Distraction of Donkeys

ParadeA very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”        Matthew 21:8-11

 

I love a parade because the colorful floats, bands, and performances all create an air of excitement. Over the years I have taken my own children and grandchildren to parades. Now I realize they experienced it through different eyes.  Their high points were the candy being thrown into the crowds, huge balloon floats, furry characters, and the animals.  Whether the animals were dogs, horses, or donkeys, it didn’t matter. They were not even impressed if there was a celebrity riding on the animal. Instead, all the antics and messes that go with animals were the attractions that highlighted our conversations long after the parade ended.

This made me think about how I might have responded if I had been present for the procession of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  If I had been a part of the crowd saying, “Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” would I have recognized the Savior?  Would I have come away from that experience knowing that I had just witnessed the presence of the Living God?  Or would I have been more enamored, like a child, with waving of the palm branches, the excitement of the crowd, and even the donkey?

I hope that I would have the awareness of the presence of my Savior and savor the experience of standing on Holy Ground.  But as I reread the stories of those who were there, I am not sure that I would have been aware of the sanctity of the moment.  I may have responded more like my children and have been more distracted by the antics of the donkey than with the significance of the event.  After all, there were many others there that day who were vulnerable to losing sight of Jesus.  Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, and many in the crowd turned on Him.  What makes me think I would have been any different?

God surrounds me each day with His wonders and blessings- the beauties of nature, the security of shelter, the support of relationships, the empowerment of gifts and more.  When I focus on Him, I recognize His presence and am filled with appreciation and excitement.  Yet, amidst these wonders, I can become distracted with antics and messes around me as benign as busyness or technology.  Ignoring them can be as challenging as the distractions of conflict, losses, negative messages, doubt, frustration or illnesses.

It is a fact that Christ is a presence that parades into our lives every single day, even in this uncertain time of Covid 19. He comes wanting to bless, support, carry, love, and guide us in all we do. We only need to recognize, accept, love, and follow Him.  The trick is to not be distracted by the moods of the crowds or the antics of the donkey, for when our sights are off the Savior, we are vulnerable to distraction, denial, betrayal, rejection, and even complacency.

Dear Lord,

During these Holy Days, help me not fall victim to the parade of daily distractions. I pray I’ll recognize the blessings you bring into my life and remain steadfastly focused on You, Your Love, Your Sacrifice, and Your unfailing Grace.  Amen

Peg Arnold             L69A5656

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Distraction of Delivery

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While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them Luke 2:6, 7

“Daddy, Daddy, we’re going to run out of gas!” cried the little girl as her father  was trying to navigate through the slippery Michigan roads. A December snowstorm was challenging the trip to deliver their fourth child. Tension was high and there was concern that they would not make it.  Just in time, he pulled up to the hospital entrance and escorted the mother inside. Immediately they took her back into the delivery room.  Before the father could park and finish the registration at the front desk, the nurse came out to announce that he was the father of a healthy 9 pound 15 oz baby girl! Me!

Twenty eight years later, “Pant, Pant, Blow…” My husband chanted as he carefully negotiated the icy roads that December night. My labor had just begun two hours earlier.  Since it was my first child, the doctor assured us we would have plenty of time to get the hospital.  Little did we realize that one simple delay and this baby would have been born in the car.  Just as the Lord’s hand was on that car nearly three decades earlier, He guided us to the hospital safely.  After a confusing and chaotic 20 minutes, I was  holding my sweet baby girl.

Fast forward 29 years and now that same daughter had made an appointment to deliver her twins on December 28. We anticipated the arrival with excitement! We had showers, shared prenatal pictures, bought furniture, and helped decorate the nursery.  Both sides of the family were  involved and eager to welcome these two little beings.

With all these December deliveries, I thought  about the massive amount of preparation and details involved when we have babies today.  We send out pictures on social media, text, and even still call. Some parents film the entire delivery to share it with the child and others later. We have choices! Babies are born in hospitals with special designed rooms, in homes, and in birthing centers. Some are delivered by doctors and others by midwives, doulas, or even surgeons.

Contrast this to another birth, 2000 years ago that we now celebrate in December.  There were no showers, no pretty nursery prepared with a new crib and home-made quilt.  No doctors or even a doula to help with the delivery. The trip to the birth destination wasn’t in a car with seats that reclined and a heater to keep the mother warm. Instead, she rode on a donkey and when that became uncomfortable, she walked on dusty roads. There was no one at their destination expecting them or preparing for this birth. In fact this couple was so rejected by society, they couldn’t even find a clean room where they would be able to deliver this baby.  They were shunned and ultimately found room in  a stable with animals.

December rolls around and amidst the tinsel, trees, and carols, we are focused on this birth of Jesus. When we take time to compare it to our own deliveries, even the difficult ones, Mary’s experience was challenging to say the least.  I look at the first Christmas and how little Mary and Joseph had when Jesus was born. I am sure they did not feel prepared for the massive responsibility on their shoulders, but they continued to trust the Lord and His plan.

Joseph had stayed true to his betrothal vows following through with the marriage despite the seemingly devastating indiscretion. God had appeared to him in a dream, confirming the deity of Christ’s origins and Joseph rose to the challenge. It wasn’t easy, even though he knew that it was God’s plan to bring His incarnate son into the world in a humble setting on a silent night. In fact, the first people to be introduced to Him were not the priests, rulers, and kings, but the angels announced His birth to the lowly, humble, hard-working, poor shepherds.

When I look at the emphasis we place on traditions, decorations, gifts, events, and more, it’s easy to get lost in the true meaning of Christmas. Instead of getting distracted this year, I want to focus on the divine parts of Christmas. The true meaning. God sent His son as a gift of love.  Just as Mary had a simple, probably not easy, but very unassuming delivery of the infant King, I think I can simplify some of our Christmas expectations. Instead of getting distracted with over-crowding the calendars, making sure the decorations and cookies are Pinterest perfect, I want to focus on the purpose for Christmas. The celebration of love, God’s Love, delivered to earth.  My goal is to be intentional about demonstrating love in my words, actions, gifts, and freely refer to the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Christ.

Just as the delivery of each baby is very different, so do our celebrations of Christ’s birth differ.  How will you choose to focus on the divine purpose in this holiday season?

Dear Lord,

Forgive me for being wrapped up in the earthly trappings of this holiday. Just as the deliveries of babies are far different than they were when Christ was born, so are our expectations and preparations for this holiday. May my heart be focused on loving You and loving others in all I say and do.  Amen

Distraction of Daily Devotions

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

Since Easter I have had the opportunity to travel with both friends and family. I just returned from the WinSome Women conference at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan. This island is like stepping back in time. When getting off the boat you are met with a horse drawn carriage to take you to your destination. Bicycles are the only other mode of transportation. As I stood on the porch of the hotel, I was surrounded with expansive views of Lake Huron, lighthouses, and the Mackinac bridge. It was beautiful and I felt close to God surrounded by His creation.

The conference with its theme of Precious Promises was also inspiring through the messages of the speakers and the fellowship of the women. I find I reconnect with the Lord through these experiences and His revelations can include both encouraging messages and difficult ones too. Once again God convicted me about the importance of daily devotions. Yes convicted. He revealed to me that if I was praying daily without carving out specific time for reading scripture and devotions, it was like driving a car and never refueling.

Daily devotions provide that time of refueling. It is when I am able to connect in a deeper way with our Lord Jesus, through His word, study, reflection, and yes, prayer. When I fix my eyes on Him each morning, He is able to fill me with His wisdom, His strength, and His peace. During this time of stillness before Him, He may comfort me or convict me to address those areas that are challenging. Whatever happens, these moments help me to grow in my relationship with Christ and equip me to be more effective in my service to Him.

So why do I return from experiences like this and quickly allow the daily events and distractions to fritter away my time? How do I make these devotions a priority in my routine? The following quote is one that truly convicted me. “Excessive planning can cause stress and perpetuates an undue focus on the importance of self. This in itself is a form of idolatry and hinders our relationship with Christ.” If I continue to make excuses about my distractions, letting the planned and unplanned events of the day control me, it can be a form of sin and idolatry. Ouch!

Remember one of the Ten Commandments was “You shall have no other gods before me.” The gods of our lives today are not golden calves, but come in the form of schedules, technology, media, materialism, exhaustion, challenges, worries, prestige, goals, dreams, fitness, and even the god of wasted time. These “gods” can clutter our mind causing us more stress and perpetuate the focus on our own importance. This hinders our relationship with God and is a form of idolatry. When we allow ourselves to focus on earthly stresses, without taking them to God, we are no better than the early believers that made graven images. There is to be nothing, absolutely nothing that is set higher than your relationship with God.

Taking all our cares and worries to our Lord Jesus who loves us and died for us on the cross, is a privilege. To honor that privilege, daily devotions are one of the most important things we can do to honor Christ. By spending those moments with Him, He can help us to focus on what’s important, organize our time, and give us strength and wisdom to handle whatever distractions or challenges that may invade our thoughts and our schedule. It is when we lose focus of Him that we become vulnerable to the demands of those around us. Lamentations 3:22-24 says “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” You don’t have to travel to a remote place to connect with Christ, He is waiting for you right where you are now. Take time and start refueling with Him.

Dear Loving Lord, Forgive me when I make excuses and leave You out. I never thought that my surrender to the distractions in my day was creating an idol that removed my focus from You. Help me to seek and refuel with Your mercies every morning. I want to find my strength in You and intentionally live each moment for Your Purpose. Amen

Distraction of Devotions

Lake Louise 2

Psalm 121: 1-2

I lift my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Vacationing in Northern Michigan this past week was filled with special family moments and created many memories.  We were on a clear blue spring fed lake surrounded by hills separated from civilization by at least fifteen miles.  In this place, I feel close to God as I am surrounded by His creation and His blessings. I reconnect with Him in a very deep way and He reveals things to me that I like and things that I find difficult too. Last Monday, my post was a reflection on the distraction of dust and turning distractions to prayers.  I truly believe that this practice of praying without ceasing is important. After all prayer is a form of communication and connection with my Lord. But God convicted me this week about the importance of daily devotions. Yes convicted.  He revealed to me that if I pray without ceasing every day without carving out specific time for Him, it would be like driving a car and never refueling.

 Daily devotions provide that time of refueling. It is when we are able to connect in a deeper way with our Lord Jesus, through His word, study, reflection and yes, prayer.  When we fix our eyes on Him daily, He is able to fill us with His wisdom, His strength and His peace. During this time of stillness before Him, He may even break us or convict us to address those areas that are challenging. Whatever happens, these daily moments help us to grow in our relationship with Christ and equip us to be more effective in our service to Him.

 So why are there days that I allow the events to fritter away my time? How do I make these daily devotions a true priority? Here is an entry from my own journal, one of those divine convictions,  “Excessive planning can cause stress and perpetuates an undue focus on the importance of self.  This in itself is a form of idolatry and hinders our relationship with Christ.”  If I continue to make excuses about my distractions, letting the events of the day control me, it can be a form of sin and idolatry.  Ouch!

 Remember one of the Ten Commandments is “You shall have no other gods before me.”  The gods of our lives are not golden calves, but come in the form of technology, media, materialism, exhaustion, challenges, worries, prestige, goals, dreams, fitness and even the god of wasted time. These “gods” can clutter our mind causing us more stress and perpetuate the focus on our own importance.  This can hinder our relationship with God and can be a form of idolatry. When we allow ourselves to focus on earthly stresses, without taking them to God, we are no better than the early believers that made graven images.  There is to be nothing, absolutely nothing, that is set higher than your relationship with God.

 To take all our cares and worries to our Lord Jesus who loves us and died for us on the cross, is a privilege. To honor that privilege, daily devotions are one of the most important things we can do to honor Christ. By carving those moments with Him, He can focus us, help us to organize our day and give us the strength and wisdom to handle whatever distractions or challenges that may invade our thoughts and our time. It is when we lose focus of Him that makes us vulnerable to the demands of those around us. Lamentations 3:22-24 says “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’” Start refueling today.

 

 Dear Loving Lord, Forgive me when I make excuses and leave you out.  I never thought that my surrender to the distractions in my day was creating an idol that removed my focus from You.  Help me to seek and refuel with Your mercies every morning. I want to find my strength in You and intentionally live each moment for Your Purpose. Amen