By Dan Miller
Theologian John S. Dunne tells the story about a group of Spanish sailors who reached the continent of South America after a long and dangerous voyage. They happened to approach right at the headwaters of the Amazon River, an expanse of water so wide the sailors assumed it was a continuation of the Atlantic Ocean.
By Liz Cowen Furman –
How do you picture Mary, Jesus’ Mother? My entire life I have been surrounded by folks who nearly put her on the same level with Jesus. I could never relate to such a perfect, annoyingly sweet pious woman who, appeared to me to be unreal, with no spunk. One who showed up every Christmas in her blue robes and made me feel inadequate.
Several months ago, I was asked to be the speaker for my church’s Taste of Christmas Tea. I began praying immediately about what God would have me share. Every time I prayed I felt led to speak on Mary. UGH! I argued with Father. “LORD, couldn’t I speak on Mary Magdalene instead?”
That other Mary is someone I can relate to. A sinner, she had blown it, she had disobeyed God yet He redeemed her. Great hope in that story. But nope, He wouldn’t let me go there.
I decided if He wanted me to talk on Mary I needed to do serious research. So I went online and found much on Mary. Most confirmed what I had always thought about her. I was sad.
A dear friend (oddly enough with the same name as Jesus’ Mom) pointed me to a book by Marjorie Holmes called Two from Galilee. She assured me I would never look at the manger the same again. She was right, it was wonderful. A must read.
I read the gospel accounts so many times I have them memorized. Perusing online I purchased every book I could find about Mary and dove in. The best was titled, The Real Mary by Scot McKnight. What I discovered about Mary made her into my new best friend.
Jesus’ mother was no doormat. She was an ordinary young woman whom God called to do a job for Him. A faithful, courageous, dangerous woman of witness whose life I now can really relate to and aspire to emulate.
Mary was a woman of faith because when God called on her to do a seemingly impossible task for Him she said “yes” and let Him work out the details. She trusted God.
She was a courageous woman because she could have been stoned or divorced, she could and probably was ostracized. So would her baby for being illegitimate. Yet, she still answered His call on her life with a yes and trusted Him to protect them.
At some points in her journey she must have thought, “O Holy Night, what have I done?” Because God didn’t promise following Him would be easy, just that He would see us through. Imagine five days on a donkey’s back in the wind and heat nine months pregnant. That must have been fun.
Mary was dangerous because when she arrived at Elizabeth’s house and her calling was confirmed she broke into song.
In the Magnificat (found in Luke chapter 1), Mary’s words to Elizabeth, were tantamount to treason against the king (one who had members of his own family murdered if he perceived them as a threat).
McNight showed me that when she sang “God has brought down rulers from their thrones“, hearers would have immediately seen the implications for Herod and Rome. When she announced “God has sent the rich away empty” hearers would have immediately thought of those benefiting from the heavy taxation.
When Mary proclaimed “God has lifted the humble” and “has filled the hungry with good food” folks would have known it was meant for the poor just like her.
If Mary had sung her Magnificat on the streets of Nazareth among her peers they would have toasted and shouted halleluiah! But if Herod had gotten wind of it she would have been crucified. She sang it anyway believing God. So confident was she that she sang in past tense as though God had already done it. She simply trusted God to do what He promised.
In the 1980s her song was banned in Guatemala as subversive to the government. No patsy our Mary. No, she was not a wimp.
Second Chronicles 16:9 says, “the LORD searches all over the earth for people who have given themselves completely to Him. He wants to make them strong.”
So, how about you? God promises He has a job for each of us to do. He will make us strong if we will trust Him. When He calls you out for His purpose will you, like Mary answer, “Let it be to me as you say?” Or will you turn away in fear, untrusting and doubtful. I am praying for courage to say, “Here am I LORD, send me!” Hope you are too.
By Candace McQuain –
There is a staff member at my church who I see often and every time I do he is filled with joy, and always smiling and laughing. The man is perpetually happy and I must confess, I longed for that same unceasing joy, time and time again. Then it hit me, “Hey grumpy, you can have that to.” As a matter of fact, your God very much so wants you to have that very same joy and happiness. “But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful” (Psalm 68:3 NIV). I had to make a change.
I vowed to take His word to heart and really try to be a happier, more joyful person. Unfortunately, it only lasted about 10 minutes. Why? Because I don’t live in a bubble, I live in a big world filled with little annoyances and daily struggles. So now what? Should I stalk the happy staff member and see what he does on a daily basis to ward off the joy-stealers of the world? No, of course not. It’s back to the Word I go.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12 NIV).
There it is! Without having to peer through a window or eves drop during a telephone call I can tell you right now how and why that cheerful staff member is the way he is. He is joyful in times of need. He is patient when his heart is suffering and when he raises a prayer to his Father he is faithful that it will be heard. With all of this, the sky is the limit as to what he can let roll off his back or better yet what he knows he can give to God to handle for him.
We have that same joyful hope, patience and faith available to us; it’s just a matter of how and to what degree we are going to use it. Will we continue to use it sparingly, using just enough to get us by day by day? Or will we dedicate our lives to obtaining true happiness and joy? Let’s show that big world around us that we have the power and the strength to not let it get us down.
I want my God to see His daughter smile more than frown. Laugh more than cry and simply live a life that is a joyful example of His love and kindness so that people see Him in me, and not a grumpy Christian. So as the Partridge Family put it so eloquently, “Come on get happy!”
Candace McQuain, founder of Believers Empowering Believers, is a mother of 4 beautiful children and married to the love of her life. She is very active in her church where connecting believers with other believers is her passion. She was called to leave her job of 15 years in the Aerospace industry to provide support, encouragement and knowledge to her fellow brothers and sisters who are struggling or new to their faith.
By Ed Crumley
In the early years of my life, at least the ones I can remember, I wanted the same three things every Christmas: a horn, a drum, and a gun. Not sure why. We were in the midst of World War II, so at least the gun could’ve had something to do with the war. Maybe I wanted the musical instruments to make my war games sound more dramatic. Or, perhaps I could blame Roy Rogers, our musical cowboy hero, who always got the bad guys with his nickel-plated revolvers blazing.
During those times you couldn’t buy many toys, so Dad made Christmas presents for us. He got out his tools and built things out of wood. Big things like a rocking boat or a rocking horse complete with mane, bridal, and saddle. Those were fine secondary gifts as long as the three required items mentioned above also came in Santa’s bag.
In later years, our Christmas present requests migrated more toward clothes. My brother and I both had to have SMU football jerseys with the number 37, the number of our local hero, Doak Walker. I don’t know why Ken couldn’t have had some lesser player’s number instead. In junior high, my gift request reflected fashion. There was a cool kid at school who was the original Fonz. I had to have the same jacket and scarf that he wore. Funny, but when I put them on, I didn’t look like The Fonz.
By Rhonda Rhea
I opened the door to the microwave to reheat my coffee a few mornings ago, and then realized I just didn’t want to put it in there. Ew. Before the coffee was going in, somebody was going to have to clean out that microwave. It looked like someone had a tiny little ticker tape parade. So much food-confetti, so little space. Worst of all, there were a couple of spaghetti sauce stalactites in there. I like my coffee with lots of sweetener and plenty of creamer. But call me picky, I like it completely without spaghetti sauce drippings. And speaking of “picky,” I thought I might actually need a pickaxe to get to the root of some of those stalactites. Do they make a microwave cleaner that has dynamite as its main component?
Life can be a little like my microwave. Anytime I’m wondering why it doesn’t taste as sweet, I really have to look at what I might be hanging onto, stalactite-style. Hanging onto self-centeredness, bitterness, laziness—any of those kinds of things—will zap the deliciousness right out of life.