Do you take time to thank those who serve?
A transcript is available.
4Joseph went up from Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David, called Bethlehem, because he was David’s descendant, 5to be included in the census with Mary, to whom he was engaged to be married. She was pregnant. 6While they were there she was due to deliver the baby. 7She gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him in cloths, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the guest room. – Luke 2:4-7
I’ve titled this podcast “God Does Things Backwards.” It’s a slight revision of a broadcast I first recorded for Christmas, 2002.
Some of you may think that title is almost sacrilegious. But I want to ask you: “How would you choose to invade your enemy’s kingdom and challenge his greatest weapons?” I don’t know about you, but I expect that babies would have little part in my battle plan.
Isaiah tells us:
8For my ways are not like your ways,
nor are my thoughts like your thoughts.
9As the sky is higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts — says the LORD. – Isaiah 55:8 & 9
When we hear the word “higher” we immediately think of grander, loftier, and more obvious. Bigger bombs, larger armies, more obvious miracles.
Christmas is a time when you can celebrate God in action. How does God go about things? What do his “higher” thoughts look like? Of course, you can see God in action every day, but look into that manger, and you can see God performing the greatest, most powerful miracle of all, the one that wins the battle, defeats the foe, and brings joy and victory to each one of us. What is it that you see?
It’s a baby!
Nothing extraordinary that we can see. The prophet tells us “no beauty that we should desire him!”
I was reminded of how God works when I read about Pipa toads. Now you likely haven’t heard of these toads. In his book “Three Tickets to Adventure” Gerald Durrell, a zoo collector, tells about finding them in Guyana, South America. He says they look like plain brown toads that have been run over by a very heavy steam roller.
A peculiarity of these toads is that the young hatch and grow from tadpole to toad in pockets on the mother’s back. They then break out of the little pockets, and set forth into the world, a tiny, fragile fragment of life. Gerald Durrell’s pipa toads chose to hatch in a kerosene tin in the hold of a ship as he was taking his collection from Guyana to England.
As he watched these tiny scraps of life, sailors from the ship’s crew came to join him. In Durrell’s words, “. . . round this tin squatted the group of ordinary seamen, reasonably hard-living and, one would have thought, unemotional men whose every word was prefaced by a procreative expletive and whose only interests in life (if you judged by their conversation) were drink, gambling, and women. Yet those hardened and unsentimental examples of the human race crouched round that kerosene tin at two o’clock in the morning, cold and uncomfortable, watching with incredulous wonder the beginnings of life for the baby toads, talking occasionally in hushed whispers as though they were in church.”
Durrell continues to describe the attention given to the small amphibians by the sailors as they guarded the kerosene tin from other members of the crew who wanted to watch. Small, nearly helpless, perhaps one could even say ugly, the little toads were able to reach out and touch hearts. Indeed, I would suggest that these men were in church, learning directly from the hand of the creator, the God who has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. Indeed, the God who does things backwards . . . from our point of view!
Have you had a hard time seeing God work lately? Perhaps you’re looking for the wrong things. The God who entered the manger so long ago is still ready to enter hearts and change lives today. Will you participate in the Eucharist, in sharing the body and blood of Jesus today? Perhaps you will feel God, through His Holy Spirit coming near and touching you, changing you, healing and renewing you.
Are you having a hard time hearing God? Do you think he doesn’t speak often enough? Try turning down the noise. It’s possible he’s talking in a still small voice, while you’re listening for a shout.
I believe God works special miracles. I believe he acts in power. But every day, every hour, every moment, we live by his constant, unchanging power in the world he created for us. And if he can’t get through to us with that big miracle, perhaps we need a toad that looks like it’s been run over by a very heavy steamroller to catch our attention, soften our hearts, and quiet our strident voices.
Is he talking to you?
Why don’t you let him in? He’ll lie on a bed of hay if that’s all you have. If you think you’re too unimportant, too unlovable, remember, he does things backwards. He doesn’t see you the way the world does–or even the way you see yourself.
Let him touch you.
Thanks for listening, and have a blessed Christmas day!
Scriptures: Too numerous to mention!
Greg May asks if we’re really read to serve people and become involved with them.
Scripture: Leviticus 19:18, Romans 12: 3, 10
Greg May talks about cooking in the rain and how it might apply to your spiritual life.
A transcript is available at Elgin Hushbeck: Politics.
A transcript is available at Husbheck: Politics and Religion.
I’ve found that there are a number of things one can learn while walking a dog, especially my little dog Barnabas. Barnabas is a little Shih Tzu, and he’s getting past middle age for a dog, so he’s quite set in his ways. So here’s another “thought while walking my dog.”
Recently it has been quite hot here in the Pensacola area. I try to take Barnabas for his main walks early in the morning and after dark at night. Even so, it’s quite hot when we do our walk. To accommodate the poor little guy with the built-in fur coat, I slow things down somewhat. Occasionally he’ll stand there and pant, giving me the accusing look that says, “You don’t have this fur coat to deal with!”.
Now don’t think I’m cruel. I stop. I let him rest. He gets plenty of water. He clearly wants to go for his walk. He’ll get very annoyed if I try to take him home early. We just have to take it slowly. So I sweat and he pants, and we take much longer than usual for our little walk routine.
But I’ve noticed a funny thing. If I’m leading him along the way that I want to go, he’ll stop and pant. But if I let him take off the way he wants to go, such as into someone’s yard or down the middle of the street, suddenly his mouth snaps shut and he heads off at a trot as though he doesn’t have a problem in the world.
In my own life there are things that I need to do and things that I want to do. Very often these two sets don’t overlap all that much. It’s interesting that if I’m facing a day of cleaning in the house, I start feeling tired before I even start. Perhaps as a child you recall the rush of energy when you were headed to the playground for a couple of hours. You’d go there and wear yourself out with energetic playing. But if mom had asked you to clean your room, you would be way too tired to get the job done.
But don’t think it’s just a child’s thing. How many of us have energy for a round of golf, but not to clean off the back porch? How many of us can spend hours reading a novel that interests us, but find that our eyes are too tired to read that report we need to review at the office?
How many of us find the energy to spend time watching TV, but lack the energy to read our Bibles, pray, and spend time listening to the Lord? How many of us have the energy to discuss fishing, baseball, and even politics with our neighbor, but not to talk about what Jesus means in our lives?
Attitude is a large component of energy. That’s why we need to surrender our wills to God to bring our desires into line with our true needs.
Does God need to pull hard on your leash, or are you going along willingly?
Scripture: Matthew 25:31-46.