Discover. Uncover. Recover. Spiritual Disciplines for the Expectant (Part Three)

Hope

Hope (Photo credit: bitzcelt)

God sure has His work cut out for Him this Christmas.

In keeping with our Advent theme of expectancy, what many of us are expecting from the Christ child and our annual celebration of His birth has changed over the past week. While we seek to DISCOVER Him in His Word and UNCOVER His Presence in our hearts, a growing number of us have another need – one which trumps the previous two…

a need to RECOVER.

The spiritual discipline of RECOVER requires that we look no further than the dictionary to aptly describe what our expectant hearts need most from Emmanuel today:

To get back: REGAIN

We desperately need what we had before last Friday; before the diagnosis; before the deployment; before tragedy struck and darkness hovered over the face of our deepest fears.

To bring back to normal position or condition: RESCUE

‘Normal’ is a relative term, isn’t it? We might even ask whether normal is a word we can entertain in a world such as the one in which we live. Perhaps what we need most is God’s reminder that He knows our condition. He sees our aberrations and infections and misfires. He knows that what we see and experience and read and watch each day is not His idea of normal. He knows that the most some of us are hoping for in the coming year is a new normal, since returning to an unbroken state in these broken lives we lead is impossible without a full-on invasion by the God of the Angel Armies.

But, WAIT! That’s what Christmas IS! The Baby in the manger came to be our life-line, our connection to Heaven. Our RESCUE.

To find or identify again

We discussed our great need to DISCOVER God when we began our series last week. It’s no secret that when tragedy strikes, people begin to look up and look around in search of meaning and hope. Our response to the struggles and challenges of life can take us down dark paths toward more difficulty and pain, or we can choose to seek out that which we have lost sight of. Through the tears and discomfort of knowing too much and seeing too much, we must discipline ourselves to look for the Light. Only by that Light do we stand a chance of finding what we’ve lost and in so doing, helping others to find it (Him), too.

REACH

I never thought about the word RECOVER meaning to REACH, and yet there it is – in black and white. In order to recover from tragedy and find what we have lost, we must REACH for the One Who has already reached out to us through the Presence of His Son in our dark world. If you can do nothing else to express what you find inside your head and heart today, do this one thing: reach for Him.

To save from loss and restore to usefulness

Ultimately, the work of the manger is a saving work. We have all experienced loss. In our hopelessness we know what it’s like to be rendered utterly useless. As we look forward to  reminders of God’s action on our behalf – as Christmas Eve approaches – may we be open to being saved. Rescued. Reached. Found. Restored.

Not just so that we can feel better.

Not only for the good of our own hearts and the lives of those we bump elbows with from day to day.

But so that we may be found useful in the ongoing RECOVERY work of the Kingdom of God. Agents of healing. Messengers of peace. Bringers of joy (and hugs and smiles). Sharers of tears.

Children of God.

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TREK to the MANGER 20: STINKY Friday

Clean drinking water...not self-evident for ev...

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Like it or not, when my alarm goes off each Friday morning, it has officially begun…

STINKY Friday.

New to our family “traditions,” STINKY Friday was instituted through the back door by my 6th grade son after school began last fall. If you’re a parent, you may have noticed how much harder it is to rouse your sleeping students by the time Friday morning rolls around. It took about three weeks of middle school before the Friday phenomenon showed up on my radar, and I realized that no alarm clock seemed to be able to cut through the Friday a.m. fog.

I’m a slow learner, but one lesson that God has graciously allowed me to repeat many times is the one that says, “choose your battles.” I decided that making my son get up in time for a shower on Friday mornings was not a battle worth choosing, so I “unofficially” let it slide (to my son’s great joy). Upon hearing about this decision I had made, my husband coined the consequences “STINKY Friday.”

STAR SIGHTING

Ever been camping? By day #3 things can get pretty stinky.

Been on a plane lately? Not everyone who buys a ticket boards the plane smelling shower-fresh.

After days and days on the road, I imagine that things might have been pretty pungent for the Wise Men (they were traveling with camels, after all).

A by-product of travel is perspiration.

A by-product of perspiration is odor.

It simply goes with the territory.

The act of living produces a similar by-product, according to the prophet Isaiah. Just like body odor, which none of us is immune to (hence the full shelves of deodorant, body wash and cologne at your local WalMart), our words and actions contribute to what ends up being the Ground Hog Day of STINKY Fridays:

“All of us are dirty with sin. All the right things we have done are like filthy pieces of cloth.” Isaiah 64:6a (NCV)

Even our best efforts at living produce the inevitable by-product of stinky sin.

It simply goes with the territory.

The best remedy for body odor is a long shower and the help of some powerful antibacterial soap products.

The best remedy for sin-stained lives is the waters of baptism through the powerful Spirit of God:

“It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives.” Titus 3:3-7 (The Message)

God’s gift to Trek-weary travelers is a good bath in His sea of forgetfulness. Now that’s a star that I can follow.

DAILY GIVEAWAY

Perhaps the best thing you can give away on STINKY Friday (and every day) is the active realization that all of us are dirty with sin. We can be the most diligent followers of Christ, the most purposefully generous of people, yet on our best day we are no better than mud-stained, grass-stained jeans. Our only hope for emerging from this life in the pristine white robes of the saints is to be washed in the saving blood of the once-child-now-sacrifical-Lamb of God, whose cleansing is offered without condition to all who have breath. No exceptions.

The life-giving work of the cross is God’s work, not ours.

On this STINKY Friday, let’s choose to embrace the level playing field of souls that are the men, women and kids we encounter every day. In light of the good bath you’ve been given, find a way today to share the sweet fragrance of restoration with someone whose own stain-removal efforts have failed over and over again.

By giving us back our lives, God makes it possible for us to reach out and guide others onto the path – this lifelong Trek to the Manger.

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