The Lessons and Promises of Advent 2015


“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Interlude” (Psalm 46:1–3, NLT) 

This time next week Advent / Christmas 2015 will have come and gone and in the aftermath my relationship with Jesus WILL BE stronger and more intimate. In the Sacred Space reading for today (December 19, 2015) the Conversation portion read as follows:

“Conversation requires talking and listening. As I talk to Jesus may I also learn to be still and listen. I picture the gentleness in His eyes and the smile full of love as he gazes on me. I can be totally honest with Jesus as I tell Him of my worries and my cares. I will open up my heart to Him as I tell Him of my fears and my doubts. I will ask Him to help me to place myself fully in His care,to abandon myself to Him, knowing that He always wants what is best for me.”

Because that speaks volumes and volumes to me it is there I wish to begin relating (as best I can) the message Jesus has attempted to convey to me since beginning Advent 2015. 

Of all the sentences in the quote from the Sacred Space reading the one that has the greatest impact on me is, “I can be totally honest with Jesus as I tell Him of my fears and my doubts.” (and my worries) I suspect if I were sitting with Jesus one-on-one it is quite possible I would be hesitant in being totally honest with him probably out of guilt and remorse. I would like to believe that if a one-on-one conversation were to take place “His eyes and the smile of full love” would put to rest my anxiety. 

One the portions of the Sacred Space reading asks “In the presence of my loving Creator, I look honestly at my feelings over the last day, the highs, the lows and the level ground. Can I see where the Lord has been present?” My response is nothing but negativism. Thursday I had an appointment with my Cardiologist following a heart cath procedure in which I was found to have 3 arteries 100% blocked and 1 80% blocked (opened it with a stent). “We can’t do anything about the ones that are 100% blocked,” we were told. That’s not what we wanted to hear, although that is what we expected to hear. On the way home Patti (my wife) asked me how I was doing, “I feel like I’ve been robbed. We’ve waited all this time to enjoy our lives now we can’t.” She didn’t ask me who robbed me, she only tried to get me to believe we were not given a death sentence. 

It doesn’t take much for me to throw myself a pity-party. I knew the doctor had not given me a death sentence but it was a cloudy and tumultuous future one that would severely limit our activities. I was robbed and as far as I was concerned and God was the robber or did not at least stop the robber. Deep inside I knew He wasn’t but when you throw yourself a pity-party you don’t send out invitations because you’re the center of THE world. 

In addition to the news we’d received were other lingering disappointments. Patti and I had hopes and dreams of relocating to the mountains around Townsend, Tennessee after I retired. Since retirement in April 2009 those hopes are dreams now lie at the bottom of the pit of broken dreams and lost hope. As we drove home from the doctors in my imagination I found myself standing at the edge of the pit of broken dreams and lost hope and seeing them lying there lifeless and motionless and the pity-party sucked me in deeper and deeper.         

What strikes me as odd while I pictured God as the one who robbed me /us of our hopes and dreams and a more active life not once did I question why. For me that is odd because in the past my normal response to disappointments was to approach God with the “Why me question.” This time I guess I just accepted disappointments as my lot in life. After all it was what God had planned for me. God IS God so therefore He’s always right? Right!

On a side note… I remember as kid whenever I saw a picture of Adam and Eve in the picking fruit from the Tree of Life it was always an apple tree, remember? What if instead of the Tree of Life being and apple tree what if it were a lemon tree? After all when you go against God life is anything but sweet. Am I suggesting that all this is a result of going against God? Not necessarily, but that doesn’t alter the fact that we ALL have “sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.” What I am saying is because at times we separate ourselves from God He goes to great lengths to reclaim our lives and heal our relationship to Him. Including blocking 3 arteries and bringing an end to our own hopes and dreams not included in His plans for us.  

There is one thing I have learned over the years God WILL not give us enough rope to hang ourselves. As the Master Communicator when we reach the point where we begin tying the rope around our neck He opens up the lines of communication checks in and pulls us toward Himself (he shortens the rope). During our morning together time I found the lines of communication open and found God calling me to task… 

“I can, at times, become unable to proclaim the good news of God’s love and mercy, or of the challenging call for justice and a more integral care for one another and our planet, because I can’t imagine how God will make all this turn out. The word gets stuck in my throat and my heart loses the courage to speak because I become afraid by the lingering doubts – doubts of God’s ultimate love and fidelity and God’s presence and promise to be with us always. And the fire of the Holy Spirit is extinguished.”

“I can’t imagine how God will make all this turn out.” Over the past several years it seems as if my life has been falling apart those words have haunted me. Yet at the same time it is the unknown that not only draw me toward the tomorrows but to depend totally on God. Somehow unbeknownst to me fear had crept in and not only robbed me of my health but also killed my hopes and dreams. As the Holy Spirit began “driving” God’s message home God began cleaning up the clutter and the message of Advent / Christmas 2015 became clear and simple. “Gary, fear is the real culprit so you must not be afraid put your faith and life in the Light!” 

“Do not be afraid!” Do those words frighten you? They do me because I don’t know if I can relinquish my fears to the extent I need to. It would be easy if God was only expecting something less than 100% but He doesn’t God will not settle anything less than 100%. 

The question is can I put aside the physical symptoms I am experiencing and will experience raising my level of fear? You’d think that would be easy for me to do because of my relationship with Jesus. Yet the truth is I will never be superhuman, there will be times when life will send me into dark places where it will seem as if God is on the outer fringes. But the real truth is I don’t need to be superhuman because I have Jesus’ promise, “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.” (John 14:15–18, NLT) 

It is now December 26th and in the aftermath of my Advent journey with it ups and downs, ins and outs, bumps and bruises, pity parties, and such there is one thing I have learned and will take with me into 2016 is the following promise from the Father of Light, The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not and cannot extinguished it!

As 2016 looms on the horizon I will take with me my troubled heart with all the unknowns associated with it at the same time I will take with me the knowledge that when I falter and become unfaithful to the Light the Light will ALWAYS be faithful to me. 

Grace and PEACE,

Gary Piper

“Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.”

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