A Poem for Advent

by Mary Mattie

Sara and Elizabeth,

long lives lived in barren waiting

promised, blessed with babies

miracle babies

at last!

and the angel said

“Do not be afraid.”

 

Mary,

promised a  miracle baby

the fulfillment of so many

promises, dreams and hopes

Mary said “Yes”

and the angel said

“Do not be afraid.”

 

It was not a mistake

that The Lord came to us

first

as a baby

small and vulnerable

impoverished and homeless

The Lord of All!

 

A baby!

the gift of life

hope for the future

a precious new being

it was not a mistake

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Time to Be a Blessing

by Lisa Correia

What is it I value during the season of Advent?

My simple answer is time; time that is given to us to reflect.

Time is one thing that does not seem to be on our side during the four weeks of Advent. Our “To Do” lists are usually crazy long and the societal expectations during this season can be unrelenting and virtually unrealistic. However, maybe this is one of the Lord’s gifts to us as we get ready to celebrate His birth. Maybe, we are asked to ponder what it is we have spent and plan to spend our valuable time doing.

On the December 18 reading from, “Unwrapping the Greatest Gifts” we were reminded of the Book of Esther and how she was able to use her position as queen to help her people from the viciousness of Haman. It reads that Esther didn’t feel assured that she would be able to influence her husband, King Xerxes, to stop the plan to murder “all of God’s children” in the kingdom. To attempt to do so would be to risk her life. Esther does decide to approach the king with the request to save her people. The outcome is favorable.

We, like Esther, are also Blessed to be a Blessing every day of our lives. The positions we are in, our roles at home or during our time at work, allow us to lay down seeds of God’s grace in every situation we face. During this time of Advent, take time to reflect on the reason we celebrate the season and look to Him before fretting about who we might disappoint if all other expectations aren’t met.

About the Author: Lisa Correia has been a member at Hamblen since 2000. She served as the Wednesday Night song leader in the fall of this year, has been a member of the Hallel and Sunday School music teams, and leads music at the Hamblen Women’s Retreat. Lisa is married to Joe and has three children and one granddaughter.

God Remembers

By Betty Rogers

He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.”  Luke 1:17

All we have to get ready for Christmas — our hearts

I did not grow up knowing there is a God.  My mother went to be with the Lord when I was 12. I was sent to live with paternal grandparents.  Over a period of two years, I was indoctrinated into the life and times of Christianity.  Way too much to absorb —  however, I came to understand the Christmas miracle over a span of many years.  In the early 70’s, I opened my heart to walking with the most precious father I would ever know.  My Lord both walked with me and carried me as a mother, as a wife, as a friend, as a co-worker, as a caregiver for my husband, as a widow, as a cancer survivor, and beyond the “what was” as my confidant and the center of stability in my life each day forward.  Five years ago, my Yakima church family sent me with their blessing to Spokane into a mission field of the unknown of where I was to be planted beyond that of my children  — again prompted by the Lord.  Throughout my awesome experiencing God adventure, I have never felt separated from the heart-felt knowledge that “I am protected”.  I am also reminded, I have a long way of getting it right …but never forgotten.

About the Author: Betty Rogers has been a member at Hamblen since 2013 and leads a small group for women.

Today’s reading reinforces “God remembers”.  He remembered me before I knew Him —  He remembered me as I became a seeker –and He continues to remember me as I open my heart to his directive —  All for His glory.

We Will Serve the Lord

by Barb Shell

Joshua 24:15: “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

This has been a verse I have called on in my life.  It reminds me that there is something bigger and better, and that is God’s plan for me.  When I didn’t know for sure where I would be living with my three beautiful children, I recall looking at the verse a bit differently.  As for me and my children, we will serve the Lord.  It didn’t matter where we were or if we were in a house, apartment, or car, the Lord was meeting our every need.  I strived to be balanced.  Not everything in my world was spiritual, but we did rely on God for many things.  I also was angry at him as well.

I had to have a sense of balance and completeness to feel I was doing what the Lord wanted for me and my family.  Just as Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs goes (physical needs, emotional needs, and spiritual needs), I had one that I knew had to be followed to put me right with God and my children.

I knew I had to be there physically for my children.  I didn’t want them fending for themselves and flunking out of school, not because they were not smart enough but because nobody took the time to help with homework, or read, or go to their extra-curricular activities.

I knew I had to love my children with every ounce of my being.  They were going to need to have their emotional needs met.  I knew I loved them the day they were born, but now being a single Mom it was time to really give them my all.  They are this special gift from the Lord God and just on loan to me, so I need to remember that.  Their spirits are tender, and they are open hearted. Then there were MY needs:  I needed companionship and deep friendships.  (That’s why I like my coffee dates!)

Now our spiritual needs – easy right?  I had to share that when there are troubles,  I call on the Lord for strength.  Is that hard? Absolutely. Is it natural, or easy? No, not at all. It takes intentionally thinking about it to make it more of a routine and something that is just always on the brain.  Trust is hard, but much needed.

I’m not about to give up on the Lord now. My family and I are in too deep to give up.  God has been so, so good to us.  He has given us many victories. We’re not homeless, we have a beautiful Habitat for Humanity house.  I have finished school and been hired as a preschool teacher. The list is endless.  Just when I thought, what’s next? or, Really? Another car accident?  He would miraculously slide in my life and bless my socks off again and again and again.  He has given victory over all the giants in our path.  I don’t know about your house, but my house is going to serve God!!!

Come to Bethlehem

blasens By John and Christeena Blasen

2But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. 4And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5and he shall be the one of peace. If the Assyrians come into our land and tread upon our soil, we will raise against them seven shepherds and eight installed as rulers. -Micah 5:2-5

“Oh come all ye faithful to Bethlehem” is a favorite Christmas song.  From 700 years before his birth, Micah prophesied a savior king was to be born in Bethlehem.  It was to be a gift from God for the peoples of all the earth, the true peace and salvation for mankind.  What a miracle!

What a miracle that Bethlehem still exists today as it was mentioned as a village in the book of Ruth some 600 years before Micah!  Today the place recognized as Jesus’ birthplace is in a grotto beneath the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem/Palestine.

We visited this cave with a “manger”; a place where Mary gave miraculous birth; a place hollowed out for hay storage; believed to be where Christ lay when visited by shepherds and the Magi.  Most people did not have houses then.  What a miracle that mosaic walls of the Basilica depicting the Magi were recognized by raiders centuries after the church was built.  They spared the church from destruction as they saw one of their ancestors as part of the Magi!  What a miracle that the faithful can still come to Bethlehem!

Our first child arrived just before Christmas ’71.  We were living in temporary quarters in a little Kaserne in Germany, a long way from home and family.  Birth is a miracle in and of itself.  When our daughter arrived we thankfully laid her under the Christmas tree as a present.  She was a miracle to us and Christmas is still our favorite time of year!

It is a miracle today to still be able to visit Bethlehem, the very land the shepherds were tending and the same olive trees (still producing olives) after more than 2000 years!  Jesus birth gives us hope and optimistically reminds us of God’s plan for peace.

About the authors: John and Christeena Blasen will celebrate 45 years of marriage in January.  They feel blessed by God in countless ways. They wrote, “Looking back to the Christmas of ’71, we were extremely blessed; first to be together during the Viet Nam War when so many others were not so fortunate; and we got to celebrate the birth of our daughter while in Germany.  We have been very lucky in so many ways since, that we can not begin to explain how fortunate we are to live in this country, with the freedoms we take for granted and it is all through God’s grace.  Being in the exact area as the shepherds about two years ago, seeing the same stars they saw every night in the sky and then realizing how amazing Christmas and the virgin birth must have been is unforgettable!  We do not know if the cave we visited is the exact spot, but so many historians of several faiths believe it and thus so do we.  If ever the opportunity comes to go to Bethlehem for Christmas; do not pass it up.  Of all the places we have ever been, it is the most amazing!”

 

The Jonah Impulse

by Steve Allen

I remember the day when I realized that for me to stay in Zambia as a missionary rather than obey God and return to America was my version of being Jonah. I wanted to stay in Zambia. I feared going back to the unknown of America.  I knew God was calling me back and I knew it was going to be hard.

Fortunately and unfortunately, I had done the Jonah thing before.  I remembered how just like Jonah, I never won.  While I ran, he was patiently raising up storms of inner chaos, disillusionment and depression.   I had enough Jonah experiences in my life that I knew that while I was heading back to America with a lot of fear, difficult prospects and lots of unknown, the joy of obedience is always worth it in the long run.  But, that is the problem I noticed. I obeyed, reluctantly, not because I cared about others or about what He was calling me back to do, but because honestly, I just cared about my comfort, my control and me.

The life of Jonah is pretty much the same. He was being asked to do something opposite of what he wanted to do. After three days in a big fish, he reluctantly did what was being asked to do.  But, there was no joy. Even after Nineveh repented.  He knew God would be gracious to the people of Nineveh. Jonah didn’t want the wrath of God to be averted or diverted from those who he thought really deserved it.

Consider the life of Jesus and the birth of Jesus. Who would have wanted to leave the Promised Land to enter into the mess of planet earth? And remember the three times Jesus pleaded with the Father to let his cup pass?  Ultimately, Jesus obeyed.  He wanted only what God wanted.  And, after he endured incredible pain, shame and death, he provided a gift to His people that could never be taken away, that never faded, that never could be replaced.

Now, contrast Jonah, and myself and maybe even you, with Jesus, who according to Hebrews 12:2, for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despised the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. He endured, obeyed, and humbled himself for the joy set before Him.

This is the irony of Christmas.  The most anticipated day of the year bringing a short lived happiness to so many people happened to be the start of the most difficult act of obedience and yet longest-lasting, joy-filled, eternal gift moment in the history of the world.

It is interesting to ponder.  Jesus gave us a gift of eternity, spirit-motivated selflessness and purpose that can never be purchased and yet is never more experienced than when we give, sacrifice and share it with others.

Lord, thank you for your grace when we run in opposite ways of obedience in fear, rebellion, comfort or apathy.   May we look to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, to obey, not reluctantly, but with hearts full of joy as you modeled so lovingly.  Turn our eyes and hearts with eternal perspectives and may the joy of obedience be fueled by the true meaning of Christmas. Amen.

Steve Allen is the Executive Director of Family Promise of Spokane.

The Red Rope

By Betty Rogers

Joshua 2:1-18

“. . . believe that the love of Jesus is in the place you don’t expect it.”

Today’s query is:  How is Jesus like a lifeline to you … a rope you can hold on to no matter what?

For me, one way Jesus is like a lifeline is through the community of a small group.  Having been in group settings since 1991, I have been molded by God as I reflect on His endless grace – how His love measures no other – how His Word fills my soul with comfort.  The fellowship of being in a safe place allows me to go deeper, to discern God’s direction for my life, to be stretched beyond the boundaries of familiar territory. It allows me to understand how God uses each of us in unique ways to come alongside other seekers.  A genuine God-directed small group is a red rope worth holding on to no matter what.