Monday, December 27, 2010

When Nothing Seems Right

My friend, Doreen, sat with me over lunch last week and shared that as she read the early chapters of Luke, it struck her that nothing was “right” in the Christmas story. A young couple was about to deliver their first child, conceived before their wedding vows were given. Knowing that the birth could occur at any moment, they traveled a great distance with Mary riding a donkey. THAT had to be pleasant! Trusting in God for their provision, when the couple arrived at their destination they found no place to stay and had to settle in a manger. You know the story, and as you think through it one last time before turning your calendar to 2011, I think you will agree that there was not much going right for this family.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever felt like you just couldn’t catch a break? Like somehow God turned His back on your needs? When disappointment came in waves, have you felt like one more let down was going to be the end of your sanity? Or your hope?

2010 was a trying year for the McIntosh family, particularly the last 6 months. I have, indeed, felt like we couldn’t catch a break and that I was ill equipped to handle one more disappointment. I felt like quitting and, truth be told, there was a day when I did quit. Thankfully my merciful Father in heaven reminded me of His call on my life and I quickly un-quit. (I am struck down but not destroyed! 2 Cor 4:7-9)

Doreen’s words soaked into my spirit with refreshing encouragement that day. Sometimes when things seem the most upside down, the Lord is preparing us for something wonderful. We can rarely see what lies ahead, but we can trust in Him and know that our hope is secure. After all, the victory is already His!

When I returned from lunch with Doreen, I sat at my desk and opened a few e-mails. I received this reminder from someone that I consider a friend although we’ve never met:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Honestly, isn’t God amazing? The way He orchestrates people in our lives to support us when they don’t even realize it, and how He reveals His loving mercy to us is nearly more than I can bear.

When nothing in my life feels right, I will trust in Him and receive His joy and peace. I will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. I fervently pray that you will do the same.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Immanuel - God With Us

It’s a melancholy day today. We learned at about midnight that one of Taylor’s good friends was killed in a car accident. Our hearts are aching, we are praying without ceasing for the family, our own blessings are being counted, and we’ve stopped often during the day for quiet embraces. Madison Middleton was 19 when she lost her life yesterday morning. I never met her personally, but knew of her as a beautiful young lady who extended a graceful hand to my daughter when she was new to the school. They developed a quick friendship that extended beyond sharing a high school.

It is in times like these - when we hear of untimely tragedies like a teen girl who was killed while driving to meet her Mom for a family baking day less than a week before Christmas - that we often wonder, “where is God?” Our answer: He is here. He is Immanuel, God with us.

There are many miracles discussed and contemplated during the Christmas season: appearances of angels who proclaimed good news of great joy; fulfillment of Biblical prophesies which foretold the coming of our Savior; signs and wonders in the night sky; Elizabeth’s pregnancy; the virgin birth, and many others. The word Immanuel cries to my heart this year as the most blessed miracle of all. For while Jesus found pleasure in coming to the world as an infant and literally walking the earth alongside His creation, His visitation to us did not end with his death.

Jesus lived the perfect life as fully man and fully God. When the world rejected Him to the point of His brutal crucifixion, He rose from the grave and walked among His disciples once more. He conquered death and Hades. Even death could not make Him break His promise to never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and He is with us to this day. On top of that, He sent The Holy Spirit, our Counselor, Guide, and Comforter who indwells all believers. His Holy Spirit lives within His believers! You can’t get more “Immanuel” than that!

He is with us, indeed, in ways that will remain a mystery on this side of heaven. He is here to provide our comfort, give us peace in situations that will never make sense, and counsel us in all things, including how to support to our grieving children. He loves us more than we can imagine and it brings Him pleasure to be with us. Immanuel is not just for Christmas, but is to be embraced for a lifetime. When grief nearly tears us apart, I do not know how I would make it without Him here, holding me so close I can almost feel his heartbeat.


Monday, December 13, 2010


The world had awaited their Messiah for thousands of years and when the proper time had come, He entered the world as a baby birthed by a virgin, just as written in the Scriptures.

Even when we know the truth that God's timing is always perfect, it is often hard to trust as we wait for His promises to unfold in our lives. Perhaps you are waiting for a loved one to surrender his life to the Lord. Maybe you wait for reconciliation with a family member. Our congregation awaits the fruition of our God-given vision that includes, in small part, a church building that we can call our own. A church in Laramie, Wyoming awaits the means to install a steeple on their roof and a dear friend of mine waits for the next opportunity to see her missionary children and grandchildren.

Mary waited. She was given the promise, "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:31-33 NIV) And with this promise came periods of waiting. She waited for Joseph to accept her story as truth. She awaited the birth of her son and waited for His life to unfold before her. And just as written in the Scripture, the events unfolded little by little, just as the Lord promised.

It is difficult to wait… and to keep waiting… when we see no progress toward that for which we hope. And the truth is, sometimes we will wait our entire lives and never see the promises fulfilled. Hebrews 11 is full of people who waited with anticipation, trusting that what the Lord promised would be true, but did not live to see them fulfilled. The whole of God's Word tells us that what He said did, indeed happen and there is no reason that we should expect anything less, whether we live to see it or not.

May I encourage you today with the words offered from Elizabeth to her cousin, Mary: "Blessed is she who has believed what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" (Luke 1:45 NIV)  God promised a Messiah and in ways that the world least expected, the promise was fulfilled. He came to us. Immanuel, God with us. And the world was forever changed.

Hold fast to your confidence, my friend, and trust that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why am I afraid?

He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Matthew 8:26

As believers in Christ, we have come to love our Lord. We have learned to put our trust in Him and He is proved faithful through His work in our lives. We have seen Him perform modern-day wonders and bring us through hardships, trials and heartaches. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. He is incapable of dishonesty yet at times we can still be filled with fear.

I’ve read Matthew 8:26 many times, but a few days ago, it jumped off the page and knocked me right in the head… so hard it made me cry, to be honest. It hit me like a “spiritual 2 x 4” as I call it – one of those “duh!” moments that teaches me something I should have learned ages ago but it somehow didn’t sink in.

Why are we afraid when Christ has proven Himself so faithful? Why do we fear when the Lord of Lords is on our side? What is it that makes us waiver in our faith?

If you said to my face, “Cathy, you are a woman of little faith,” I would be deeply offended and vehemently argue with you. I would describe myself as having great faith. In fact, faith is my most prominent spiritual gift. However, truth be told, if you said I was a woman of little faith, you would be right. When I am troubled to the point of becoming fearful, I have little faith. Jesus said it Himself in Matthew 8:26.

As I ask the Spirit to guide me into all truth (John 16:13), a word picture comes to mind. If Jesus were here in the flesh, standing next to me and holding my hand through my trials, would I be afraid? I believe not. I think I would be filled with an outrageous amount of confidence and endurance to fight the fight. I believe through Matthew 8:26, Jesus reminds us that He is here, just as He was in the boat during the great storm on the sea. When He is with us (and He always is) what reason do we have to be afraid?