Be moved. Be changed. Love because you are loved.

Tag: Mary

Mary & Jesus

Know Your Source

It was a big day in the Dudley household. My sixteen-year-old passed the written driving test to get his learner’s permit. Shortly after, I handed over the wheel and was out on the road with him, traversing through neighborhoods. Handing over the controls isn’t an easy task. My right foot pumped an invisible break, and my grip tightened on the door handle. Somehow, I maintained a calm voice, “you’re doing well, now break… break… break harder.”

It’s strange to think that Mary the mother of Jesus would have fallen somewhere between my oldest and middle child’s ages when the angel, Gabriel, visited her. Here was a young girl who became the mother of the savior of the world before she’d even could qualify to get her driver’s license.

And talk about relinquishing control. Pregnancy itself feels like something has taken over your body. Add to that, the weight of wondering whether her betrothed would still marry her after discovering she was already with child. Back then, women relied on a man’s support and name. A ruined reputation could have landed Mary begging in the streets.

However, Mary’s only question to the angel, Gabriel, when he foretold what was about to happen was a technical one, “How can this happen? I am a virgin” (Luke 1:34). She didn’t ask about the consequences, what others might think of her, or what they might say. She didn’t worry if her husband would divorce her or her parents renounce her as their daughter. If she was concerned about her abilities to raise the Son of the Most High, she didn’t pose them. Mary told the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38).

Mary trusted God. She even visited with her cousin Elizabeth and rejoiced in song:

Mary holding Baby Jesus

 “How my soul praises the Lord.
  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
  For He took notice of His lowly servant girl,
  and from now on, all generations will call me blessed.
  For the Mighty One is holy, and He has done great things for me.
  He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear Him.
  He mighty arm has done tremendous things!” (Luke 1:46-56).

That is not the song of an anxiety-ridden, frantic with worry, young woman. Mary’s attitude of praise came not from looking at her troublesome situation but by looking back at God’s faithfulness. He was and is the promise keeper. He was and is the way maker. To another, Mary’s circumstances would have looked bleak, but Mary’s source wasn’t Joseph, nor her parents, or her neighbors’ opinions.

Mary trusted The Source from whom all blessings flow—The Lord Most High.

Don’t miss a post! Sign up for my weekly blog by clicking here: Lorri’s blog.

Magi following Star of Bethlem

Wishing You a Messy Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas stories is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robertson. I choke up every time I read about the Herdman children, a ragtag group of troublemaking siblings, who discover the true meaning of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, book cover by Barbara RobinsonChristmas while performing in a church pageant. As I read, my kids will hear my voice crack, look up, and shake their heads, “Mom, are you crying?” I’m touched by how Imogene Herdman’s veil is smudged and crooked, and Leroy Herdman, dressed as one of the Wise Men, carries in the ham given them by social services instead of the customary bowl of incense. They made the church’s lovely, traditional pageant into a messy, discombobulated event.

Which, truth be told, was much more how the real event happened.

The delivery of all of my children took place in a hospital with nurses and doctors caring for me. They all suited up for the delivery and scrubbed with sanitizer before they entered the delivery room. Mary, a teenager, gave birth in a lowly dirt floor manger among animals and straw. There were no nurses to hold her hand and tell her when to push. There was no doctor to gently guide baby Jesus into this world. He was born in a barn and slept in an animal’s water trough with sheep bleating and donkey’s neighing.

And then God’s guests appeared. Back in Jesus’s day, there was no indoor plumbing. There was no deodorant. People stank especially those that tended Shepherd and sheepafter animals like shepherds. Shepherds spent days under the hot sun and slept on the cold ground at night. After the Israelites settled in agricultural based Egypt, shepherding lost its prominent position as a trade. Sheep and goats were a threat to crops and therefore a menace to settled farmers. Shepherds were relegated to pastoring their animals only in desert areas and were shunned like tax collectors (Shepherd’s Status, Alcorn 2008). Yet, God sent an angel to invite them to be the first to meet the savior.

There is not much known about the wise men, except that they were called magi and came from the East. Historical records depict the magi as dreamers and stargazers. They sat in the presence of kings who asked their advice for Magi following Starinterpreting astrological signs, dreams, and omens. But, they didn’t know everything as seen in the story of Daniel and in Joseph. When the magi were asked to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar and the Egyptian Pharaoh’s dreams, these wise men didn’t have the answers. They were still searching. So when a bright star appeared in the night these pagan magicians felt compelled to follow it through the desert and bow down to exalt a Hebrew baby as king (Magi, Wise Men or Kings? It’s complicated. by Chad Ashby).

When I think of Jesus’s birth, it’s as if God went out of his way to make a point: Jesus came for everyone. God chose for His one and only son to be born to a teenage girl in a dirty manger. The first visitors were stinky shepherds and pagan astrologers.

If anyone ever wonders if they are good enough to be loved by God, please remember the Christmas story. God didn’t send His son just to save the righteous. Jesus is the gift of amazing grace available to anyone willing to accept the offering. God gave His son to become the light and hope for the blue-collar shepherds, the spiritually lost intellectuals, and the Herdmans of this world.

And most of all, He came for you.

Wishing you a merry and messy, Christmas, because we all need a savior.

If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, here’s a snippet from the Best Christmas Pageant Ever movie (1983) where the Herdman’s are performing the Christmas Story.
Annunciation stained glass window at St. Mary's Holdingford, MN

Courage in the Unknown

“I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” 

Those Valiant words came from the lips of a young virgin during a time when there were so many consequences for an unmarried pregnant womanAnnunciation-Stained glass window at St. Mary's in Holdingford, MN. I wonder if Mary considered whether Joseph might divorce her for being with child? Did she have any inkling that she would travel a great distance while nine months pregnant on a donkey without a place to sleep? God told her she would give birth to not only a son but to a savior but did she even conceive of the idea that her son would not be accepted by this world. That he would be beaten and crucified, and she would watch him die?

I’m a gasp-out-loud sort of person, especially during a movie when a truck comes out of nowhere and slams into a person. I jump and suck in a loud gasp. Sometimes I’ll grab the hand or knee of the person next to me in a tight grip. It’s my natural shock reaction to the unexpected moment. It might be because uncertainty puts the fear of God into me, even for good things like vacations, surprise parties, and heaven.

Yes, even heaven. I’m excited to go there someday, and I know heaven is an amazing place with no more pain, or tears, or death. It has singing, laughter, and streets of gold. However, a part of me wisHeaven's opening sky imagehes to see travel brochures showing the houses with many rooms Jesus has prepared for us. Or, a panoramic spread displaying God’s light glinting off the streets of gold. Or, maybe images of the river of life’s crystal waters flowing from God’s throne down by the fruit-laden limbs and strong roots of the tree of life (Revelation 22: 1-2).

With these Biblical descriptions, the unknown can still be scary even if it’s a good unknown.

Yet, here was Mary whom the angel Gabriel approached and said that she, a virgin, would be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and conceive a child. Mary heard all this and said, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:26-38)

I’d hate to think of my response. Assuming I didn’t run screaming from the room at the surprise of seeing an angel, I probably would have either said, “You want me to what now?” or “I think you have the wrong address. Check with Natalie next door.”

Are we ready for God’s opportunities? Are our hearts prepared to say, I am the Lord’s servant, may your word be fulfilled?

The Christmas season is a primer to ready us with anticipation. Our eyes, ears, and hearts should have their antenna up for opportunities to show God’s love and spread joy. It’s easy to follow the known family Christmas traditions, but what is God stirring up in your heart this Christmas?

Is shopping, decorating, sending cards, and other busyness overshadowing the prompting to do something nice for that Scrooge - 1984 Actor George C. ScottScrooge in your life? You know, the one person you want to avoid, but God keeps bringing him or her to the forefront of your mind. Are you valiant enough to say, yes Lord, the way Mary did?

It can be scary to reach out to someone who may not be receptive or whose reaction could range anywhere from mild disinterest to an explosive diatribe. But, if God is tugging upon your heart to do something nice for that person, don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you.

Through Mary, God blessed the world. We might not be ready for that pressure, but we can start with one.

In the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone.”

Don’t miss a post! Sign up for my weekly blog by clicking here: Lorri’s blog

Light of the Bethlehem Star

The Darker the Background the Brighter the Light

There’s a painting technique I like to use where you start with a painted black canvass. When you have a black background, colors and especially whites become Bethlehem Starvivid. They pop out of the artwork. If a pale yellow is applied to an already white canvass, it blends in or seems muted. However, if you apply a pale yellow to a black canvass, it casts a bright glow in contrast against the dark background.

“A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.” Leonardo Da Vinci

The darker the background, the brighter the light.

It was a dark time. The prophets had stopped prophesying, and for four hundred years between the Old and New Testaments, God seemed to have fallen silent. The Roman Empire with their idols and multiple gods dominated the region, and the despotic King Herod ruled over Judea.

Yet in this dark time, light entered the world.

She became pregnant as a virgin. God had visited Mary and told her not to be afraid, but already the whispers about her condition had begun. Her family hung their heads, and neighbors moved to the other side of the street when she passed. Joseph, her husband, had even planned to divorce her in secret if God hadn’t sent an angel to him in a dream.

Dry dust caked her dress and face as they traversed the hot, overcrowded roads. She longed to stretch her aching limbs. Her backside throbbed from the jolting sway of the donkey, but she kept her complaints to herself, for she didn’t want to appear ungrateful. She fared far better on the beast than if she would have trudged the long miles to Bethlehem, her back arched to off-set her well-rounded belly. Another spasm cramped her abdomen. Her fingers clenched the donkey’s mane, not only to combat the pain, but to ensure she didn’t pass out and fall off its back. She pinched her lips to not cry out for her Mama. The ill-timed census drew her away from her family when she needed their wisdom the most. Joseph was the only familiar face, and even though their families had been longtime friends, she knew little of her new husband.

Joseph returned from speaking to another innkeeper and took the reins. She searched his face hoping for a positive answer, but his eyes mirrored the same concerns and doubts plaguing her heart. He shook his head and her hopes plummeted like a bucket down a deep well.  He turned the donkey in another direction as another birthing pain wracked her body. The intervals were becoming more frequent, and when she thought the searing pain couldn’t get much worse it grew in intensity. She fought against tears congealing in the traveling dust within her throat.

God has a plan. He wouldn’t allow this to happen to His son.

Or, had she misunderstood?

Joseph stops to speak to another innkeeper on the outskirts of town. A rumpled elderly man points to a barn and another contraction seizes her body. Mary muffles her scream into a whimpering moan. Joseph’s eyes lock on hers. Lines of worry crease his forehead. He nods to the innkeeper and presses a coin into the man’s gnarled hands.

Joseph helps her down off the donkey’s back. Her legs wobble, and Mary leans heavily on him as he guides her into the barn and settles her into the hay. Curious animals stomp their hooves and turn their heads in her direction. The manger is filled with their earthy smells and bleating noises. Her grip on Joseph’s hand tightens as the pain overwhelms her. Why would God allow His son to be born in a lowly manger? The inns were full. There was no other place to go. Stifling fear smothered her, stealing her breath which rushed across her lips in quick pants. Had they failed God?

His light shines brightest in the darkness.

Mary and Baby JesusExhausted and spent, Mary cradles the precious baby in her arms. The pains of birth are forgotten as love fills her. Tears of joy slide over her cheeks. She arranges the swaddled cloth around his sweet face. The hope of the world… so small… so tiny… so perfect.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5

Don’t miss a post! Sign up for my e-newsletter by clicking here: Lorri’s newsletter

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén