We Three Kings

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

(words from the prophet Micah in the Book of Micah 5:2)

“And thou, Bethlehem in the land of Judah……from thee shall come a prince — one who shall be the Shepherd of my people Israel.”  Matthew 2: 6 WEYMOUTH BIBLE

“Now after the birth of Jesus, which took place at Bethlehem in Judaea in the reign of King Herod, excitement was produced in Jerusalem by the arrival of certain magi from the east, inquiring,

Where is the newly born king of the Jews?  For we have seen his Star in the east, and have come here to do him homage.’

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled , and all Jerusalem with him.”  Matthew 2: 1-3 KJV

The shepherds were told of the birth by angels.  Coming to the stable to worship from their watch over the flocks in their worn clothing, probably soiled and smelly, they had no gifts to present, nothing to offer other than awe and amazement.

The wise men were guided by a star in the sky to Bethlehem.  Learned and scholarly, they traveled probably with a caravan of support staff and supplies.  Being kings from the Orient, they were surely well attired and adorned.  And they brought valuable gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Which would I be?  Shepherd or king?  What would I have to offer in the presence of a Lord and Master?  What gift could I give to honor His presence in my life?  How about you, what could your gift be?

My answer is easy.  I am the shepherd who, from the surrounding hillsides, has seen opulence in society but never participated.  I am the man who has suffered the condescension of the villagers who believe themselves better than me, more moral than me, more worthy than me.  I am a simple man, not so much because I love simplicity, but because I can only afford a simple lifestyle.  I do not ride in caravans with jewel-bedecked kings on camels. No, my ride is more akin to that of the adult Jesus – a borrowed donkey.  I do not speak to governors for information when I arrive in a strange town.  I have to use the tourist center and a google search.  Yes, I would be the one sleeping in a barn on a bed of straw because I could not afford a room at the inn.  I am Joseph.  I am Mary.  I am all people who put their trust in a Savior, unseen and indescribable, seeking a life of meaningful spiritual experience.

There is great comfort in the story of the shepherds and the wise men.  Do you see it, too?  God came to the shepherds protecting the flocks on the hillside. They were not seeking God.  God sought them to make the announcement.  The angels stood round about and proclaimed the good news.  The shepherds did not have to travel across a continent, they did not have to follow a star.  They did not have riches to bring.  No, God came to men who were common, unrefined, and poor announcing the birth of acceptance, equality, compassion, righteousness and tolerance among all mankind in the body of baby Jesus.

I love this story because that night in Bethlehem means that I, too, can participate in the Kingdom.  I qualify for membership.   My spiritual poverty, my human depravity, my brokenness in need of healing are qualifiers.  The only dues for membership are surrender and unconditional love.

Too high a price, maybe?  What’s the alternative?  Cold nights sitting on a darkened hillside guarding a flock of smelly sheep?  Spending an eternity separated from the graces of a Lord and Savior?  It’s my call, yours too.  The invitation is there waiting for us to accept.

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”  step 3, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary, Did You Know

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

When I was a young teenaged boy, 14 years old, I had a terrific crush on an older woman.  Yeah, she was 17 and just about pretty as an angel.  Of course, not knowing what angels looked like, I had to use a lot of imagination and, believe me, that was not a problem.

Between her junior and senior year in high school, she and her momma took an extended trip to Germany to stay with distant relatives.  I was heartbroken, briefly, until a sexy, buxomly cheerleader winked at me in biology lab.  Smitten does not adequately define my newly discovered heart-throb.  I quickly forgot the older woman in my life.

Years later, I learned from reliable sources that the trip to Germany was coordinated with an unplanned pregnancy.  Surprise! Surprise!  Several of my female classmates found themselves in the same unexpected condition, but none of them resulted in an interracial child.  Surprise!  Surprise!  C’mon folks, it was 1963 in rural Pennsylvania.  Things like that simply were not allowed to happen.

“Mary immediately got up and hurried to the hill country, in the province of Judah, where her cousins Zacharias and  Elizabeth lived.  When Mary entered their home and greeted Elizabeth, who felt her baby leap in her womb, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  (Elizabeth shouting) You are blessed among all women, and the child you bear is blessed!   And blessed am I as well, that the mother of  my Lord has come to me!”  Luke 1:39-43 THE VOICE

The scriptures do not explain why Mary ran to the hills.  Is it possible that her explanation…..”well daddy, the Holy Ghost came upon me and told me that I would become pregnant by God and that my baby would be the Messiah”…..simply did not fly in her home town?  A child-bearing 12 or 13 year-old unmarried child probably encouraged a few questions from the village women drawing water at the well.  I also would probably run to the hills…or maybe Germany.

All of us need a place where we can feel safe and loved, a place away from judgement, condemnation and shame.  Mary found her refuge with her cousins Elizabeth and Zacharias.  We, too, have that same refuge freely available to us in the person of Mary’s son, Jesus.  Even for those who do not accept the virginity of Mary or the divinity of Jesus, the teachings and scriptures attributed to his earthly ministry are a blueprint for peace, contentment, and spiritual resurrection in this life.

Recovering addicts and alcoholics understand this resurrection.  It has been our experience.  We were dying and dead when a Higher Power restored us to the living.

Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.  Step 2, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

CANDLE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proclaimed to shepherds

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.”  LUKE 2:8-9

Shepherds! Who would have thought the Messiah would be introduced in the world to shepherds?  Truly, our God has a sense of humor.  Or perhaps the message of Jesus was intended for those who had little about which to cheer.  Maybe it was meant to empower the oppressed and downtrodden, those whom proper society and righteous religionists had disinherited.

God showed them, right?  At that moment in the story of Jesus of Nazareth, the subsequent storytellers let the entire world know, through shepherds and wise men, whom would receive the inheritance of a gracious and loving God.  The life and teachings of a poor, probably homeless, vagabond Jew set the table for a resounding rebuke of elitist power and control.  The story which was told and retold showed mankind that truth and power and salvation resided in a singular action available to all peoples – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all you soul, all your mind, and all your strength,”….and love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31

God told us, right?  God incarnated in that baby who spawned the writings which have changed the world. Why would I not listen?  Why would I not sit with the shepherds in the hillside pastures outside the town of Bethlehem and celebrate “Glory to God in the highest, peace and good will toward men?”

Maybe it’s just a story, maybe not.  But, when ‘just a story’ can bring joy to the disheartened, salvage a lost soul, make sober the alcoholic, then, to those of us who needed to be broken in order to be healed, it has to be the greatest story ever told.  AMEN!

O COME, O COME, EMMANUEL

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

O come, O branch of Jesse’s stem, unto your own and rescue them! From depths of hell your people save, and give them victory o’er the grave. 

O come, O King of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind.  Bid all our sad divisions cease and be yourself our King of Peace.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Immanuel shall come to you, O Israel.

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“Victory o’er the grave?”  Is it possible?  Absolutely!  Ask any addict who has been saved from the hell of his/her addiction, the death sentence of a spiritual abyss, and you will be told,  “Yes, yes, yes!  I have been raised from my personal hell on earth, my living grave, and we, my Higher Power and I, are victorious over death.”

That is what the gift of Immanuel, the spirit of God made incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, has done for mankind.  This is an inexhaustible gift which can never be used up, discarded, put in the attic, or trashed before next Christmas.  But, it can be repurposed and shared with other hungry, dying souls.  I like sharing gifts.  How about you?

“Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”    1 Corinthians 15:55

O come, O come, Immanuel

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ADVENT-Psalm 18:2

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

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“No matter how many Advent seasons sweep by, Lord, your reminders remain the same. Each tear we cry has a purpose. Each trying stage has a divine reason. And in your capable hands, each icy rain of adversity is transformed into the warmth and sparkle of your grace.”
~Edited from Janet Perez Eckles’ “3 Reasons to Dry Your Tears of Sadness at Christmas

IMMANUEL – “God with us”

This short writing from Janet Perez Eckles details the tears, the difficulties, and the challenges of a mother and wife facing blindness.  Her loss becomes unbearably painful during the Christmas season when the delightful sights of decorations and children opening presents sends her to the bedroom in tears.  Those joys of Christmas have been reduced to a gray blur.  Her ophthalmic condition is incurable.  Yet Janet finds comfort in her Lord’s capable hands.

This mother’s loss of vision is a physical reality.  It is challenging, difficult, and disheartening.  But, her salvation lies in spiritual vision, the ability to go deep within and allow her Lord and Savior to dry the tears, encourage and strengthen this child of His to move on in life.

That is the beauty of the Advent season.  Immanuel – God with us – says that you and I do not have to battle life’s unfair punches alone.  We have deep, inner reserves of courage and strength that will transform the adversarial events, the tears of disappointment and sorrow into a season of “warmth and sparkle” embraced in the arms of the Lord.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer….my stronghold.”  Psalm 18:2

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ADVENT-Isaiah 7:14

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

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“For this reason the sovereign master himself will give you a confirming sign. Look, this young woman is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You, young woman, will name him Immanuel.” ISAIAH 7:14 NET (new English translation)

IMMANUEL – meaning “God with us”

K.I.S.S.

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

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Keep It Simple, Stupid

For those of you who are unfamiliar with 12 step recovery programs, this life-changing saying hangs on most meeting room walls.  It shares wall space along with “Let Go, Let God”, “Easy Does It”, “One Day at a Time”, and the Serenity Prayer.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

But, for mortals, especially those of us recovering from addictions, keeping it simple is, well, not all that simple.  It took numerous collisions with “self-will run riot” and retractions of my surrender to God to reach any semblance of simplicity in my life.

At the year of my 28th sobriety anniversary, I was plunged into the horrors of bankruptcy in 2009 due largely to the world-wide recession.  As small business operators, my partner and I suffered equally the devastation of losing a trucking business of 15 years, the equipment, the accumulated toys, the savings, great credit standing, and my house.  More devastating to me, a man 62 years old, was the loss of hope for a financial recovery.  I came out of the bankruptcy tired and disillusioned.

“Aha,” said He, my Higher Power.  “Maybe now you will learn from me.  Why not let me run your life?  I am not that difficult to live with.”

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart;  and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”  Matthew 11:29

My life changed.  Gone were all the concerns about finances and credit ratings and running a business.  Gone were the responsibilities of owning a house and a bunch of toys.  I slept like a baby at night and found voluminous amounts of time to walk, hike in the woods, jog, read, and enjoy leisure time with friends.  I embraced Gandhi’s exhortation to “Live simply so that others may simply live.”  And I learned to live life claiming the words of Jesus in the book of Matthew, chapter 11.

I think Jesus would have approved of our modern-day acronym KISS.  What do you think?

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