I have spent the last several weeks doing research on famous preachers from days gone by. I have been reading sermons from men like John Wesley and biographies on Calvin and Knox. Great heroes of the Christian faith have left behind them legacies, lessons, and landmarks for instruction and guidance to this and to future generations.
My heart has been stirred to new depths of personal devotion as I have read about William Tyndale, a man who translated the scriptures from Latin into English and subsequently published the Bible in the common language of the British Empire. Although this seems like no great feat to us today, He was persecuted and ultimately martyred for his cause of making God’s Word available to the masses and the average man.
History is replete with examples of people in all arenas of life who overcame hardships to carry their message, withstood opposition for the cause they deemed worthwhile, and suffered personal loss for the advancement of a greater good. Efforts of heroes from earlier generations secure the blessings that the future generations will enjoy.
I have often heard the old adage that we come into this world naked. Although we do arrive into the world unclad and empty-handed, we do not arrive into an empty world. Some caregiver is there to feed and diaper us; a family unit awaits to impart identity and self-worth; teachers stand prepared to transfer knowledge and wisdom; and society is saturated with a worldview with which to inundate and inculcate us. The naked child becomes clothed with the sacrifice of others.
The veracity of this truth places an enormous burden upon each generation to lay up that which is worthy to be transferred. The Bible, using a metaphor to communicate this reality, tells us to build with materials like gold or silver that will endure rather than products like wood or hay that will burn. What we build will be tested. Temporary solutions may look like answers in the short run but, as the scripture suggests, are unstable building blocks. That which is temporary will wear out or burn up. Solutions good for today without thought of repercussions on tomorrow are dangerous.
What will be our cultural condition when we reach tomorrow if we find no present, modern-day heroes? What problems await our society if all the pop idols go for the gusto while destroying family values, demonstrate that lasciviousness is the accepted norm, and showcase vulgarity and immorality as the pathway to freedom? If we continue to strip society of all values, with what will we clothe our children?
I am personally appreciative to the soldiers who wage war for the cause of freedom and for the media that tell their stories. My children will be indebted to the politicians and broadcasters who continue to fight for freedom of faith and personal liberties. Our heirs will be thankful to all champions that come forth, whether from the preacher’s pulpit, the teacher’s desk, the CEO’s chair, the judge’s bench, the laborer’s union, the entertainer’s art, or the parent’s lifestyle.
My prayer is that present-day saints will live in the same manner as past-day saints who were willing to sacrifice comfort, convenience and even popularity to proclaim enduring truths. May we build an abiding house of honor and stand ready with garments of truth to clothe the generation that shall follow after us.
The sun has yet to dawn upon the horizon. The moon and the stars are veiled by clouds. Darkness prevails. I sit in my family room surrounded by a soft glow of amber, which is produced from the gold light bulbs that adorn my Christmas tree. The small bulbs illuminate the furnishings in my home generating a warm and cozy feeling in the house.
No one in my home is stirring. Few in my neighborhood have yet risen to greet this day that is beginning in such blackness. I have only seen lights in one nearby house and there is still no traffic on the street. The lonely darkness outside stands in stern contrast to the welcoming illumination indoors thanks to the Christmas tree.
The quietness of the morning has afforded me time to appreciate my tree and to ponder on this holiday that provides the background for one of the most treasured truths found within the pages of the Bible. Few theologians believe that Jesus was actually born on December 25, but all believers acknowledge that on a dark night in a Bethlehem manger the Light of the World began to shine.
The prophets of old had foretold the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God. Although the light of that promise shone only dimly against the dark world of Roman oppression, the faithful believers found solace in the glow of God’s pledge. Just before the dawning of the new day for humanity, the Christ child was born on a dark night, in an obscure village, and in an ignoble place. Mary, Joseph, and a few shepherds were awake. They were privileged to bask in the warm glow of His glory and His grace.
Yet, the darkness of every night yields to the brightness of a new day. If I sit here on my couch long enough, the sun will rise; and its bright rays will diffuse the blackness outside and saturate my house with vivid light. The neighbors will soon be awake; the traffic will flow; and life will thrive in the bright light of day. Darkness may endure for the night, but the sun comes up every morning.
Although I may start this morning against the backdrop of darkness and find some comfort in my softly illuminated surroundings, I know that I am not destined to work and play in this level of dimness. The same could be said for the babe born in a manger! He may have come at night; He may have illuminated only a few in the nativity; He may have shone glory only in a small sphere on that night in Bethlehem; but He brought the dawning of the new era.
The obscurity of the manger gave way to the full light of Christ’s ministry. His miracles and His message shined light everywhere in Judea and Galilee. While He lived, many responded to His brightness. Yet that was just the beginning. Throughout the last two millennia, people in all nations have heard of Christ and responded to the brightness of His glory. He may have been born in an obscure manger, but He came to be the Light of the World.
Isaiah 60:1-3 declares, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” (ESV)
As you celebrate Christmas this week and look toward 2021, I pray that you will have the hope of a bright future because of the birth of Christ, who is your Light and the Light of the whole world.
Her mother had told her what she could expect. She had done her best to make preparation. The cradle, the linens, and the baby supplies had been gathered and arranged neatly in anticipation of the grand event. But then, the summons had arrived. Caesar Augustus had decreed that those living under Roman rule were to be taxed. Joseph and Mary were required to undertake the 4 to 5 day journey to Joseph’s homeland, which was Bethlehem, where they would be counted in the census and forced to pay the mandated tax.
Mary had no choice but to make the trip, even though she was in the final days of her pregnancy. She undoubtedly expected to return to Nazareth before her time to give birth arrived. The journey was difficult. The roadways were extra busy as many fellow Jews journeyed to their ancestral regions. Local merchants, taking advantage of the caravans, had lined the thoroughfares with carts selling their merchandise. Mary was grateful that fresh dates and pomegranate juice could be easily purchased.
Joseph was attentive and dutiful to Mary’s every need. He loved her. He showed his love in countless thoughtful ways, which made the arduous trip more bearable. Yet, in spite of all his efforts to arrange their circumstances to minimize her discomfort and concern, the unexpected occurred. Mary began labor.
They had passed Jerusalem. Bethlehem had come into view just as the sun was setting. Joseph knew that he must procure lodging. He searched and inquired; but he could find no vacant rooms. Because of his fervency and the imminence of her delivery, one inn-keeper showed mercy and offered an outdoor covering where he stabled his livestock. Although Joseph wished he could provide better accommodations, the stall would at least give shelter.
As her labor progressed, Mary attempted to erase her mental image of the cradle sitting in her home in Nazareth. She had to repress her disappointment that her ideal and imagined daydreams had been shattered by this harsh reality. She had to concentrate on the birthing instruction that her mother had given. She must be ready to deliver her new son.
Her new son – she knew she would have a baby boy because the angel, Gabriel, had told her about this child, her role, and God’s salvation that would be accomplished through this long-anticipated Messiah. How could that which had begun with such supernatural splendor have led her to such natural difficulty? How could the glory of the celestial have been reduced to the humility of such a visceral reality? Yet, the straw, the animals, the night sky – and the contractions – reminded her. She would give birth in a Bethlehem stable.
Then he was born. Jesus was born. “You shall call his name Jesus,” the angel said. “And he shall be great and will be called the Son of the Most High . . . and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” As Mary gazed upon her child’s face, the words of Gabriel echoed again in her ears. She did not have to attempt to recall his advice. She remembered. The sight of her son reminded her of his destiny and her part in the eternal plan. Somehow, that viewpoint of the heavenly overshadowed the harshest realities of the earthly.
Mary treasured the night with all its unexpected circumstances. She pondered everything in her heart. Perhaps, God delights in birthing promises from a manger of obscurity. Maybe, the great shepherd should begin his work in a manger. Surely, the redeemer was destined to seek out the lost sheep in the world. Mary wondered how many unexpected difficulties lie ahead as she journeyed with her son from Bethlehem to the place where He would birth salvation for the world. From the obscurity of the manger, Calvary came into view.
She departed the encounter with her mind whirling. Mary knew with all her being that what she had seen and heard was as real as the ground upon which she stood. Yet, her mind was rehearsing the event and searching to find any earthly reasoning upon which to take a stand.
He said he was Gabriel, an angel that stood in the presence of the Lord. She did not doubt that. His very person emanated a radiant light that evoked reverence while his whole demeanor communicated an authority that demanded obeisance. He had come from heaven to deliver a message from the Lord.
Gabriel spoke. Mary listened. His words pierced her soul as though a hot branding instrument had been placed against her chest. She was accustomed to receiving the Word of God spoken from the mouth of her Rabbi. She had heard the reading of the Torah, listened to the worship from the Temple, been attentive to the stories of God’s supernatural intervention among her people, Israel. But the words of the angel were unlike the words of men. They penetrated, seared, and burned their way into her soul. How could she but believe that he came as the messenger of the Most High God?
Gabriel announced that she had found favor with God. She was to have a son, and she was to name him Jesus. He would be given the throne of King David and would have a kingdom that would never end. Promises of the coming Messiah, the savior and deliverer of the world, were well-known to Mary. They were some-day pledges, which had been spoken by the prophets so long ago. They were off-in-the-distance assurances, which had passed from generation to generation but never actually came to pass. And yet – the angel declared that the appointed time had come – come to Israel, come to Mary, come to the earth.
She would give birth. She would be a mother. Every daughter dreamed of the day when she would have a family of her own. Once Mary married her fiancé, Joseph, she envisioned those hopes becoming a reality for her. But how could she become pregnant prior to any union with Joseph? She hesitated to inquire as to how she could conceive from a being so majestic and powerful as this angel.
Mary spoke. Gabriel listened. Again, his response pierced her soul like a blazing torch. The power of the Highest would cover over her; and the child she would conceive would be the son of God, not the son of man. Immediately she recalled the words of the prophet, Isaiah, who declared that a virgin would conceive and bear a son who should be called Immanuel – God with us. Mary knew. She knew she was that virgin and this was Isaiah’s promise. Her heart resonated, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” Her voice resounded, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” And with that proclamation, Gabriel departed.
She was alone. The encounter had ended. The silence loudly declared that life – her life – would forever be changed. Life – all men’s lives – would forever be altered. Mary knew that her family, her friends, and Joseph would be required to decide who got the last word. Would their fears or their preconceptions cause them to believe their ideas over God’s Word? And what about the people to whom Immanuel was sent? Whose word would take preeminence?
For surely, she thought, there is a promise that can light a fire in the soul of every man. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
Be it unto us according to Thy Word.
The holiday season is upon us bringing us near the end of 2020. This has been a year of various hardships due to the Covid-19 pandemic, riots and destruction in many cities around the country, plus political turmoil and partisan rivalry. As the people of God, we have been praying for righteousness and peace; we have been petitioning God to show His mercy; we have been opposing the works of darkness. This year of 2020 has recruited the army of the Lord, and we have deployed into active duty.
I have been encouraged by the response of the Church to these days of hardships. We are engaged in prayer. We are attentive to the Word of the Lord for our nation and its citizens. We are believing God that His Kingdom continues to advance and that His enemies are defeated.
There have been other hard seasons and other tumultuous times in our history. This is not the first time that our nation has experienced division and factions among the citizens. Remember the civil war? During those days, the future of our land stood in the balance as the North fought against the South and brother took up arms against brother. Lest we think that there has never been as hard of times as these days, we need to recall our past. In doing so, we can frame our hardships in the context of victories God has given to our forefathers.
On Thanksgiving in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln released a proclamation in the midst of the Civil War. His words are worthy for us to re-release in the midst of our internal civil strife and division. I encourage you and your family to give a fresh breath to this timeless prayer and proclamation as you celebrate this Thanksgiving.
By the President of the United States A Proclamation:
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and even soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people.
I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth. Abraham Lincoln By the President: William H. Seward. Secretary of State
By the time you read this article, voting in this all-important election will be over. In just a few days, once all ballots are counted and election results are tabulated, we should know which party has the majority of seats in the House and in the Senate, who sits in the White House, and who fills the offices in our local, state, and federal government. The TV ads will be silenced; the news outlets will seek other news from which to fill the headlines; and the flurry of politicians’ promises will be dimming in our memories. Will new immigration laws be enacted; will Medicare and Social Security retain the necessary integrity; will special interest groups continue to get their subsidies; will taxes be raised or lowered? These and many other questions will remain questions that only time and the wisdom of those governing can determine.
What then are those of us who are the governed to do now that election time has come and gone? Do we stand quietly by the wayside until the next election year rolls around? Is our future ordered only by the lawmakers of our land? Does all power to order the course of the nation reside within the federal or state jurisdiction?
The Bible tells us that God rules over the nations. This principle is somewhat offensive to humanity because men would often prefer to believe in their sovereignty rather than God’s. But, it is God, not men, who sets up one ruler and dethrones another by His sovereign plan for history. The Bible also tells us that those who rule in the earth should serve as His ministers to carry out His edicts upon the earth. At times, the elected do not faithfully serve God’s eternal purposes nor do they walk in righteousness towards the citizenry. Believers are then challenged to remain in faith that His kingdom is advancing and to engage in culture for the His kingdom’s sake.
God will bless and prosper a nation that has honored His precepts and kept His commandments by giving them good and honest leadership. Conversely, if God chastens a nation for their stubbornness and non-conformity to His ways, some of the leaders that He allows to be appointed will guide the people further from truth so that the error of their deeds can become apparent to them. God moves throughout nations and history to turn the hearts of mankind to Himself and to the wisdom of His Word. His blessings and His judgments serve to encourage and discourage, respectively, men to obey and to worship God.
If we think upon this principle and embrace it as truth, then an obligation rests upon the citizens of our nation between now and the next election. That obligation is to draw more closely into obedience to God’s plan for humanity. We must govern ourselves with the scriptures: loving our neighbors, not defrauding or stealing from one another, protecting rather than taking the life of another, offering voluntary charity to those in need, and respecting the property and worth of others. If we will be a nation ruled by God and His Word, God will give us leaders who reflect our values.
Our leaders can only guide us where we are willing to go. They can only sell us what we are willing to buy. A heart filled with charity will not embrace graft. A mind filled with honesty will filter out the lie. A life lived in integrity will not compromise for convenience. Citizens who love God and love their fellowman, citizens who pray for the peace and blessing of their country, and citizens who govern their own lives righteously will draw down from heaven God’s favor that will be reflected at the polls when election time rolls around again.
God Bless America!
Those who are faithful to the covenant are guaranteed a future – both on earth and in heaven. Christians often speak about the promised life to come in heaven. There, eternal bliss and blessings are rewards to the faithful. That message is proclaimed in church sermons, Sunday school classes, and funeral eulogies. Heaven’s reward is the hope of all believers who have endured hardship and persecutions, a better prospect for anyone whose body is racked with pain from injury or disease, and the dream of everyone who has said goodbye to a loved one. Heaven is real; heaven’s rewards are eternal.
Scripture also promises a future of blessing in this life on earth. That message is not as frequently discussed within the Christian community. Nonetheless, the Bible has much to say linking reward to the earth. Jesus declared, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt. 5:5). The Lord was delivering the famous Beatitudes when he proclaimed that promise. In context, Jesus had already identified the persons who would inherit the earth. They would be those who recognized that their impoverished spiritual condition lacked any blessing or future. These, having already acknowledged that their non-covenant lifestyle merited only privation and death, were ready to begin a new life. They called out for comfort that can only be found when one connects with God who is the source of all comfort, salvation and provision. The poor ones were ready for a new start.
Starting over meant that they could no longer live under self-imposed ideals, self-serving practices, and selfish agendas. They must begin to live under God-defined truths. They must yoke with God. His yoke would harness their person and strengths so that they could be directed to walk as his companion in covenant pathways. The new way would release blessings not cursing, life not death, abundance not poverty, inheritance not disinheritance.
Jesus was not the first to promise inheritance to the meek. Psalm 37:11 states, “But the meek shall inherit the earth.” Psalm 37 is filled with insight as to who gets the earth, its resources, and authority to manage it. Inheritance of the earth is always the heritage of those in covenant with God. The non-covenant are always disinherited.
In the first verses of this psalm, the reader is admonished not to look at the temporary earthly gain of those who do not follow God as though what they have can be preserved. “They shall soon be cut down like the grass and whither as the green herb” (vs. 2). “Evildoers shall be cut off” (vs. 9). “In a little while, the wicked shall not be” (vs. 10). “The arms of the wicked shall be broken” (vs. 17). “The wicked shall perish” (vs. 20). “They that be cursed of him (God) shall be cut off” (vs. 22). “The seed of the wicked shall be cut off” (vs. 28). “When the wicked are cut off, you (the covenantally faithful) shall see it” (vs. 34). “I sought him (the unfaithful man) but he could not be found” (vs. 36). “The transgressor shall be destroyed together; the end of the wicked shall be cut off” (vs. 38).
Psalm 37 clearly defines that any prosperity or blessing that the non-covenant might accumulate is short term because their end is to be dispossessed and disinherited. Long-term earth management will not be awarded to those who do not yoke with God and work for God. However, the opposite is promised to the faithful in the same psalm. “You shall dwell in the land and be fed” (vs. 3). “Lord with give you the desires of your heart” (vs. 4). “God shall bring forth your righteousness as the light” (vs. 6). “They that wait upon the Lord shall inherit the earth” (vs. 9). “The meek shall inherit the earth (vs. 11). “The Lord upholds the righteous” (vs. 17). “Their inheritance (the upright) shall be forever” (vs. 18). “They (the upright) shall not be ashamed in the evil time and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied” (vs. 19). “Such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth” (vs. 22). “I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed out begging for bread” (vs. 25). “The Lord forsakes not his saints; they are preserved forever” (vs. 28). “The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell therein forever” (vs. 29). “He (the Lord) shall exalt thee to inherit the land” (vs. 34). “The end of that man (the perfect man) is peace” (vs. 37).
The earth is the Lord’s (Deut. 10:14; I Chron. 29:11; Ps. 24:11). God does not acquiesce His Lordship or His possessions to the management of the ungodly, weather they are devils or humans. God rules. His very person guarantees that all authority must answer to Him. He will supersede all unrighteousness and secure eternal peace and safety. He casts out the unfaithful. He rewards the faithful – both in earth and in heaven. Blessed are those who walk with God in his yoke – those who meekly and humbly submit to his covenant – for they shall inherit the earth.
The young man had every advantage available in his society to prepare him for success and for his dreams to come true. He was born into the aristocracy. His intellect was keen, and he was educated by the finest scholars. Life was supposed to unfold just as he and his parents had determined.
Then came the invading armies, the national occupation, and the deportation of all leaders plus a large portion of the population. Daniel found himself in Babylon. He had lost his family, his homeland, his future, his aspirations, his whole identity. He and other children, who were of the king’s seed and of the princes of Israel, were taken into King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace. There they were made eunuchs and placed under a mentor who would oversee their schooling in the language and the cultural practices of the Chaldeans. They were to be converted, reformed, and transformed from Israelites to Babylonians.
Daniel would have had every reason to be angry at God. He could have turned his back on his faith, rejected the God of his fathers, and blamed the religion that had formed and shaped his past. He could have, but He didn’t. Daniel turned his heart to God. He decided to live a life of uncompromising consecration. He allowed his faith to sustain him and empower him to overcome the most difficult of trials.
Perhaps Daniel remembered the words of wisdom that were imparted to him from his parents. It could have been that the Holy Scripture, which would have undoubtedly been part of his training, came rushing back to his memory. Possibly God spoke a soft inspiration into Daniel’s ear giving him the fortitude to remain faithful. The Bible does not tell us the direct source of Daniel’s devotion, but it does communicate that Daniel’s faith sustained him and provided the foundation for miraculous displays of God’s delivering power.
I have met people who blame God for the problems in their lives and, consequently, abandon a life of faith. Trials come for many reasons. In the case of Daniel, his nation had failed to honor the God of their forefathers and had ceased to obey the commandments delivered to them through Moses. They had sinned. They had incurred the results of wrong choices, positioned themselves to reap what they had planted, invited the negative sanctions of unrighteous living.
Daniel had not personally disobeyed the commandments of God, but his nation had. His leaders had. His government had. Daniel, along with his generation, and all the inhabitants of Israel were forced to suffer the trials of Babylonian captivity. The Bible says that “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked bear rule, the people mourn” (Prov. 29:2).
In the presence of a powerful foreign king, surrounded by lifestyles that lacked virtue, and inundated with an idolatrous worship system, Daniel lived. He walked in compliance with God’s Word. He served the earthly king without compromise while obeying his Heavenly King without concession. God prospered him by giving him the highest positions in the land and protected him when his faith brought him persecution. Daniel’s faithfulness played an important part in the deliverance of his entire nation.
Believers should be instructed by Daniel’s walk. In a time when our nation’s choices have created economic and social hardships, may the Daniels of our day refuse to abandon their faith and choose to lead uncompromising lives of dedication to God.
I have recently had the unique opportunity of traveling abroad. This was not a vacation, sightseeing, leisure trip. This was a mission’s trip sponsored by our church to Japan and the Philippians. Although our accommodations were quite comfortable in comparison to some mission’s work that I have done, comfort seems to be a relative term.
Each hotel room had a private bathroom. Outstanding! However, on several consecutive days the functions of the bathroom were impaired because water lines were broken. On one day when all the water lines were working, the faucet gave out a brownish flow that resembled cloudy, dark tea rather than clear, clean water. Not so outstanding! I must confess that I was tempted to offer a complaint, because I am used to the cleanliness and convenience of my bathroom at home.
Food, lodging, languages, currencies, modes of transportation, and many other differences assaulted my consciousness, providing me with a sense of displacement from my comfort zone.
“Let’s find some real food.”
“They drive on the wrong side of the road over here.”
“How much would that cost in my money?”
These were some of the comments my traveling companions and I would say to one another, as though our reality was the true gauge by which all else should be measured. Maybe we all judge by the paradigm we’ve grown accustomed to or maybe it is simply pride that causes us to compare everything to what we already know; but whatever the cause, I have personally discovered that an unexpected surprise awaits any traveler who is willing to stretch beyond the realm of the normal and out of the comfort zone to embrace something new from the vast world around.
What is the surprise of which I am speaking? For me, the surprise was not found in the uniqueness of cultural diversity, fascinating though it may be. More thrilling than the historic sights, architectural wonders, or unique landmarks were the people. What an honor to meet someone whose surroundings were totally and completely foreign to my own, only to discover the similarity of hopes and dreams, joys and heartaches, or desires and disappointments. Faceless masses faded as the particular facial features of a new Filipino friend filled my eyes and etched its way into my heart. Noises from the crowded streets were drowned out by the single sweet whisper of the Japanese woman who was sharing her heart with me. One man laughed just like my cousin. Another man had dancing eyes just like my son. Several women had children the same age as my grandbabies.
Opportunities were afforded me to meet many of the citizens in these nations. My heart was captured. In spite of inoperative showers, strange tasting food, or inconveniently hot rooms, I found familiar surroundings with the people of God. The sense of the unaccustomed and foreign regressed to the recesses of my thoughts as my life became intertwined with those that I had come to know. If comfort is a relative term to describe how consoled, satisfied, content, or eased we feel, then I had indeed found it amidst these special new friends in God. I will welcome the chance to travel abroad again and find new places and people who will alter my reality, stretch my paradigm, and redefine my comfort zone.
March 26th was an important day around our house. It began a watch. It started a vigil. It caused my husband and me to assume a sentinel attitude. Yes, what began that day would end in triumph or tragedy; and we were prepared to do our part to guarantee a jubilant outcome.
That day, like other spring days in the past several years, a mother duck found her way into our rose bed in our front yard. There, blending in with the brown wood-chips that cover the landscape, she hollowed out a spot for her nest at the base of her familiar yellow rose bush. After a few days of preparation, she laid her eggs.
My husband and I were delighted to see that our duck had returned. We had become the proud grandparents of grand-ducks in years past, and this year promised the same. She nestled down for the incubation; we nuzzled near the front window for observation. She was protected by her camouflage and her watchmen.
Mother seemed semi-comfortable with our presence. Several times a day we would exit the house to visit the nursery. We would greet her with soft words. Pleasant words or not, she kept her eyes fixed upon us, always examining us. “Sounds like a friend but could be a foe,” were undoubtedly her inner quacks. Or, maybe, she sized us up and thought, “It’s obvious to me who the real quacks are!”
Although she remained cautious, she stayed upon the nest. She did not fly away to protect herself. She did not abandon her vigil at the first hint of danger. She endured many hardships more threatening than the would-be grandparents. Several seasonal storms not only brought heavy downpours but also damaging winds. One time the sirens sounded with warnings about the potential for tornados. While my husband and I took cover in the basement, mother duck provided cover for her young. She faced the danger and endured in order to protect her eggs.
Then, just in time for Mother’s Day, our grand-ducks hatched. The day before delivery, mother duck was agitated. She did not greet us with the same cautiously warm acknowledgement; but, rather, she hissed so as to say, “Get out of my face.” From one mother to another, I so totally knew what she was saying. I remember the last stages of delivery of my children when my normally warm and friendly disposition changed to…enough said.
Throughout the night and into the next morning, the eggs hatched. At sunrise, we discovered 10 new baby ducks. Happy Mother’s Day! Ten new baby ducks! We took pictures. We congratulated mother duck. We congratulated each other. We took more pictures. It was a joyful ending to a journey fraught with danger. Before the sun set, babies followed mother to the lake behind our house where they have begun to grow and learn how to live ‘duck life’ from mom.
Mothers are God’s gift of life for the next generation. My mother endured hardships for me. She gave up Christmas one year to give birth to me; and every Christmas Day, she would re-tell the story of leaving the gifts under the tree and rushing to the hospital to welcome me into the world. I, following her example, tell each of my children of the hardships I faced on the day they were born. By now, my birthing tales are like fish stories that grow bigger with each telling!
Birthing, while paramount, is only one of the many sacrifices that mothers make to ensure that their babies arrive and develop in a secure environment. Throughout the duration of our growing-up process, our mothers are sizing up the things that come near the nest. “Sounds like a friend but could be a foe,” is undoubtedly the inner dialog of every mom. Throughout the storms of life, amidst the tempest of living, and against the winds of reality, moms are present to put their lives on the line to secure life for their children.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave . . .” Mothers are not gods, but they are a godly expression of the Heavenly Father’s love. A mother’s love is a giving love, a sheltering love and a protecting love. Happy Mother’s Day!