December 22, 2014
Volume 6, Issue 6
Room-inations . . . .
Sally's selection on the right, using the word "room" as a both a real guidepost and a metaphorical marker in our hearts got me thinking about the literal rooms I've inhabited in my very nearly three score on this planet.
In my dreams I hearken back to many of them. I can picture, for example, my 1960 kindergarten class. I see the little sweaters and bright yellow raincoats hanging from very low hooks. I remember blankets tucked away in cubby holes, preparing to give us the smallest of comfort from the cold linoleum floors at nap time.
Venturing ahead a few years, I remember the hotel room where I first kissed a girl. It was more innocent than it sounds. There were even witnesses present. And, to be fair, she kissed me. I would never have had the nerve. Ah, but I can still see the hardwood door that had just opened and the cherubic face that was so very glad to see me . . .
Fast forward a couple more years and we were in the early stages of our ministry. I had taken a room at a hotel--it was either Modesto, CA or Laughlin, NV. I can't remember which. And that's odd because you think I'd remember whether or not there was a slot machine in the bathroom . . .
I was there to write a song. We needed one more tune to complete Sally's new album before going into the studio. I holed up in this nondescript hotel to get away from creativity-killing noise of two small children.
I remember sitting on the floor, straining for an opening line. Then I just started writing in a fairly free-flowing manner I have not written in before or since. The opening line was:
My dear child you can never know
How much you mean to me
This was a love letter from God to . . um . . . me.
I miss you
And I hope you feel the same
When I finished I set down my pen and pad and looked over the words I found on the page. I was astounded. There were concepts and wisdom written there that were so far beyond my comprehension and life experience as to leave no other conclusion. These words came from someplace outside of me.
Yes, I wrote them down. Yes, I used whatever craft I had to shape the rhymes and choose the best words. But it was my first experience of what I'll call Holy Spirit writing. Reading the lyric that evening on the phone to Sally we both knew these words, that would become a song called I Was There,
were the fruit of something waaaaayyyy beyond my pay grade as a writer.
My point here is that God uses rooms in our lives, both metaphorically and literally, to engage us, to bring us comfort and to further His Kingdom purposes.
Many of the great moments of our lives happen in rooms. Births. Weddings. Even deaths. Usually when those occasions arrive we don't think about the walls containing the event. Just the moment itself.
But it's reassuring to think, as I stroll Memory Lane through the great rooms of my life—
and that first kiss room will always rank high on the list—
that these places have usually been provided by God in one way or another. It's comforting to think of the rooms he has in store for me beyond my wildest comprehension.
In this season of presents and egg nog and Christmas traditions and cards and savaged gift wrapping we would do well to remember one very special room.
When there was, indeed, no room at the inn for the Savior of all mankind, His father provided one just large enough to get the job done. It was nothing more than a barn. A stable. A manger strewn with livestock, manure and hay. It was the room from which all future blessing in our lives would flow.
" My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
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A Little Room . . . ?
by Sally Klein O'Connor
Maybe it’s because my computer crashed and I might have lost all my accumulated work trying to communicate, through the fog of my cold and depressed detachment, the mystery of the hidden things of God, that I pulled out an old-fashioned yellow legal pad and my Bible and began to write.
Then again, perhaps I really did hear a heavenly whisper inviting me to focus my ever-rambling attention on the Nativity story and what it means to me personally…
Whatever the case may be, it was a 4-hour flight from Chicago Midway Airport to LAX, and when I decided to mind my own business and not get into it with my neighbor texting non-stop on his phone in mid-air, I found myself deep in the process of writing. Admittedly, I was also praying, intermittently that the ongoing messaging next door would not actually detour our plane out to sea.
I have forgotten what it feels like to put pen to paper for a prolonged period of time. It’s different. Quieter. More focused and less distracted. I’m all too often doing several things on my computer besides writing these days…
In those days… (Luke 2:1)
Long ago and far away—in a time so unlike today—there were ruling authorities who made decisions as they pleased, and yet, even so, God was still in control.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. (Luke 2:4)
God never forgets His promises. Though we may be found faithless again and again, God cannot deny His nature. He is true to His word always, no matter how much time may have elapsed since first He spoke…
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. (Micah 5:2)
There are words the Lord has spoken over each of our lives that we have not yet seen or tasted the fruit of—dreams and good works He prepared in advance for each one He created and called to step into. We often see ourselves as small and inadequate when God speaks—the least, the outcast and overlooked, inconsequential, too broken and wounded to be of any good to God. We reject the idea God could or would ever want to use someone like us. Yet almost all the heroes of scripture were people their peers might never have recognized as someone God appointed. And in the same vein, why Bethlehem? Why not Jerusalem? But God continues to choose who and what He will, and often they are the foolish things of the world that shame the wise. Will we believe Him faithful in all He has spoken, no matter how impossible it may seem to us in our current circumstances?
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
Who ever heard of a virgin becoming pregnant? Did anyone besides Elizabeth and Zechariah believe? How alone Mary must have felt in that great calling of God. Even Joseph did not trust her at first. Many must have counted Joseph a fool and Mary a liar and much more. God never defended or vindicated them or their reputations, or explained to another living soul the mystery that took place in Mary’s womb. But once Mary and Joseph each was certain God had spoken, they obeyed. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered, “May Your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)
He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (Luke 2:5)
Both Joseph and Mary each committed themselves to God and to each other at great personal sacrifice. And the truth is it didn’t just cost them, but also their family and friends—everyone who knew and loved them. They forsook all—family, reputation, their own human logic and reason, the traditions of their people, even the stability of home to become wanderers for a season and fulfill the impossible words of God.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born… (Luke 2:6)
When the moment of truth comes the best thing we can do is hold on and trust what God has said. The children of Israel were helpless to do otherwise. Moses said to them, “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” (Exodus 14:13) And suddenly Heaven breaks through…
The Red Sea parts
The walls of Jericho fall to the sound of marching and praise
The sun stands still
A donkey speaks
A shepherd boy uses a sling and stone to kill a giant
God is born a baby
The blind see
The lame are healed
The dead are raised
Mountains are moved and the impossible realized. When we obey we then witness God doing what only He can do among us.
She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:7)
No midwife, no cradle, blanket or bed. No soft place to lay His head. No privacy or dignity for Mary—just the raw act of bleeding and birthing in a stable like the animals who were looking on as the Son of God entered His creation, humble and helpless—hidden from human understanding. No welcome given, no door opened. With every eye closed, every heart otherwise occupied, the King of heaven was born of wee young Mary—a Jewish maid of noble virtue.
Is there room in our hearts, or are we also otherwise occupied? It may not be a joyous season for some, and yet we do not grieve alone. Jesus is near to the broken-hearted. He comforts all who mourn.
Perhaps there are unresolved issues we have in ourselves, and with others, that have filled up our thoughts and feelings, leaving only a very small, carefully delineated space for Jesus, and the wonder of His birth. I pray that the wonder of God coming to earth—Immanuel—would take hold of our hearts in such a way that healing would come and true perspective be restored.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night… An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. (Luke 2:8-9)
It had been a long time since God had broken the veil of silence publicly. Maybe they thought God no longer cared, if He ever did, or as some think today, God is dead, or He was never alive to begin with. Perhaps He was only a mythical being called upon in vain by those too weak to accept the stark reality of death. But then, suddenly God’s kingdom—that much larger reality—breaks through our puny, frail, dependent creation, and it rains just like Noah said, and the famine comes like Pharaoh dreams, and 3 young Jewish men are somehow not consumed in the inferno and Daniel is not dinner for the lions, a virgin gives birth at the appointed time and shepherds hear the announcement of angels—the stone is rolled away and we are on our faces—terrified—or perhaps we should be.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)
God makes His most spectacular announcement to an audience of sheep herders who sleep out in the fields and smell like their flocks. Among the poor and lowly, God must have a special place in His heart for shepherds… David was one, Moses too, and all the sons of Jacob. And though their hearts are overwhelmed—they are also caught up in wonder and awe as they leave their sheep and walk off to see the baby born in Bethlehem—the long ago promised One.
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. (Luke 2:16)
And just what did the newly born Jesus look like? Did He glow in the dark or have a special aura or halo? Did He shine? Was He the most beautiful? I think not. He was born of a virgin, supernaturally conceived by the Holy Spirit, yet He looked like any other infant. Perhaps it was not so much what could be seen of Jesus that set Him apart, but more what was felt. The shepherds had just witnessed Heaven rejoicing in Technicolor glory. I picture them running into Bethlehem like madmen, not even knowing where they are going, yet still, somehow, winding up in the right place. And then a sudden stillness takes hold of them as they enter. All the noise and jumble of their rushed and clumsy journey is instantly quelled as their hungry eyes fall upon the face and form of the Holy One of Israel.
When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi (wise men) from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the One who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
From the other end of this economic and educational spectrum come the Magi, who are gentiles, but know all that Herod should, and much more. They comprehend enough to travel a great distance, following a single star so that they may give their precious gifts and prostrate themselves at the tiny feet of Jesus, Emmanuel. What gifts do we lay at the feet of the Lord in this season? They may not be gold, frankincense, and myrrh—but perhaps much more valuable—our hearts and lives, our hopes and dreams, the people we love…
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)
There were no cameras, pictures, scrapbooks or journals for Mary. There was just remembering and thinking about—and holding these things in her heart. Perhaps we have forgotten how to do that. We let our devices record, imprint, re-picture and replay moments gone by, but we only scratch the surface of their meaning. Too often we choose to merely observe or record—sacrificing for the sake of posterity—instead of living in and occupying the actual moment as it unfolds. Smell it, taste it, touch it, remember the texture and feel of all that was precious…
It got cold on the flight. My texting buddy put away his phone and curled up inside his jacket, no doubt to offset the glare of my overhead light. I heard him struggling with his sinuses and offered him a pack of tissues. He seemed to need it more. As I reached up to shut off the light all my self-righteous indignation melted, and suddenly there was room for another point of view. He seemed much more vulnerable wrapped up in his jacket, only human after all—and so am I. And so was Jesus in those days—and then again, so much more.
Improbable People Ministries
My good friend, Evi Hall and I will be traveling to Israel on New Year’s Day, to explore the possibilities of bringing A Tour of Roses to Jerusalem sometime in 2016. Our current plans for this trip include visiting Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem—possibly Bethlehem. This is a time of seeking the Lord for His will and word to us about this idea. We are trusting Him for complete protection, wisdom and guidance—as well as revelation. We would greatly appreciate your prayers for Evi and me, as well as for Michael and the girls while I am gone. It has already been a bumpy ride, spiritually—and otherwise… Evi returns home on January 9 and I will be winging my way back on the 12th.
—Sally Klein O'Connor
It has been a difficult month in our home in terms of physical, emotional and financial. Here is a sampling:
Sally and I were both sick over Thanksgiving and beyond. Sally had major ear issues when she was traveling by air across the country as she never has had before. I was out of commission for about three weeks with major cold and flu symptoms.
The following appliances broke down and needed major repairs or replacement:
Our oven, our dryer, our washing machine. Our kitchen faucet broke allowing water to seep under the sink and under our kitchen flooring. Sally's laptop crashed We've needed repairs to both our vehicles and there have been two separate flat tires on my van requiring AAA to come help.
And here's the really weird thing about that last item. The second time the tire went flat was away from the house. The car landed behind a major movie theater and in front of a residence with an address I was able to give the dispatcher. I sat for three hours while calling them back several times. The tow truck could not find me. The dispatcher said she could see on her computer screen right where I was. But to the tow truck driver, who must have had GPS in his vehicle, I was completely invisible.
I don't bring up any of these things to whine or say woe is me. We all know stuff happens in life and you have to roll with the punches.
But all these things happened within a very short span, one on top of the other. The incidents seemed relentless. Stepping back from these mini-trials—none of them life or death—for just a moment helps me get a clearer picture.
I'm not one who see devils or demons under every rock, though I do believe they are at work to keep us distracted from God and His call on our lives. But I do believe right now there has been a concerted effort to break our wills and cause some level of despair and emotional turmoil in this household.
I think this is because of the trip to Israel Sally is undertaking on January 1, 2015. I believe there will be a breakthrough that is going to make some major difference in our lives and ministry.
I'm taking this time to describe events in such detail is because I want you to be able to see, as we do, the attempts to dishearten us. And if you can see them too we would ask for your committed intercession on behalf of Sally as she and Evi spend their time in Israel scouting the direction God has for bringing A Tour of Roses to that often-besieged country. We thank you in advance for your earnest prayers.
And may each of you have the most joyous of Chistmases and the very best beginning of the coming New Year.