Fearfully and Wonderfully

Today, I wrote the devotional for a health and wellness challenge group I’m participating in on Facebook. Here is what I shared:

13 For it was you (God) who formed my inward parts;
  you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
  Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.

15   My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
  intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
  all the days that were formed for me, 
when none of them as yet existed. Psalm 139:13-16

Let’s take a moment and consider a truth that is among the easiest to forget: You, child of God, are fearfully and wonderfully made by a Designer who knows every part of your body and every breath you will take. God created you with intention, on purpose, and God did not produce anything defective or unuseful.

Your body, the one you are maybe hoping to improve or restore to health, was fearfully and wonderfully made by your Creator. You have one body and you should absolutely seek to be as healthy as possible to honor God. But your body, even just as it is, is God-made.

Your inner self, which probably frustrates you a good bit as you struggle to control your thoughts or actions, as you carry around burdens of sin and despair, is seen by God. You should absolutely seek to repent of your sins and bring your burdens to God, but the God who always sees what is inside of you loves you with an unshakable love even still.

The book of your life, which you might sometimes believe seems boring or mundane to everyone else, was written by God. You should definitely seek to live the best story possible, but know that God is the one with the pen in hand, and your story matters in God’s Kingdom.

There is a whole industry built around making you feel like there is something wrong with your body and your life and that you (without their products) are not enough. As you seek to be healthy–body, mind, spirit, and strength–give thanks to the God who made you in a fearfully wonderful way.

 

Merry Christmas!

I know, I kind of fell off the track for the last few words of the Advent Photo Challenge. Today’s word is #birth, which I’m sure will make for some very nice photos from other folks, but I’m going to skip that word. I also skipped #worry and #warmth and at least one other this week.

Today is when we’ll do most of our Christmas celebrating. In about 20 minutes, Simon and I will start waking the other two residents of this house.

Merry Christmas from our home to yours. May God bless you and keep you as one year ends and another one begins.

#Stillness

Last night was our Longest Night service.

Yesterday was a hard day. I am so grateful for the Light that endures. May that Light bring you joy and peace this season.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  John 1:1-5

#Presence

“Jesus and the Lamb” by Katherine Brown, 1982

This artwork hangs in our hallway. It hung in our hallway at our first house, too, and before that, it hung in my apartment. The print was a college graduation gift from my friend Katie.

Many days, I walk right past it and forget to see it. Other days, I stop and trace each sketched line with my eyes and think about how comforted and safe that lamb is in the arms of its shepherd, Jesus.

Lord, you have searched me and known me. 
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
   you discern my thoughts from far away. 
You search out my path and my lying down,
   and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Even before a word is on my tongue,
   O Lord, you know it completely. 
You hem me in, behind and before,
   and lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
   it is so high that I cannot attain it. 


Where can I go from your spirit?
   Or where can I flee from your presence? 
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
   if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 
If I take the wings of the morning
   and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 
even there your hand shall lead me,
   and your right hand shall hold me fast. 
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
   and the light around me become night’, 
even the darkness is not dark to you;
   the night is as bright as the day,
   for darkness is as light to you. 


For it was you who formed my inward parts;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
   Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well. 
   My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
   intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
   all the days that were formed for me,
   when none of them as yet existed. 
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
   How vast is the sum of them! 
I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
   I come to the end—I am still with you. —Psalm 139:1-18

#Peace

Sometimes during this season of peace on earth, peace is hard to grasp.

I work at a church, which is supposed to be the bearer of this good news of peace and good will, and yet I, and my colleagues and many of our members, spend a good amount of time in Advent planning, implementing, rushing, and filling our schedules with programs, events, gatherings, and tasks.

The fourth Sunday of Advent was shaping up to be what I began thinking of as the “Presbyterian Pentathlon.” The day would contain: worship with our children’s Christmas pageant; a congregational meeting; a reception following worship and the meeting; Youth Group baking and board games; and the all-church caroling party.

Last week as I met with our pastor, Eric, and we strategized and did our part of the planning for the fourth Sunday of Advent, I confessed, “I’m the one who scheduled most of this stuff for this Sunday instead of spreading it out.” But the truth is, Advent fell as early as it could this year, and this fourth Sunday of Advent was not much more busy than previous years’ fourth Sundays are.

And so, starting at 9am yesterday, the day began as children and parents began to gather for the pre-worship rehearsal of their pageant. And it was a lot of non-stop for a lot of good Presbyterians as the day moved along.

Around 4:30pm, we pulled up to our third caroling stop. As we climbed the hill to Willie Ann’s house, she was waiting at her door for us. It was very cold outside, but we waited patiently for Willie Ann to hug and kiss each caroler coming in her door to see her. Willie Ann is 93 years-old, is God’s gift to anyone who knows her, and her hugs and loving words have blessed each one of us time and again. She is not able to come to church anymore and her presence is missed remarkably at each gathering.

So we sang, loudly, and I got a little teary because this was just good for all of our souls and a precious reminder of peace that comes through singing and hugging and spending time with people who love us.

Again Isaiah says,
‘The root of Jesse shall come,
   the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.’ 
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:12-13

#Confession

It is Saturday.

On Thursday, I finished my fall semester at UDTS. Yesterday, I cleaned, ran errands, got a haircut, celebrated my mother in-law’s birthday, and made a late night run to Michael’s with Jason.

Today, I slept all the way until 7am, something I haven’t done for weeks. And then when I got up, I poured the coffee and started making my pretzel, chocolate, M&M buttons to give away to neighbors, delivery people, co-workers, and some of Jason’s clients. And–here’s the confession–I turned on the cheesiest, happiest, most implausible Christmas movies I could find. And I’m currently on my third Christmas movie. And I expect to watch at least three more today as I finish writing cards, crocheting gifts, and wrapping things.

Tomorrow is church-a-palooza with all things 4th Sunday of Advent. And Monday, my J-Term professor gives us our pre-load for the class that starts January 2. So today? I’m doing whatever I want.

Oh, and hey, I found this:

#Watchful

Simon and Jonas…sometimes a hastily taken photo turns out all right.

Somehow, I ended up in Habakkuk tonight. Habakkuk is the book of the Bible I am least able to spell, and the book I am least likely to read, I’d figure.

But tonight, there’s this:

I will stand at my watch-post,
   and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
   and what he will answer concerning my complaint. 
2 Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
   make it plain on tablets,
   so that a runner may read it. 
3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
   it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
   it will surely come, it will not delay. 
Habakkuk 2:1-3

#Saving

“Saving” was a word I had to think about all day yesterday before I settled on a photo. What exactly does “saving”look like when it comes to a photo challenge? What does it mean to save something or some situation or someone?

I thought about the word while I took my Hebrew final exam yesterday morning and encountered this word’s Hebrew equivalent.

I thought about it while I drove past banks.

I thought about it when I reached out twice yesterday afternoon and grabbed buckets of perler beads from the hands of children who were just about to drop them all over the floor.

I thought about it while I stood with the children around the big Nativity set in the fellowship hall last night.

I thought about it while 4 girls, poised over sheets of drawing paper with pencils in their hands, considered the stories in scripture about Jesus’ birth and drew their own interpretations of them. They asked each other (and me) questions about dress, customs, timeline, and particular elements of the story that are missing or not as prominent as most would assume. They asked questions they could answer for each other and questions that no one in the room could possibly answer. “Really?” they asked each other. “Is that true?” they asked. “I never thought about it that way before!” they exclaimed.

I thought about how stories are saved and kept. How having them written down is good, but knowing them through questioning and answering and drawing is better.

“Did you know that an angel told Mary she was going to have a baby before anyone else knew? And Mary was really confused, because she wasn’t even married! And she was probably upset at first, but it turned out to be good news…the goodest news!” A nine year-old boy explained me to yesterday afternoon as we worked on his homework together.

It’s news we still tell each other about, news we still keep, save, discuss, and draw.

 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’  Luke 1:26-33

#comfort

It’s Christmas time and I’m working every night on the gifts I’m making to give away. I won’t tell you who will receive this gift, but I will tell you that as I crochet, I’m praying that this person would know God’s comfort and peace in her life.

Comfort, O comfort my people,
   says your God. 
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
   and cry to her
that she has served her term,
   that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
   double for all her sins. 


A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
   make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 
Every valley shall be lifted up,
   and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
   and the rough places a plain. 
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
   and all people shall see it together,
   for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ 


A voice says, ‘Cry out!’
   And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
All people are grass,
   their constancy is like the flower of the field. 
The grass withers, the flower fades,
   when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
   surely the people are grass. 
The grass withers, the flower fades;
   but the word of our God will stand for ever. 
Get you up to a high mountain,
   O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
   O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
   lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
   ‘Here is your God!’ 
See, the Lord God comes with might,
   and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
   and his recompense before him. 
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
   he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
   and gently lead the mother sheep. Isaiah 40:1-11

#Welcome

This is Biscuit. She is a joy-bringer. She comes to see us almost every Monday at after school club to encourage the kids to exercise and be active. When the weather permits, kids can take turns holding her leash (and they all get “squirrel training,” because Biscuit loves to chase squirrels) and walking with her around the neighborhood, the riverfront, or the park across the street from the church.

One of the things Biscuit is good at is making kids feel welcomed and loved. And the kids in our program are always glad to do the same for her.

Biscuit belongs to Cindy, Riley, and Adam and today she was wearing this hat. We’re taking pictures of the kids for special parent gifts, and she didn’t want to miss out, so we got her posing by the tree, too.

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:5-7