this time on the reality of a pure heart within every child of God (although perhaps you should, perhaps that is the point He has for you in this today, maybe His gift to you of a pure heart is how He would catch you up in wonder, love, and praise. If so, go there [now]! You’re excused.). I am reminded of the expansive significance in Scripture of the word heart—Papa uses heart to speak of “the center of the inner life—feelings, emotions, desires, passions, understanding, thought, reflection, will, resolve, . . . the heart determines conduct.”

If I were a Wise Man, I would know my part.
What then can I bring Him?
I must give my heart.

If you haven’t already, please pause with Him; ask Him to bring new life to some of your memories of Him. And then make time for Him to do what you ask: Think on Him. Wonder. And if you have a Facebook account and He leads you to spend a few minutes with me and James, check out this (4 minute) photo montage for In the Bleak Midwinter I put together a couple of years ago (http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1819086875790&saved#!/video/video.php?v=1819086875790 )

May your Christmas be wonder-filled. 

John

You smell like . . .

The other night I had a group of guys come over to talk and pray. As is common with us, a number of the guys embraced as they greeted on another. One of the guys commented to another, You smell like . . . a man! Great start to another time of real authenticity! Honestly! Turns out the brother had been climbing earlier in the day, hadn’t yet showered and was entirely unaware of any . . . offensive odor—how great to hear the truth from a friend! Ever wonder what odor you give off?

For many reasons this is the time of year when I am particularly aware of God’s work in and through us as described by Paul in II Corinthians 2:14 & 15:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing . . ..

God doesn’t call us to be stinkers! Indeed, His purpose is to manifest the sweet aroma of Jesus through us. Peterson translates it people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. In considering these words several years ago God led me to think of myself as a “diffuser” of His gracious fragrance—I’m just the “reed” in the image; He  has placed me into Himself and Himself into me, so where I go His sweet aroma gets spread, not in an overpowering way but in a way which is refreshing. Like frankincense and myrrh, to some my presence brings a refreshing aroma while to others I have the stench of death—not because of me, but because of their own reaction to Jesus within me, living through me, being real.

Long ago over the hills outside Bethlehem the angels announced that Jesus’ coming was good news of great joy for all people (Luke 2:10). Is that the message you convey about Him? Do you allow His Spirit to overflow joy through you as a sweet aroma? The reed in a diffuser is pretty plain and the role is pretty simple. Yet, it is an important role if the fragrance is to make it out of the bottle!

Last night I was privileged to go with a group of students from Northwest University to share a meal and conversation with some older folks at Operation Nightwatch, Seattle. As we made the arrangements none of us knew that it was the birthday of one of the residents. Miss Linda was turning 64 but planned on just picking up some pizza and going back to her room to eat in the privacy of her room. But Miss Linda is a dearly beloved, blood bought, child of The King and Papa had better things planned for her! As the students engaged with her you could see her countenance change. She joined us for dinner, laughed, and offered up her dominoes (the games lasted for a couple of hours, past her normal bedtime). Pay attention and make note of how much Papa loves us! As I wrote an email earlier today to thank the students, I shared with them one of my favorite benedictions—from Richard C. Halverson:

You go no place by accident. Wherever you go, Christ is sending you.

You are no place by mistake. Wherever you are, Christ has placed you.

You go nowhere by accident—you are nowhere by accident.
Wherever you go–wherever you are—Christ is placing you or sending you,
because Christ has a job He wants to do where you are
and He can only do it in your body.

Think–wherever you are, Jesus Christ is literally present in the flesh.
Believe that, and go in that confidence.

As your thoughts and activities move from Thanksgiving to Christmas, may His exquisite fragrance be diffused through you, and may you too enjoy the aroma!

John