Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent: The IS of God


My third grandchild will arrive sometime in early April (perhaps on my birthday?). We know what this sweet baby is because of a high-tech ultrasound administered by a skillful professional. A boy. Another grandson. With this revelation this baby moved from the neutral, generic it to the personal pronoun he. Once my daughter and son-in-law were told this news they announced this beautiful boy’s name (Grandmothers don’t have to have ultrasounds to know their grandchildren are beautiful). This child will be called Atlas. Atlas Jensen. His father named him. A strong real name meaning to carry, great strength and God is gracious. This grandmother’s interpretation of his name? He will carry the great strength of God’s grace. Suddenly this new baby became far more real.
A name is indicative of what God is doing and being in our lives. And this baby’s name carries the weight of what God has already done in his life. Early in my daughter’s pregnancy she went to her doctor’s appointment. She had several blood tests and an ultrasound and then was told there were issues. 
Her hormone levels did not rise as expected. They could not find the baby’s heartbeat. The doctors explained to her and my son-in-law that this pregnancy had a five percent chance of being viable. For almost ten days we were held in a rising panic, a sobering reality—this baby might not be. She came to me on a Friday and asked for me to pray; she asked for me to call on the prayer warriors I know. And we prayed. The clinic staff would check her levels and do another ultrasound on Monday. All through the weekend we interceded for this child. We asked for his will to be done, but this grandmother prayed for a miracle.
Monday came.
And so did our miracle. All levels rose considerably over the weekend and suddenly this baby’s heartbeat was quite evident. The medical team attributed it to a faulty diagnosis or unmeasurable levels—regardless there was an attempt to explain away their assessment, but my children were assured that this was now a viable and healthy pregnancy. Collectively we all breathed deeply. Sighed with untranslatable utterances. Hope expanded the space inside us.
God can call what is not as if it is*. God is not limited. His knowledge is not impaired. God sees the IS rather than the NOT.
I think of this sweet baby now as our Little 5%.
This affirmation was more than enough. But God Most High always does more than enough.
A couple of weeks ago my daughter went for another appointment. I waited for the affirmation that she had heard his heartbeat and all was well. I didn’t know another ultra sound was scheduled.
When the image of my grandson’s hand came to me I grasped for words, for an explanation of the infinite enormity it created within me. I couldn’t get my mind to form words on my tongue. It was just too much. His hand, the palm, extended out in this affirmation of his existence, of his presence. His little hand testified he had defied the statistics and predictions of science. A witness to the fact that there are still things that must be experienced rather than predicted or studied or proven. Atlas’ tiny hand is most likely no bigger than the flattened pad of my thumb and yet so perfect. So intricately designed. Through the haloed space of that ultra sound image I studied his splayed fingers as they were pressed against the glass of his Mama’s womb. Somewhere behind that space was a little face. I swallowed down hard as I traced the lines of his palm. In that moment I knew Atlas—this little boy who will possess great strength and be the 5% proof of the grace of God.
 
Atlas Jensen Rector
 
This image became the affirmation of the IS of Atlas for me.

Mary understood this IS of God.
While her womb was untouched and cavernous—waiting to someday hold the son of Joseph—she was told she would conceive. And before the conception she was told her baby would be a boy. Before the XX chromosome and the XY chromosome were even considered she was informed she would deliver a son. Her ultrasound wasn’t through sound waves passing through amniotic fluid, but announced and assured by the messenger of God. Gabriel appeared to Joseph in a dream, another confirmation of the first ultrasound. Mary will have a son…
Through Mary God sent the proof of his IS into the world.
Father God looked down and saw that tiny little hand pressed up against Mary’s womb. He saw his Son turn and twist in the tight confines and narrow cells of human space. God the Father traced the lines in the palm of his Son’s hands and knew someday they would be marred by scars.
One day this Baby’s hands, calloused and broad, would extend out as the affirmation of his Father’s existence, of his presence and of his favor. This Baby would be the testimony and the witness to the invisible and the unknown. To the mystery. He would reveal to God’s people that there are still things that must be experienced rather than predicted or studied or proven.
In the spring I will hold Atlas in my arms, and I will rub and kiss the creases of his little hand. I will snuggle my cheek against the ISness of him—the very presence of him.  And I will thank God.
I am waiting. Anticipating. Trusting.
My waiting for the coming of Atlas is much akin to the real Advent. Hope is affirmed in the waiting. 
God is able to call what is NOT into what IS.   

Father,
During this season I pray for those who are facing what seems like a 5% situation. Oh, Father, remind them as my friend reminded me: You are the God of small percentages. Father, I pray for those who are in circumstances that seem to be NOTS. Father, you can call any circumstance from a not to an IS. Any. Father, I pray during this season you would help us to wait and in waiting to trust you to take every situation of ours and transform them into proofs of your incredible ISness. Father, may we see in the creases of a baby’s hand your sovereignty, your design and your grace. Enable us to see the scars in your Son’s hands and know they are there because this baby of Advent became the Lamb of God.  Amen and amen.
 
 
 
*This concept based on Romans 4:17

 

 

 

 

 

Advent: Change of Plans




*****
 
Today while I was at work someone asked me about Advent. She came right up to the counter and asked boldly and without hesitation. Embarrassingly I didn’t know quite how to explain a tradition to her I only became aware of in the last five years. I felt like a student being handed a pop-quiz. I fumbled. Rambled. Stumbled.
I looked up into her face. Such earnestness in the asking. Such purity in the inquiry. She stood waiting.
Expecting. Anticipating. Trusting.
Trusting me, this on-the-journey-with-her pilgrim, to direct and guide her.  And I got a little scared. A little intimidated.
You see I planned to write about something else in this first post of the Advent season. I had another devotion partially written in my head.  But God was ahead of me. He knew my point of view wasn’t quite right yet. It didn't take him long to remedy the situation.
Tonight I saw in this young woman the very essence of Advent—she stood waiting expectedly, sincerely seeking. I couldn’t help but stare into her face—in the moment so madonna-like. She embodied Advent. She asked; she waited to receive. She anticipated; she waited with eagerness. She trusted; she waited for someone she trusted to show her the way (Oh Almighty God, help me!).

This is Advent 

Father,
We are standing on the cusp of Christmas. On the periphery. I pray you would empower us to wait for your coming this Christmas. Father, may we embody Advent—our spirits animated with eagerness and anticipation of your Incarnation. May we expect you to come into our lives and be with us. May we wait to receive the revelations you have for us. Oh, Father! Come. Come to us. Arrive in us. Swell in us this child-like anticipation that we are going to see and experience you in this three week journey. We are trusting you to lead us. Expecting you to arrive. Amen and amen.



***** Photo credit: zengardener.com

 

 

 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Announcement!

Today.

Advent. The arrival of God With Us. Of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. Of Jesus entering our realm.

Yes, Advent is about the coming, but it is also about the waiting: the hushed waiting of a candle being lit. The eager waiting of a child's wishes. The sad waiting of the season to be over. The bitter waiting of longings unmet. The anticipatory waiting of dreams.

My questions? In these 24 days What are we waiting on this year? Where are we waiting? When are we waiting? How are we waiting? Who are we waiting with or for? Why are waiting?

Tomorrow I begin a new Christmas Advent series here in the Chambered Nautilus:

Five W's and H.

Would love for you to join me!