Two scenes from the book of Luke.
Scene one—A field outside of Bethlehem: It’s night. The sheep are dozing, maybe the shepherds are too. When what seems to be out of nowhere, a host of angels appear in the sky with both the most ridiculous and most wonderful and most confusing news to be given in the middle of the night. Then they break into song—as if the whole scene wasn’t disorienting enough—praising God and rejoicing over the good news.
Scene two—A celebration: After returning from a long day of work and asking someone what was going on, he learns the noise comes from huge calf roast for his brother. The man can’t believe his eyes and ears. In shock he refuses to enter. His father lovingly goes to out to his son instead of waiting for him to engage. The father reassures the angry, hurt son’s position and implores him to rejoice “because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
What a contrast when it comes to rejoicing. Sometimes rejoicing is grand and easy. It just flows out. Other times, rejoicing seems to smack us in the face with a reality that we have a hard time getting onboard with. Truth be told, we don’t want to get onboard when the the smell of roasting calf adds insult to injury. Still, the Father comes to us and for reasons beyond our understanding asks us to rejoice.
Velvet Ashes is a place where we want to be Luke 2 rejoicers and with abandon join with the heavenly host when they sing. But we know that not all of life evokes singing. So, Velvet Ashes is also like Luke 15 where the elder brother felt the freedom in his relationship with his father to say what he was really thinking. We don’t know if in the end he did rejoice, but we do know the heart of the Father was to meet him where he was. That’s the Father’s heart for you too.
As we come to the year’s end, we have much to rejoice over, both in the expansive and the mundane. Here is a brief look back at a few of themes we looked at this year. I’ve only selected one from each month (talk about a challenging task, when they all seemed to cry, “Pick me!”) and will share a comment from The Grove post.
January—Thirsty: (in part) I think that many of us in Ministry do not know how much we thirst. We have gone for so long with little hydration that it becomes normal to us. Even when we return home, many of us are ministering on Sundays and don’t get fed. We spend time with a few good Christian friends, but we don’t always realize that there is the possibility of greater fellowship and nourishment in the Body. (Bessie)
February—Hesed: (in part) Didn’t realize till I read this, but your 4th paragraph is ME. (Well, so are the first 3 paragraphs, but I already knew that I carry my tension and stress in my neck and shoulders, and occasionally, like this week, in my stomach — leading to an unpleasant but necessary temporary reduction in coffee consumption. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like without chronic neck and back pain. . .) (Elizabeth)
March—Yoke: (in part) I really, really like the imagery of being unequally yoked to our sins. Let me rephrase that. I don’t LIKE it, because it’s an ugly picture, but it’s so…apt. Because it’s too true. I haven’t tended to think of a struggle with sin or even a stronghold as… a yoke. But it is. Yikes. Rehearsing hurts again and again – getting angrier and angrier – unfortunately, I have SO been there. Asking God how He sees your offender. That was brave. I love His answer to you. It’s not what I would have expected. (Michele)
April—Commune: (in part) I’m just a little ways into the retreat. I am in my bedroom, door closed, communing with God while I hear my husband wonderfully taking care of my six kids. God has brought us through so much, especially during the last two years. This retreat is exactly what my soul needs. We have been through a deep valley for the last couple of years and a new chapter is right around the corner. My husband and I have battled many fears during this dark time, and because of that, we have recognized the extreme importance of true commune with the Lord. He truly is my Shepherd, and I know there is nothing that I need apart from Him. (Aimee)
May—Re-entry: (in part) “This chapter in her life closed, but it is not over.” AMEN. I’m 6 years out and this is still the case. China is a permanent part of me now. It’s one of my layers. Just yesterday, my 3 year old son was making his toy cars talk in a weird voice and when I asked him what he was doing, he said they were speaking “Car Chinese”! (He has never been to China and has only heard me speak Chinese a handful of times–which TERRIFIED him!) Even though our location, vocation and everything else may change, HE NEVER WILL. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Leslie)
June—Travel: Sleep is such a big thing on those long plane trips! We used to tell our kids if they slept at least 5 hours across the ocean we would buy them a McDonald’s ice cream cone. That worked really well! We would also put one kid on the floor (in the feet space) with a blanket so two seats would be available for another one to lay down. That worked well except when there was turbulence and the flight attendants might tell us the child on the floor needed to be in a seat belt. (Jodie)
July—Pleaser: I have spent a lot of my time on the field doing “what nobody else will” and feeling weary and resentful of it. And then in the last year, pregnancy and then taking care of a tiny baby took me out of a lot of that ministry. And in the gap, other people stepped up. God hadn’t been calling me to weariness. I had taken that on for myself. (Lydia)
August—Get Set: After seven weeks of home leave in the States, I’m preparing to return to the field today, and I have been trying very hard to focus on the moment especially, but also to be kind to myself in my self-talk, and not to overthink things in this vertex of transition. (Hadassah)
September—Sacrifice: Lately the Lord has been reminding me of this very idea — that most central to his heart for us is relationship. Accordingly, when I’ve felt conflicted about whether to prioritize rest or to sacrifice (because really, I can fluctuate between two extremes many times daily!), I’ve tried to listen to his leading and ask myself the very kinds of questions you’re raising. (Amanda)
October—Power: Nodding along here. I think authenticity is a balance, and as Patty points out that sometimes being able to share with 3 people who know your heart is really all we need. God might ask you to share with more, but he may not. Sometimes, my urge to share all, tell all is more about me than Him. That’s a thing, too. “Deliver me from the need to be understood” Audrey Assad sings. I sometimes think my urge to share all, tell all publicly is coming from a deep desire to be understood by all, and that’s never going to be the case. (M’Lynn)
November—Betrayal: Thank you for this post and for this week’s theme. The length of this comment cannot even begin to convey my gratitude. It’s been a year of betrayal for me. I am still trying to make sense of it and, as I do, thank you for these words that help me to feel a whole lot less alone. (Ashley)
I appreciate the high value the Lord places on reflection as he invited the Israelites to remember again and again. We, as individuals and the community of Velvet Ashes, indeed have much to rejoice over.
Our desire is to Continue the Story. If you’re like me, my home culture has seeped into my thinking more than I’d care to admit when it comes to finical giving. If it’s not “big” (whatever that might mean), it won’t make a difference, so why give. But look at the two examples that feature prominently in the New Testament: the widow and her two mites and the boy with his fish and loaves.
God uses the underdogs—could you get lower than a widow or a child? Size doesn’t seem to matter to Christ in the same way faithfulness does. Please be a part of continuing the story.
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In the comments, what theme was timely for you this year? Did you comment or read a comment that stands out?
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