Friday, December 08, 2017

Christmas::Cultivating a Heart of Slow Part 2 and a free download

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Let’s see what we can learn from looking at Mary and how she walked through this –

·        * I love verse 38, “’I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left her.” What a beautiful picture of surrender. She listened to what the angel said and took it to heart and believed it to be true and committed herself instantly to a plan she had never thought of before to this point. 

·        * I like to notice that surrender and listening does not mean we have to keep silent. Mary was troubled by this greeting she received and put at ease by the angel’s words, she did ask when she had a question and needed clarification. I like the heart of her question though – it was not an aggravating question but truly just, “how will this be?!”
·         *Mary obeyed God. She moved forward and just did the next thing – and what a good choice she made with her time to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Isn’t that so generous of God to give Mary a family member and friend to share this experience with? They were both walking through very similar circumstances with unexpected pregnancies and knowing how they were from God. What strength did they draw from each other and how did they encourage one another? 

·         *In verse 39 when we see that Mary got ready, those words got ready come from the Greek word anistemi which means to stand again or cause to rise up, it is particularly spoken of those who are sitting or lying down; such as rising up from prayer. 

·      * And, Mary physically slowed her agenda to take three months to go to visit Elizabeth. I love to consider how this may have blessed Mary in so many ways yet we all know how hard it is to be gone from home – can you imagine being gone for three months and newly pregnant? She was surrendered to God, she listened to Him, she obeyed Him. 

 ·         Yes, she worshipped Him. Let’s read Mary’s song of praise again –

    My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me, holy is His name. His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as He said to our fathers.”

I     I notice a few things in these verses:

-          Mary is focused on the character of God

-          Mary realizes that God thinks of her – He is mindful of each of us

-          She recognizes how this pregnancy will impact generations to come and knows it is because of God’s mercy and plan for her and she is eager to give Him the glory for this.

-          She reminds us that God’s mercy is for all who fear Him throughout all generations, not just for herself or her family, she shares the love with all.

-          Mary remembers. She acknowledges how God has acted in the past and uses this as truth to base how He will act in the future. She is a truth teller – she doesn’t just say what our ears want to hear, she speaks truth. 

-          It is obvious to me from how Mary speaks that she knows God’s heart well, she has been a student of His Word and ways before she is to become the mother of His Son, Jesus.  Mary’s prayer reflects almost a dozen OT passages – this girl loved Scripture!

-          Mary reminds us of God’s authority, His strength and His provision. She reminds us that He means what He says and He keeps His Word.

There is beauty and slow in the rest of the story as it unfolds in the remainder of Luke 1 and 2 as well. Consider the slow journey Mary and Joseph would’ve taken to Bethlehem. It was about 70 miles from Nazareth and there was no 70 mph zone to get there in just one hour. It was tedious and slow going. The roads were not paved and a donkey is likely not the comfiest of travel devices for a nearly full term pregnant mama to be riding along. 

Picture the slow of that stable – there was no hurry, no fanfare, no chaos. Can you imagine the peace and simplicity of it? The humbleness, the poverty, the surrender to a greater plan. It is not in climbing up the ladder that we achieve the highest success. Rather it is in humbly carrying out the daily-ness of life in our homes and families and carrying out the Gospel before their eyes that bring greatness in the eyes of Heaven. 

The shepherds were minding their business too – shepherding was a slow job for the most part. Keeping an eye out for their sheep, managing the flock but with lots of time to think and ponder and pray. I can’t stop thinking about how these men modeled slow for us as well. After receiving heavenly visitors, they surrendered their plans, listened to what they were told, obeyed and responded to this amazing message and worshiped Jesus in person. Wow. 

Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple on the 8th day – they slowed again. They may have been eager to get home, to settle back into their lives there, but they did not forget God and did not succumb to the bondage of hurry. While in the temple, they presented Jesus to the Lord and offered a sacrifice. They were also privileged to meet Simeon and Anna both of whom had long been awaiting the promised Messiah. Imagine their awe at God’s plan.

Think  of what we might miss in our hurry.

So how can we be students of God and learn from Mary’s story. I want to sort of transition here to some practical ideas that you can apply in your own heart and life right now and in the next few days leading up to Christmas. 

Imagine getting up tomorrow morning and pulling out your Bible and a journal for some quiet time with the Lord before the day gets going. You can literally walk through these words: surrender, listen, obey and worship in your quiet time. One thing I sometimes do is write the word surrender at the top of my page – I list everything that is swirling around in my heart and mind. Get it out, get it on paper and let God have it. Pray as you are doing this to be quieted in heart and spirit. To surrender. Remember the image of the sign language and physically practice surrendering what is in your bucket to God. 

Next you could write the word listen. Sit quietly and just write down what comes to mind as you are praying and seeking God for your day. Is there something that needs to go from your day? Is there something that is the most important thing you need to focus on today? Anything you especially need to take care of?

How will you obey today? How will you put into action these things that are impressed upon your heart or something you learned from your time reading God’s Word? 

Come back at the end of the day and worship God – think of how He met you today, praise Him for what you accomplished and what you didn’t knowing that He is in control and He’s got that list of things that need to be done. Which things need to be done and which can wait? Talk to God about it! Express your struggles and how you feel overwhelmed and ask for His help! Write down one or three things that you are thankful for about this day and how God provided for you even if it was not what you hoped for or expected, He’s still there. He can handle your honesty and in fact, He delights in it. He is mindful of you – remember? 

As mothers, we have the privilege, opportunity and yes even the responsibility to lead our children in this kind of slow. When we model busy and stressed and harried, they will think that is what they are supposed to do. Do our children see us modeling surrender, listening, obedience and worship? 

If you have children at home, how can you model this slow to them? Invite them into slowing down – surrender your schedule for the evening and serve hot chocolate by the fire reading Christmas books or surprise them with a candlelight bubble bath and a towel warmed from the dryer. Have a tea party when you get home from church or on a quiet Saturday morning. 

Listen to the sounds of the season – this is the one time of year when God is proclaimed from speakers in every store and we are privileged to hear His name where it is normally not chosen or welcomed. Pick a favorite Christmas song and really learn the words as a family. Listen to the words that recount the story of Jesus’ birth, listen to the needs of others and see if there is anything you can do about it. 

We have so many special opportunities to obey God during this time of year. Needs are made more known, many are lacking family or feeling lonely, and consider the biggest need of all – how many need to know about why we celebrate Christmas? Do they understand this amazing gift God has given us? Could we help them unwrap that this Christmas?

Most of all, Christmas is a time for worship. A time for thanks and praise. We are blessed women indeed. We can worship Him in song, we can write a prayer like Mary’s expressing our thanks, we can make time for Him during this time when so much else competes for our attention. We can say no to things that are not His best for us so we can say yes to Him.

*    *    *

Further inspiration:
Prepare Him Room - my favorite Christmas song for three years running now
Slow and Sacred Advent - an ebook of ideas to celebrate Advent with children

1 comment:

Leanne said...

I also love "One Still Night" and O Come Emmanuel by Sovereign Grace!
Paul Tripp's book, Come Let Us Adore Him, is also an excellent resource... :-)
such a great post! thank you, Monica!