When Light Meets The Dark

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It was that time again–time to travel the 160 miles to the medical center for my husband’s cancer check-up with his oncologist/hematologist.

We left yesterday morning while it was still dark.

The darkness of uncertainty always covers us as we travel east for his appointments but the sun coming up yesterday was a reminder that God’s light would already be there to meet us when we got to the hospital.

Yesterday we received a great report from his doctor.  Bob is still responding well to the chemo drug without side effects.  He has another appointment in August and if the markers of the Leukemia in his blood reach a certain target level he will not need another bone marrow biopsy.

So we travel and trust and we know that no matter what the outcome will be in August the light of God’s presence always goes with us and before us.

We are never alone.

(This post is in response to the Daily Post’s Friday Photo Challenge:  Early Bird)

Blessings,

Nancy

The Light That Keeps on Giving

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Twinkling lights are sure to catch our eye at this time of year.  We’re attracted by their shimmer through our neighborhoods and homes.

I especially enjoy waking up in the morning before dawn and clicking on my Christmas tree lights.  Sitting in the dark with just the glow from the tree is the best part of my day.

Light.  We’re drawn to light.

Jesus referred to himself as the light of the world.  Yet Isaiah 53:2 tells us that, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him”.

The light of the world, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords didn’t enter this world with majestic brilliance.  There wasn’t any pomp and circumstance, fanfare, no castle, no royal clothes, no trumpets sounding or a parade to usher in His arrival. 

He wasn’t draped in purple but in simple swaddling cloths.  He didn’t have a cradle just an animal’s trough as a bed.

Surrounded by the smells and sounds of animals and with the love of His parents–a carpenter and young peasant girl–He came quietly, modestly into our world.

Not too long ago, King George of England was born.  The airways, the internet, the media exploded with the announcement.

The only spectacular light that shone the night Jesus was born was around the Shepherds.  An angel brought the Shepherds the birth announcement surrounded with the glory of God.

Then the sky resounded with shouts of praise from a multitude of angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”  Luke 2: 14

The shepherds–who were considered the lowly of the low–they were the ones standing in the company of angels and surrounded with God’s glowing presence.

Did you ever notice that God does things completely the opposite of the way we would expect?

Consider King David whom Jesus descended from–he was just a young shepherd boy tending the sheep when Samuel arrived at his father Jesse’s house to anoint the next king.  Samuel thought for sure it would be David’s older brother, Eliab but the Lord told Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  All of David’s older, stronger brothers weren’t picked by God.  David the youngest, smallest less obvious son was anointed by Samuel to become the next king.  (You can read the story in 1 Samuel 16). 

Our world often focuses outwardly on appearances, the bigger, the better, the beautiful, the powerful, we love the wow factor and success is often measured by the opinions of people.

Jesus’ wow factor came from His words of authority, His light came from turning the attitudes and thoughts of His culture upside down and inside out.

Jesus grew up and lived a total counter cultural lifestyle.  The King of Heaven’s light burned bright in the way He treated people.  He valued women, reached out to the poor, welcomed the downtrodden, was merciful, associated with those that earthly kings despised, He comforted, healed, loved and protected.  When the religious walked around with a holier-than-thou swagger pointing out the sin in others, Jesus embraced the sinner and encouraged them to follow Him and He reprimanded the accusers.

Jesus was born to become Israel’s Savior (and ultimately the whole world’s) but the people of Israel thought He’d be a militant savior.  God himself, clothed in skin, didn’t come to save Israel from a political leader and to set them free from Roman bondage.  The people were looking for an earthly king, someone to rescue them from their circumstances.  When they didn’t get what they wanted, many walked away–they turned their back on Jesus.  Their souls became blinded by expectations and they couldn’t see past their perceived ideas.  They couldn’t see that He was their Spiritual Light to lead them back to God and give them eternal life.

Those who did believe, spread the light and it kept burning throughout the world until it reached us and now we, who believe, become light carriers and the Light of Christmas keeps on giving…

Written by Nancy Janiga ©2014

What not to carry

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A friend of mine mentioned to me today that she’s done carrying the burdens of others.  She declared, “I’m learning how to put things in their proper place, like taking them off of my shoulders and placing them on a shelf, so to speak.”

“So you’re going to care but not carry?” I asked.  She chuckled and said, “Yes and stop trying to FIX!”

She shared how hard life was getting, because so many of her family and friend’s issues were consuming her thoughts and time.

“We aren’t designed to carry a load that heavy,”  I told her.  “That’s God’s job.  We will surely be crushed beneath the weight if we don’t lay it down.”

What I was saying to her is what I have to continually tell myself too.

The nurturing, compassion, caring, helping, qualities (especially in women) are beautiful God-given gifts that when expressed properly result in a blessed heart, not only for those we help but for us as well.

It only becomes harmful when we allow all those wonderful qualities to push us into overdrive.

I can think of several times when I’ve gone into overdrive–driving myself to the edge of exhaustion by thinking that I could fix a problem by trying to gather the pieces of a situation and (like a puzzle) try to put them back together again.

That’s a good way to create undue anxiety.

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A verse that comes to my mind now is Galatians 6:2 — Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (NIV)  In that verse we’re called to carry one another’s burdens BUT we were never called to try to fix the burdens.

What does it mean to carry the burdens of others?   I think it means we pray, help when we can, guide, point in the right direction, comfort, mourn with, listen to, be there, but we can’t repair anything.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary definition of fix is: to make (something) whole or able to work properly again: to repair (something): to deal with or correct (a problem).

We can love, care, help but we can’t fix.  That’s God’s job.

Those scattered pieces we see may actually be the way God will get the undivided attention of the person we are trying to help.  If we zero in and start picking up all the pieces for them–well maybe, just maybe we’re interfering with a bigger plan.  It’s impossible to see the big picture from our finite perspective.

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Quick fixes don’t last.  Healing does.

God is the expert at picking up the pieces of broken lives and putting them back together again and only he knows where the pieces fit to create the big picture and it will be immeasurably more beautiful than we can ask or imagine.

Think about your life.  If there was always another person there to rescue you from distress, stop you from hurting, picking up your pieces, where would you be today?

For me, most likely, it wouldn’t have gotten me to the place of — if I may use the cliché–letting go and letting God.

It was when I humbled myself, admitted to God that I couldn’t pick up my own pieces that he came to my rescue.  It was giving up control and allowing him to gather the pieces and put them back together the way they were exactly meant to go together.

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Another person can’t do that for us and we can’t do it for others.

Jesus said in Matthew 11: 28-30:   “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

His yoke is easy and his burden is light. 

My friend who is learning how to put things up on the shelf has uncovered the truth.  She was carrying things to a point where her burden was not light anymore.  Actually, it became so heavy that she began to break under the weight.

Helping when really needed, praying, doing what she can then taking all the concerns and placing them on a shelf is releasing my friend from the heavy yoke others were placing on her shoulders.

God never places heavy yokes on us but people can and sometimes do.

Jesus’ yoke is easy and it creates rest.

In the literal sense a yoke in biblical times was a bar of wood that was constructed to put over two animals, like oxen, to unite them. This made it easier to pull equipment used in farming.  One animal would have a harder time pulling the load.  Two yoked together made the job easier.

To be yoked to Jesus makes our journey easier and lighter to bear.

I also read recently that farmers used to yoke a young ox with an older more experienced ox for training purposes.  The older ox would take the major load and the young one would walk next to the older one learning how to walk.

I think that’s a beautiful picture of what Jesus offers to those who are exhausted, weary and burdened.  It truly is comforting to know that Jesus walks along with us teaching, guiding and strengthening us every step of the way.

We don’t have to do it alone and he doesn’t want us to do it alone.

I like the image of placing things on a shelf that my friend described.  She said, “I’m actually letting God have control of them” and He knows it.

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It’s like having several baskets on a shelf and taking all our concerns and placing them in the baskets.  Putting the burdens that we weren’t designed to carry inside the baskets doesn’t mean that we don’t care.  What it means is that we know what our job is and what God’s job is.

Then we pray.  We tell God about the concerns (all those complex puzzle pieces of life) that we put in the individual baskets.  We ask him to take care of them and to put the pieces together in a way that only he knows how to do.  Then we trust.  Then we rest.

Written by:  Nancy Janiga©2014

There is Singing and there is Light

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As a young child, I can remember my mother singing through the house as she did her chores.  She had the gift of a beautiful voice and she filled our home with it.

I was the oldest and then came my sister, Diane.  We were the first two of six children.  When she and I were very young, my mother often sang us to sleep at night.

There on our bed all tucked in after a warm bath, clean pajamas slipped into, our hair towel dried, and prayers said, she sang.

When darkness set in, often thoughts that weren’t there in the daylight hours would surface.  Like those unrelenting thoughts of monsters that are common in the imaginations of small children.

I needed a glimmer of light somewhere close by to pierce through the darkness.

A night-light tucked in the corner of the room helped.  Or the low-wattage hall light that could be seen shining dimly outside our bedroom door brought some security to me and, I’m sure, to my sister as well.  The twinkle from the light helped ease us into the night around us.

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Then came my mother’s voice, soft, mellow, and sweet.  She sang over us and we became comfortable in our surroundings and slipped off to sleep.

As time went on, my nightly fears lessened and eventually vanished.  But when I think about sadness, depression, hardships, grief, those difficult seasons of life, even as an adult, the night can often be the hardest time of day to make it through.

Our fears tend to heighten when the light slips away.  The difficulties that are challenges during the day can seem like insurmountable mountains at night.

Someday we will no longer have night and we won’t need the sun (or the moon) to give us light.  The glory of God will be our light.  See Isaiah 60: 19-20 and Revelation 21: 22-27.

On the other hand, there is a darkness that can consume us even in the daylight.  This has more to do with the darkness of our soul.  It’s what happens to us when we run away from God–when we think that we can handle life alone.  It happens when we don’t allow his light to penetrate our dark areas.

When we let him in, our eyes open and we see life from his perspective.  We see and know the difference between true light and true darkness and we view everything here on earth–the good, the messy, the awful, the beautiful as it is…temporary.  A light dawns and God brightens our way and illuminates our path.

Isaiah put it this way when he told the people of Israel that a light would be coming into the world:

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Isaiah was prophesying about the coming of Jesus.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

It’s easy to get lost in the dark but he actively seeks those who can’t find their way, because he is light and deeply loves every single person that he pursues.

I like that God provided a way to pierce our spiritual darkness.  Whether it’s in the bright of day, or twilight, the evening hours or overnight hours, he is there and is always casting light on our circumstances, our shortcomings and showing us how to maneuver our way through the dark avenues of this world.

He steers us clear of the pitfalls, takes us through detours, over the mountains and through the valleys.

When we think our path should always be easy, he shows us that the easy way isn’t always the best way to get to our destination.

So we follow.  We follow the light.  Allowing him to guide us through this great adventure of life.

When we forget to follow and don’t listen to his words–which are actually light too–( Psalm 119: 105), when we veer off the road, get lost in the dark and cry out for him there he’ll be to guide us back again.

He comes after those who call out to him.  I love that about him, because although he is always faithful we, at times, are not.  Sometimes we wander.

When we lay our head upon our pillow at night, we can always be assured that he delights over us – watches over us – and did you know that he even sings over us?  Zephaniah 3:17 tells us so…The LORD your God is with you…He will take great delight in you…He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Just as my mother comforted my sister and me with her singing, God sings over his children and as our night-light cast a glow through the darkness, Jesus does the same in our life.

After all, we are all like little children to him and he is our father.

Written by:  Nancy Janiga ©2014