All I Want For Christmas: A Stable Place

It’s a fascinating scene.

Mary, Joseph, and t-minus baby Jesus…navigating the tumultuous 90-mile terrain of Judea and uncertainty.

From a mangy donkey and chilly temperatures to the pirate, travel caravan, even wild boar potential, no question the journey into deliverance was labor in and of itself – a prime, if not, pinnacle example of near-term discomfort. And we’ve barely gotten to Bethlehem.

Yet, as I reflect more on the nativity story, Chapter 1 of the Incarnation, if you will, I can’t help but ponder some fresh perspectives courtesy of the past four months.

For instance, going back to Luke 1, while much attention was given to Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Zechariah’s silence, and their corporate stiff-arm to tradition, consider Elizabeth’s attitude.

Now after this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant, and for five months she secluded herself completely, saying, “This is how the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor on me, to take away my disgrace among men.” ~ Luke 1:24-25

To me, this speaks volumes about Elizabeth, specifically her confidence in God’s plan despite public scorn and her physical limitations. While she could have sulked in sorrow hiding her faith with her visibility, by acknowledging God’s creative miracle, she embraced His sovereignty. Essentially, Elizabeth’s ‘Yes and Amen‘ was a declaration of God’s faithfulness as greater than her high-risk pregnancy – a baton she would pass to Mary as she cultivated the practice.

As Mary sings in v. 47-49

“My soul magnifies and exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has looked [with loving care] on the humble state of His maidservant; for behold, from now on all generations will count me blessed and happy and favored by God!” ~ Luke 1:47-49

Again, note how “favor” is a word of overlap for Mary and Elizabeth. Paraphrasing their heartcries, we find Psalm 56:11 and 118:6:

What can man do to remove the blessing God has covered me with? While discouraging words surround me, the Lord’s favor within His faithfulness is encouragement enough. Therefore, I will boast in God’s goodness even though I don’t under the exact purpose behind His plan.

Fast-forward to Luke 2 and we find this theme playing out for Mary and Joseph. Desperate for shelter, a midwife, and rest from their journey, the temptation to fear and fume could have easily broken their wills. Almost a century mile and no room (for what they needed) in the inns? I would have blown a gasket in Joseph’s shoes!

Still, despite the inconveniences and inhumanities, God’s prophecy reigned supreme divinely guiding Mary and Joseph to what they craved all along…

…a stable place.

Were the conditions rough with health hazards to enhance a high-risk pregnancy? Absolutely. But as God had done for months (and would do in the years following during their hiatus into Egypt), He provided what they needed to be delivered. And as word of mouth increased through divine revelations, Mary’s heart delighted all the more. As she had done from Gabriel’s announcement, she stored the precious promises of God in her heart so she could treasure them at their fulfillment. If that’s not a sign of radical trust in God’s provident protection, I don’t know what is.

Bottom line: On paper and in transit, the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem was anything but smooth; however, just like Mary and Joseph, we, too, have the opportunity to keep our eyes on the prize when unexpected storylines emerge.

Even when God’s execution seems far from ideal, His heart always seeks to strengthen and sharpen our awareness to His Immanuel¹ presence.

Hence, the reason why we celebrate this season: To commemorate God’s light within His love and to say ‘thank you’ for relentlessly pursuing us.

As for you, my friends, you may feel hard-pressed on every side, drained on the heels of a long year, or hopeless despite your desire to delight in the Lord…

…however, in the end, He’s still there, a star on the horizon of whatever we’re going through…

…shining light on what ultimately matters amidst the chaos.

Together, we will get there.

Until then, selah…and Merry Christmas!

~ Cameron & Lyssah Fry

Cover photo creds: Pinterest

Footnotes

  1. i.e. “God with us”

The Secret to Finding Christmas: Let it Be

Written 12/21/16; revised 12/16/21

To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin.

I know it should be the most wonderful time of the year; I know all things should be merry and bright.

But after the most brutal month in five years, I guess I can’t help if it doesn’t really feel like Christmas at all.

Not that I’m writing to implore sympathy. I just know I’m not the only one struggling with disappointment and the idea of sweeping it under the holiday carpet right now.

Perhaps you’re sitting there waiting for the snow to fall wondering how to overcome the heartache you harbor inside. If so, I want to encourage you today.

‘Cause when it comes to despondency, especially in seasons when we feel we should be in ‘joy to the world’ mode, it can be hard knowing how to cope. I know for me, I can feel a little guilty whenever I have to manufacture an outward expression contrary to my inward state.

Yet, while emotional dichotomies can feel awkward, when we choose to be joyful in spite of pain, we can overcome as conquerors taking a stand rather than fakers putting up a front.

Granted, I’m not saying this is easy; I’m just sayin’ when we justify withdrawal by not wanting to feel hypocritical or not wanting our hurt to leak, we risk exalting our sorrow above God’s nearness and revelation. Yes, being disappointed is a natural part of life; however, if we allow the letdowns of life to govern how we live, we not only validate the influence of tolerated bondage but limit our capacity to trust God.

Take Luke 1 for instance:

When Gabriel reveals God’s plan to Zechariah (v. 13-17), including the promise of “you will have joy and gladness”, note the first three words out of his mouth: “How can I?

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find it remarkable how a man righteous before God could be overcome by such skepticism in His presence. Considering Zechariah’s past behavior (v. 5-7), such a reaction tells me he most likely preserved his discouragement of Elizabeth’s barrenness though hopelessness and concealed it through blameless service. Had Zechariah allowed God to grieve with him during his darkest hours, chances are his fear would have yielded to hope realized instead of hope deferred.

Fast-forward to Mary’s encounter and we find similar apprehension when Gabriel greets her in v. 29: “But she was greatly troubled…and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.”

Yet, after Gabrielle unpacks his message, note the difference in Mary’s response (v. 36): “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord

let it be.”

No question, Mary had the right idea. Although her initial reaction was akin to Zechariah, her processed reaction allowed her to receive the promise in faith, in turn, altering the trajectory of what would happen soon after. In Zechariah’s case, his doubt preceded his silence; for Mary, her belief preceded her worship (i.e. “my soul magnifies the Lord” – v. 46).

Now, could Mary have chosen to freak out? Of course! I’m sure the thought of her having to do some explaining crossed her mind; however, when you consider Mary could have easily become preoccupied with her own life, this makes her song of praise (v. 46-55) all the more profound.

So what’s my point, you ask?

My point is like Zechariah, we all carry some type of void within us, be it a measure of distress or the weight of prayers unanswered. Yet, like Mary, we can also know the hope of Christ resides in us as infinitely more than the sum of our uncertainty…

…the peace of Immanuel (God with us) as captivation helping us conquer the temptation to make sense of our surroundings. 

Maybe you’re reading this wondering how to ditch the loneliness looking for something to light up the fireworks in you. If you can relate, I want you know there’s not a hopeless void God can’t reach, nothing out of his range to restore. The same God who sent His one and only Son to take away the sins of the world is more than able to take away whatever burdens you’re carrying this Christmas.

And yes…I know it can be tough to let go. I get that. All I’m sayin’ is:

If you give yourself a chance to let it be, you’ll find new joy when you let it go.

Bottom line: Know who’s closest to you is nearer than what’s in front of you. That, to me, is what Christmas is all about.

Cover photo creds: Wallpaper Access

Miracle in the Making: The Jubilee Journey (Part 7)

Written on 11/14/21

‘Tis an early sunset on this gentle night; though all is not calm and all is not bright.

I guess I’m not ready for darkness’ descent; my mind is torn, my bandwidth is spent.

But alas, these signs, we cannot change despite the dawns now closer in range.

And so I press on and count the cost wondering if this year has been lost.

One thing for sure are the lessons won; these three alone are worth the run.

1) If you’re stuck between a rock and hard place, make God the latter to trust Him in pace.

2) If you’re weary at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on; let this be how you cope.

3) If you’re lost at a sea, at a point of breaking, change your course; leave peace in your waking.

To do these things in trial is hard; why not let God guide you in front and rear guard?

Selah.

Footnotes (per series above)

1) When you allow God to be your rock in difficult situations, you focus your mindset on what doesn’t change as opposed to what does (see Psalm 18). Not to mention you eliminate negativity on one side of the equation to scale your problems proportionally. Why not invite the ultimate absolute into your midst and make Him your trust?

2) The beauty of crisis and chaos is this silver lining: When you feel there’s nothing else to grab hold of, you can always grab hold of your rock (see #1; verses below)

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”~ Matthew 5:3 (MSG)

I’m nearly at the end of my rope. Don’t turn away; don’t ignore me! That would be certain death. If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice, I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you. Point out the road I must travel; I’m all ears, all eyes before you.” ~ Psalm 143:7-10 (MSG)

3) While some may feel like they’re holding on for dear life, for others, the circumstances may seem more like a crossroads. How many of you can recall a particular intersection you felt like no matter what direction you chose, the outcome was a lose-lose?

If you can relate, consider the fact…

When you’re at a breaking point, you can make it a turning point.

Per Romans 4:1-3 (MSG): “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.”

Often, when we’re struggling, we balk at full surrender or rely on our own terms. I know for me, there are times when I succeed in admitting helplessness, yet stray trying to make sense of my surroundings. If you’re ever caught in this conundrum, rather than entertain dark thoughts, let God’s spirit sustain you (Proverbs 18:15) as you steer into His presence, goodness, sovereignty, etc. In this way, you can find a corrected course divinely set without the striving.

Cover photo creds: wallspaperwide.com

Miracle in the Making: The Jubilee Journey (Part 6)

It’s a chilling 72 degrees as I type this.

Still rattling from another week of dodging arrows, taking them in the back in some cases.

I’m done with this. I’m so fed up and yet starving at the same time. Forget why; I just want to know when.

When will things get better? When will things start to turn around?

I look at Juby and I delight in her progress. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the journey…the literal baby steps one must take during these intense stretches.

But when it’s Monday morning and you’ve been out of home for three months. When it’s a brand new day and your only source of sanctuary betrays you, I’m sorry, I just can’t even…

…not anymore.

Don’t get me wrong; I haven’t given up or anything. Contrarily, I sometimes wonder if not knowing how to not believe is part of what’s working.

Yet, as I continue to wrestle and keep my head above the water, I discover new depths to what faith is like at the end of its rope…

…and it is gloriously terrifying. A place you relish and long to relinquish at the same time.

Like many paradoxes, the dichotomy is confusing. After all, vertical reliance is supposed to be uncomfortable – an achy burn as opposed to a contagious high.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: I trust God has something in store for Lys & I once this season blows over. It’s just getting harder to move, to leave the house, to function really. Even though we’re hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, even though we’re perplexed on multiple fronts, but not [yet in] despair, the temptation to think otherwise entices me.

How can the life of Jesus fully manifest when all I can do is stand? How can His glory be revealed when I’m this lost searching for a horizon to light my way?

Sure, I can stiff-arm fear all day, but at day’s end, I just want to know where I am headed.

I’m sure I’m not the only one out there wondering this right now.

Disoriented and fatigued, my charge tonight is simple…

If you find yourself at the end of your rope, rejoice in the stillness and tie a knot.

You may feel like you’re trembling on a precipice, but where courage lacks is also where much is given. In time, you will be able to strain forward to what lies ahead. For now, embrace the opportunity to receive as you persevere, let steadfastness have its full effect, and hold fast the confession of hope without wavering.

Even when you step out of your car and a freak gear glitch causes it to launch into a neighbor’s yard before you somehow, someway stop it from crashing into their house, count it all joy. Tally up His goodness and scale your conflicts accordingly.

Take it from one in the trenches with you. Your life isn’t as broken as you think. And even if it is, there’s not a solve or repair unbeknownst to God.

Why not trust the handiness of His hands as you trade in your sorrows?

Just sayin’…

Selah.

Cover photos creds: Word Slingers

Miracle in the Making: The Jubilee Journey (Part 2)

Lately, I’ve been thinking about dust. After all, I need a new Swiffer. Possibly another Dyson.

However, in this case, I’ve been contemplating not only my relationship with God, but my relationship to God.

For when in crisis, it’s hard not to consider the contrasts…

  • When chaos is great, God is greater.
  • If man is small, how much less are his problems?
  • If man can do good, how much more can God do likewise?

You get the drift.

Granted, it makes sense to embrace these dichotomies in seasons of trials; hence, why I’m writing this.

‘Cause truth is…

When we wrestle with God during challenging times, we’re wrestling in our weakness to understand Him…and trust IN Him.

As the story of Jacob’s wrestling match (Genesis 32) tells us, there is a holy way to contend as we confront our failures and frailties.

The question is: How do we model this type of dependence?

For starters, I submit we perceive our smallness as a big deal. As the Scriptures stress, we are significant, yet small compared to the grandeur of the Almighty (Psalm 40:17, Isaiah 66:1-2, James 4:8-10); in fact, the Hebrew word for ‘wrestle’ literally translates to dust. Go figure!

As such, we can take joy knowing the freedom of living life to scale in the fullness of who God is.

For when we embrace our weakness at the feet of Jesus, we can accept how struggling with God in faith leads to peace, revelation, even blessings. This ties to the concept of divine wrestling being a grappling of our humanity and a tenacious acceptance into intimacy. Just as God relentlessly pursues us, so is there a renewing of life when we hold onto the vastness that is Him.

My encouragement to you, my friends, is this: If you’re, like me, feeling like dry bones, as if you’re going back and forth between, ‘All I can do is stand’ and ‘All I want to do is fight’, understand the reason you’re not alone is also the reason you’re more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37) with life to come back to.

While the ways to restoration are many, dare to see wrestling with God as a spectacular way to get there. Even if you feel too weak or too stuck, remember who you are in light of God and what you can do when you view perseverance as a way to discover Him. You’ll find as you abide in God’s sovereignty, the more capacity you’ll have to hope while receiving His strength in place of cheerful fatalisms.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Shutterstock