What Does Safety Look Like?

Our culture is obsessed with safety. In our country we are sacrificing freedoms for perceived safety. Laws are constantly being passed to enforce safety. We all want to feel safe.

I am obsessed with safety. I’ve realized that it may even be an idol for me. I want to feel safe.

But it occurred to me that safety isn’t a feeling. It’s a reality. I can be safe and not feel safe. I can feel safe and not be safe. The safety I’ve been pursuing — the feeling— is an illusion.

Safety is a state of being. But what does it look like? My first thought was of a person living in a solid, impenetrable fortress. The inside of the fortress is padded with cotton and covered with velvet. There are no hard places. No rough edges. All is safe.

And boring! And lonely. And what kind of life would that be?

Then I thought of myself as a child in the backseat of the car. In those less safety-conscious days, we didn’t have to be in a car seat. We didn’t even have to wear seat belts. We rattled around in the backseat. Sprawled out to sleep. Got on our knees to watch where we’d been disappear in the back window. I didn’t concern myself with whether my daddy knew the way. Whether he was going too fast. Or whether he knew what he was doing. I felt safe. I trusted my daddy.

Then I thought of that same trust-worthy daddy in a different setting. The doctor’s office. What if I had a deep wound that needed stitches? I wouldn’t like what was happening. I wouldn’t feel safe. I might even feel like my daddy was letting me down. Yet, I would be totally safe. More so than if he ignored the wound because he didn’t want me to go through the pain of healing.

So, what does safety look like?

For me, it looks like this: Living wild adventures with someone who is all-powerful. Someone who loves me and will give his life for me. Someone who will fight the bad guys and win. Someone who will not allow any pain to come to me unless it is ultimately for my good and for my healing.

Safety is a reality, not a feeling. I can no longer use my feelings to determine whether or not I am safe. I must just hold on to the one who loves me and boldly live the adventure!

 

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A Prayer for Christmas

 

From Claudia Mair Burney:

A Prayer for Christmas

 

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman…”

 

Galatians 4:4

 

God with us,

 

I’ve come to see you. I’m not as clean as I wish I was, but I’m hoping you’ll receive me just as you did the rough, and sweaty shepherds who burst in on you on that holy night so long ago. They were afraid. I guess that spectacular light show in the sky got to them. I wish I felt more afraid than I do. I should, considering this is it: the Incarnation. But all of this is so simple; so ordinary. No, it’s less than ordinary. This is abject poverty. Most babies aren’t born where the livestock lives. I keep asking myself, how can this be God? Yet, here you are. I know it’s you, because here I am, on my knees, and my heart is aflame within me.

 

It isn’t as pristine as the Christmas cards make it seem. It’s cold, and drafty, and filthy, and it smells of animals and dung in here. No wise men are hovering over you with their gifts. The shepherds aren’t even here. Just me, and your folks, and my hands are empty. But Lord, seeing you like this, so vulnerable, my heart is full.

 

Look at you in that feeding trough. I can’t get over how tiny you are, but oh. You are perfect. The scriptures say when you grow up you won’t be much to look at, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a gorgeous child. I hope I always see you like this: beautiful, new, and surprising.

 

Oh my! Your mom is bringing you to me! Thank you, Mary. You really are full of grace. This is incredible! I feel so clumsy, Lord. Like I can hurt you if I’m not careful. But you feel so good in my arms. You’re like a warm little ball of pure love. Can you feel me shaking? I’m undone. You’re right here at my heart. I wish I could stop time right here, and hold you like this forever, loving on you, and kissing you like this.

 

You still smell like the blood from your mother’s womb. Oh, Jesus. You’ll have this same coppery scent again in about 33 years. But it’ll be a much bloodier occasion than your birth. That time, you’ll be dying, so that I can be born anew. Have mercy. I don’t want to think about what I’m going to put you through. Not today. But I can’t help it.

 

Oh, man. Forgive me, Jesus. I’m crying all over you. You’re the baby, but I’m the one blubbering. I’m not trying to scare you on your birthday, but the shadow of the cross is on this barn, and there isn’t a thing I can do to stop what’s going to happen to you. So, I’ll just continue to hold you tight, if you don’t mind. If I can keep you close to me we may just get through the rest of your story together. Despite how small you are, I’m the one that needs you to save me. This is craziness, but this is the way you chose to do it. Who can understand such mysteries?

 

I’m amazed that you can fall asleep in my guilty arms. Maybe you’re so quiet and peaceful because even now you know you’ll make it all right. Oh, Lord. Who can understand such mysteries? It’s mind blowing enough to think that you are here: God as a baby, born in the humility of a barn, resting in my arms, my ragged heartbeat sounding in your tiny ear. And you will not forget me.

Amazing grace.

 

Sleep in heavenly peace, Lord Jesus. And welcome. I’m glad you’re here.

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Eve

From Claudia Mair Burney:

Christmas Eve

 

“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.” Luke 2:6 NRSV

 

Light of the world,

 

The people walking in darkness await you. We who are living in the land of the shadow of death have fixed our eyes to the sky for the dawning of your light. Strong God, coming in the fragile flesh of a baby, there is no room in the inn for your exhausted father and laboring mother. But we are here, watching for the light, scrambling to sweep our hearts clean, and flinging the doors to our messy lives wide open in the shadowy night.

 

Today, take a moment to simply meditate in joyful anticipation.

 

Come, Lord Jesus.

 

The Cost

Mary was a good girl. I imagine she came from a religious home. They followed the law of God.

Joseph was a good boy. A follower of God’s law, well-respected.

God messed all that up.

God came in and completely ruined Mary’s reputation. She was an unmarried pregnant girl. Absolute disgrace.

He ruined Joseph’s testimony. Joseph’s girl was pregnant and by choosing not to stone her he as much as admitted that the child was his. Appalling.

You know that the whole, “God did it” story didn’t go over very well. I mean, really. Come on, now, God? God made you pregnant? Uh huh, and Caesar Augustus is giving my tax money back for a Hanukkah gift.

I read something the other day that made me think, hey, if Joseph and Mary were of the line of David why didn’t they stay with relatives in Bethlehem? 


Why indeed. They were a scandal.

Because they weren’t just law followers, they were God followers.

God doesn’t really care if we look good. He doesn’t care as much about our reputation as we do. He wants us to follow him. That’s it.

The Christmas story is a sweet little tale when we retell it 2000 years later. It’s easy for us to think they reacted differently than we would. That all was merry and bright. But they were human. They lived in a difficult, judgmental world.
Back then, the story was full of tears. Full of pain.

It cost a lot for Christ to come to us. The incarnation was a sacrifice from beginning to end.

But even then, even in the midst of rejection, confusion, and a damaged testimony Mary said:

 “Oh, 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.”

What about us? What about when it starts looking like it might cost something to follow God? Are we willing to trade the good for the best? Am I?

Thank God Mary was.

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent

From Claudia Mair Burney:

The fourth Sunday of Advent

 

“And what I am saying to you I say to all: Stay awake! Mark 13:37 (NJB)

 

This fourth Sunday of Advent finds us only days away from the celebration of Jesus’ arrival on earth. Unfortunately, by now many of us are worn ragged: we’ve shopped, partied, gone to pageants, baked dozens of holiday treats, and visited the needy bearing alms. Rest sounds like the perfect antidote to so much activity, but scriptures exhort us: stay awake! At the end of every Advent prayer we’ve prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus.” But these words aren’t found in any of the birth narratives. They’re the parting words, just before the blessing, at the end of the book of Revelation. We must never lose sight of the fact that our Advent waiting occurs on two levels. Yes, we are waiting for the child who is God to be born in Bethlehem, but we are always to stay alert and prepared, watching for the risen Christ to come again.

 

Meditate on the words, “stay awake!” Write a poem using those words, reflecting on what your soul is whispering–OR SHOUTING–concerning this directive.

 

Risen Savior,

 

You promised you would return in the clouds with power and great glory. Have I lost sight of the urgency of your second coming? Lord, have mercy on me, and give me the wisdom actively watch and wait for all the ways that you will come. By active, I don’t mean make me busier, Lord, but rather, help me to be present, in the moment, assured that now is the accepted time; today is the day of my salvation. In this very instant, make me ready to say “yes, and amen,” to every way you wish to present yourself to me.

 

Come, Lord Jesus.

 

In the Waiting

Il Sassoferrato - Madonna and Child - WGA20872

Il Sassoferrato – Madonna and Child – WGA20872 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Another repost from my old blog site.

 

 

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

 

 

Advent. A time of eager and joyful expectation. Right?

 

 

But not then. Not for them.

 

 

They were weary. Living under the ungodly, oppressive government of Rome and the greedy, bloodthirsty rule of the Tetrarchs, they were over-taxed, over-burdened, abused, and frightened.

 

 

Religion was no help. If anything, the merciless legalism of the times made things worse.

 

 

And they’d been waiting a long time.

 

 

Waiting for an end to their suffering.

 

 

They’d heard of a deliverer, but where was He? Where was this promised Messiah? Where was God?

 

 

I’ve heard that Mary was the most common name for girls at the time. We do see several in the Gospels, so it could be true.

 

 

The name means Bitter.

 

 

Weary of waiting. Desperately waiting. Waiting for release from the bitterness of life. It seems they’d lost hope.

 

 

We’ve all been there. When one wait ends, another begins.

 

 

Life is waiting.

 

 

We wait for a son to return home to those he’s turned his back on.

 

For a loved one to know the Lord.

 

For a friend to be healed.

 

A child or spouse to come home from war.

 

A job—financial security.

 

A restored relationship.

 

A healed marriage.

 

Forgiveness.

 

For someone to abandon an addiction.

 

Reconciliation.

 

An e-mail from an agent.

 

Confirmation that we’re doing what we are supposed to be doing.

 

 

Always waiting and we are weary. We are desperate. Desperate for hope. For God to step in and show Himself.

 

 

Two thousand years ago God took on strands of DNA and became a tiny human in the womb of a girl named Bitter.

 

 

And His name was Emmanuel. God with us.

 

 

God stepped into the weary desperation.

 

 

He didn’t remove their suffering. Rome still ruled. The religious leaders were still unforgiving. Life was still hard.

 

 

He didn’t come to relieve their suffering. He came to walk with them in the midst of it.

 

 

We need not grow weary in the waiting because He’s here. We’re not waiting for Him to show up. He’s already here—inside us.

 

 

And those things we want, those things we watch for, they are good things, but the best thing, the best thing is God With Us.

 

 

I’ve looked back into my waiting and seen where God has been. Right there in the moments when it seems I’d lost hope. If God offered to answer all my prayers, solve all my problems right now, I wouldn’t do it if it meant losing those glimpses of His love.

 

 

Look deeply into your waiting and see Him. See where He’s been and how He’s touched you. Together let’s remember, no matter how discouraging or bitter life gets, let’s remember Emmanuel.

 

 

 

Third Saturday of Advent

From Claudia Mair Burney:

Saturday, the third week of Advent

“Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.” Hebrews 10:5 (NRSV)

I seldom take the time to consider all the planning the Incarnation took, all the promises made and waited for by the faithful before Christ finally put on the body prepared for him. What amazing humility it took for the Creator who formed humans in their mother’s wombs, to submit himself to being formed. The embodied God was a living sacrifice. What’s more, he calls us who are made in his image and likeness “to be living sacrifices, dedicated and acceptable to God. That is the kind of worship for you, as sensible people,” we are told in Romans 12:1. As we move into the final days before the Nativity of Christ, let us consider the role our bodies plays in the greatest story every told. And let us try with all our might, to yield these bodies, to the will of God.

Today, nurture the body you incarnate, any way you choose.

Word made flesh,

It’s hard to believe that I am a temple, your tabernacle and dwelling place. Even more incredible is the truth that I am made in your image and likeness. I haven’t respected my body as I should, nor honored it as I would any church building that I’d walk into. As I prepare for your coming, help me to see my body as what it is: a living sacrifice. And Jesus, help me to obey your word, and not model my behavior by the world’s standards, but be transformed by the renewing of my mind, so that I can discern what your will is: what is good, acceptable, and mature. I need you, body and soul.

Come, Lord Jesus.