The Heart Set on Pilgrimage

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C. S. Lewis

Finally the Christmas Season! I’m one of those Thanksgiving/ Christmas purist. My Fall Decorations go up toward the end of September and they stay up until the Thanksgiving Celebrations are over for our Family. This year it feels like I’ve been looking at pumpkins and scarecrows FOREVER! I want to properly spend my time in Thankfulness during the Month of November. Sometimes I think we miss just how important it is to give thanks. But now Thanksgiving is done it’s time to break out the Christmas decorations, pull out my Peanuts Christmas and Grinch shirts, and start wearing my new “Elf” socks that include a pair that says “Cotten headed niny muggins”. Oh yeah!!! But most importantly it’s time to focus in on the real reason for celebration, Jesus’ Birth.

A couple of days ago my Bible reading included Psalm 84. In it was a short section of scripture that has not ever stood out to me before.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭84:5-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The word “Pilgrimage” has been resonating inside of me each time I read it. It has me thinking about different kind of Pilgrimages. I live a couple of hours away from my home town, my brothers both live out of state. About a 7 hour drive for each of them. So each year we try to pick a time to meet at my parents house to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas with them. It’s kind of like a mini pilgrimage home.

Then there was the Pilgrimage that Mary and Joseph set out on,before Jesus was born, to return to Bethlehem via decree of Caesar for a Census. Not exactly the type of Pilgrimage that Mary appreciated late in her pregnancy with Jesus, but totally ordained by God so that the prophecies about Jesus could be fulfilled. Some pilgrimages are joyful. Some are not. Some are easier than others, some not so much

This particular section of scripture has had me thinking of my “spiritual pilgrimage”. And how it says that I am blessed if my heart is “set on it”. This got me curious. What exactly is a “pilgrimage” so I consulted my handy dandy Webster’s 1828 Dictionary app.

PIL’GRIMAGE, n. A long journey, particularly a journey to some place deemed sacred and venerable, in order to pay devotion.

Painting my Grandma Fern Burkman did. Makes me think of our Pilgrimage from dark to light.

The Psalm points out that if my heart is “set upon this long journey to a sacred place, Zion, the Mountain of God, I am blessed. And that as I pass through the “valley of baca” (weeping, tears) it is transformed to a place of springs and pools and I go from Strength to Strength in this journey. What an assurance that God has His way of taking the chapters written about our pilgrimage that were hard, sad, and even unbearable and changing them to the chapters that produced the most beautiful endings in our lives! Our valley of weeping truly is changed to a place of fruitfulness by the touch of His hand.

Ask Mary and Joseph some 2000 years ago as they traveled a hard road to a place with no room for them during a forced pilgrimage, what God can do. A dirty stable can be transformed to a place of heavenly worship, complete with Angel choirs when Jesus “steps in”, or is “born into” our pilgrimage. He has a way of doing that kind of transformation just by being here with us, our pilgrimage is blessed as we set our hearts on the Him and the destination of our heavenly home with Him. Weeping truly is turned to Joy as we set our Longing on being with Him every step of the way to our Heavenly home. This longing for another world C.S. Lewis was talking about in the quote above is the destination of our pilgrimage that we were made for and the journey that God gladly goes with us on. That is who He is and we are reminded of this fact this Christmas Season.

Emmanuel, God With Us! Now and Forevermore!

You Stepped In 12/20/2013

This popped up as one of my memories on Facebook. I wrote it 6 years ago during a time of reflection on the Christmas Season. It’s easy to get caught up in all the ins and out of life’s struggles and forget. Forget the victory over all our struggles (anxiety, fear, etc.) has already been won. It was won so many years ago when our hero the Prince of Peace stepped in:

I really love a hero. Two of my favorite movies are Superman and The Lone Ranger. There is something about a story where everything seems lost and then the hero steps in and saves the day. I was thinking about that this morning. Christmas is all about the Hero of heroes stepping in. He stepped in our world in the most unsuspecting way and pulled off the greatest rescue of all, the rescue of our souls. Habakkuk 3:13-14 “You came out to deliver your people to save your anointed one. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness you stripped him from head to foot. With his own spear you pierced his head…” What a victory! Brought to us on a night many years ago in the form of a little baby, who was announced by angels and worshiped by Shepherds. That is how our Hero stepped in…

You Stepped In

It seemed Hope was Gone and Darkness reigned,

All was lost in lives of pain.

Hearts were cold and lives undone.

Under oppression from the evil one.

Then You stepped in.

You stepped in one dark night

A hero to rescue us, to shine Your light.

You stepped in the most unlikely place.

You came to us in the most unlikely way.

This Baby born in a place so poor.

A King for all and Deliverer of our souls.

The One who came to set things right.

You stepped in that wonderful night.

We might have missed and not understood.

You lived your life here doing Good.

You healed the sick and showed us what was right.

You gave us all in giving up your life.

All hope seemed lost and darkness reigned,

All was lost in our lives of pain.

Death seemed to have won once again,

But You stepped in.

The Grave cannot hold The King of Kings

He is alive and Now living in me.

My life is changed and I am free.

Because You stepped in and rescued me.

The Day THAT You Were Born

As I look out my window

On this beautiful morn,

I think of what it was like

The day that You were born.

Was the air a little crisper?

Did the sky seem more blue?

Was the beauty in the sunrise more intense

As it rose in honor of You?

Did all of creation’s groaning stop

As it welcomed you that day?

A precious little baby

Who came to show us the way.

You came to look though human eyes

And touched with human hands.

To feel the pain that we all feel

To be God and yet a man.

You came to give the sacrifice,

The one that covers them all.

From the largest of all my sins

Down to the very small.

What gift can I give You?

How can I repay?

I have nothing but my life.

Take it all I pray.

As I look out my window

On this beautiful morn.

I worship Emmanuel, God with us.

And thank Him that He was born.

“Always Winter and Never Christmas”

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is one of my favorite books of all time. It is an allegory representing Satan as the Witch and Jesus as the Lion. In the book, a Witch has cast a spell (that the Lion eventually breaks)  leaving the land of Narnia in constant winter. Layer after layer of snow and ice have plagued the land for such a long time that few remember what it was like to see green grass and flowers. “It’s always winter and never Christmas.” Is a quote from the book and a song by Reliant K on their Christmas album called “In Like A Lion”. It has been rolling around in my head this morning. It’s hard to imagine a world that never changes seasons, staying cold and frozen. Growing up in my neck of the woods, it is even harder to imagine a cold winter with no Christmas. That’s all I’ve ever known. Summer ends, Fall comes in with changes of color and temperatures, winter is introduced with cold, short days. Christmas is celebrated and then it’s just a matter of a few short months and the thaw begins. Buds appear on the trees. Green returns in the grass, and wearing my Birkenstock sandals outside with no fear of cold toes becomes the normal chosen footwear for me, FREEDOM!! It’s funny what a little more time with your part of the world tilted toward the sun does for you.

That is how life is. Circumstances tend to bury us beneath icy and cold layer after layer of hurt, unforgiveness, hatred, bad choices, and more. We can find ourselves feeling like thawing out and seeing the beautiful in our lives will never come. “It’s always winter and never Christmas” may be the reality of our world, or so we think. Isaiah 9:2 talks about our world just as Christmas dawned on it. ” The people walking in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Jesus came on the scene 2000 years ago and gave us Christmas. The start of the great thaw and change of seasons in our hearts. Things that were layered with the solid ice of sin and heartache melt in His love. The hopelessness of darkness and fear is driven out by the warmth of His light.

That light began to shine and continued to go on and on touching all who have been willing to let it shine in their lives for centuries to come until now.

So this morning as I sit by my Christmas tree wrapped in a fuzzy throw blanket sipping on a hot cup of coffee. I’ve been reflecting on some ice cold areas in my own heart that still need a little light of the Son to shine on it. Things that I thought would always remain buried under the ice and snow of many years of disappointment are showing the tell tale sign of dripping melt from icicles on my heart. I no longer have to face the prospect of “always winter and never Christmas” because His light has shone on me resurrecting the hopes of a green spring with colorful flowers in situations that seemed to never change. The more I reflect on it all I do believe that it really is amazing what a little more time with your world tilted toward the Son will do for you. FREEDOM!!! Winter Scene I Painted in a Bob Ross Painting Class

Seasons Change But There is a Constant

When the kids were little holiday planning was a little more tidy. Rich worked shift work so we picked a day when Rich was off and we knew we would have the whole day to play with the kids and enjoy them enjoying their new toys. It might be December 22nd when Santa would come to our house or maybe even the 19th depending on our schedule. Much to the dismay of my nephew who always got his toys on the 25th and couldn’t understand why my kids got them early. “Santa likes us better I guess.” Was my answer to that question one year as the cute little red head stood there with his mouth agape. Probably not the nicest thing to say, but it gave me a good laugh.

This year two of my four are married so we pick our time for different reasons as they have so many places they need to show up at and enjoy time with all the family God has blessed them with. I get it. I was a newlywed once too.

Things change. Some changes are welcomed and anticipated. Excitement and joy surrounds them. Others are forced on us like a tight pair of jeans after a Christmas Feast. They will go on one way or another and it will be uncomfortable until we adjust to them or lose some weight.

Maybe it’s just the time of my life, middle aged, though I choke at the thought of saying it. (I still feel like I’m in my 20’s in my heart) But everything is changing. I’ve enjoyed some of it, no more toddlers to chase and diapers to change. But some of it, not so much. It’s those changes that leaves me searching for a constant that doesn’t change. Something I can hook my anchor into and make sure I don’t drift too far away from the comfortable life I had built before the changes arrived.

Emmanuel , God with Us, you hear that a lot this time of year. It’s the very thing the Angel told Joseph when his comfortably planned life was fixing to be interrupted by the change of becoming the stand in Father for God’s Son. (Talk about pressure to perform). Matthew 1:22-23

But that very statement really is an anchor in a life shifted and altered by currents beyond our control. The birth of the baby Jesus we celebrate this time of year introduces us to something that is unchanging which is Him. Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”. He is with us now as He was with us then on a dark night in Bethlehem so many years ago. He doesn’t leave us or forsake us when things get rearranged in our lives and what we had going looks nothing like the life we are going into. God with Us! What a comfort! What a joy! What a gift given so freely to us and celebrated this season no matter how different it may look from the last.