We are now officially inside the two-week window – Christmas is only 12 days away.
That fact brings both a grin and a grimace to my face, and I’m sure I’m not alone. As wonderful as it is, both in terms of celebrating the birth of the Messiah and in the festivities of the holiday, Christmas is probably one of the most demanding holidays of the year. There are cards to be sent to family and friends far and wide. Gifts to be made or purchased and (for most of them) shipped. Special decorations to be put up, trees to be erected and decorated, parties to attend, special dinners to prepare, and oh so much more. No, REALLY … S-O M-U-C-H M-O-R-E !!!
When I add my work demands — correspondence that needs to be read and replied to, reports that have to be processed, projects that need managing, people expecting a call — sometimes I can really feel the pressure. Then there’s the aspect of ministry expectations, much of them being attended to in the very early morning, after dinner or on weekends. Honestly, it can be overwhelming at times.
It’s crunch time!
So what do you do when it seems like there are more tasks than time, more deliverables due than deliverables done and more demands than you can possibly fulfill?
Well, if you can’t relate to the questions or the pressure, what YOU can do is stop reading this devotional (it doesn’t apply to you) and just take some of the massive amounts of free time on your hands to pray for me. 🙂 But if you and I are in the same boat, then today’s verse is precisely what we need.
BE STILL, AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD
It is no mistake that the image I chose to accompany today’s verse is a quiet and calm lake, in which you can make out a gentle reflection of the Communion Cross.
Just stop for a minute. Take a seat, take a deep breath, then deliberately invite the presence of God. Be still. Two or three minutes will not make a huge difference in the overall scheme of needing to meet deadlines. But taking time to invite God into the process, doing so on purpose, that WILL make a difference.
Having lived in Florida for the past two decades, I have pretty extensive experience with hurricanes. We are subject to a hurricane for about six months out of the year.
Birds in Florida have different ways of dealing with hurricanes. Some try to keep in the eye of the storm and thereby avoid the most dangerous winds. Of course, trying to stay in the eye of a storm is a difficult and tiresome task, potentially forcing birds to go without food and rest for days at a time. Many don’t make it and succumb to the effects of the storm.
Some birds actually have an opposing back claw that lets them latch onto a branch and hold tight. That can be a good or bad strategy, depending on whether the tree you’re holding onto survives the storm. Smaller birds are even known to find places to hide. One of the funniest things I’ve been told about is a large flock of house finches that huddled under kayaks strapped to boat racks. I thought that was pretty smart.
But the eagle doesn’t avoid the storm, it uses it. Eagles neither hide nor clamp, and you’ll never find an eagle under a kayak. The eagle faces the storm, and uses the power of the storm to survive it. Able to soar to heights of 10,000 feet and more, the eagle simply flies into the fiercest winds, using the storm itself to help it rise higher and higher. The air pressure of the storm lets them glide, without even flapping their wings. As a matter of fact, eagles can lock their wings in a fixed position and let the storm do all of the work. They let the storm lift them above the storm. Now there’s an image.
Being still in His presence, making time to wait on the Lord, engages His grace on our behalf. He says, “They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” He gives us wings!
So what are the wings that we have as children of God? How can we be more like the eagle than the house finch?
Well, the four arms of the communion cross represent sacrament, scripture, spirit and service. Each of these elements can help us still our hearts and remind ourselves that there is a God who watches over us and in whom we can place our trust. These elements can become our wings.
In the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist we find the real presence of Christ. His real presence, entering us physically, spiritually and mentally as we celebrate and receive the sacrament, Christ in us. His strength impacting our weakness.
In the Scriptures we find the living and powerful word of God, promises that serve as His wings lifting us above the storm. His promises are unfailing, and therefore utterly reliable.
His Spirit empowers us, His Spirit fills us with His strength. His Spirit is called the “Paraclete” in the bible, which is a word that simply means one called alongside to help. He is with us, even in the storm.
But how, you may wonder, does the aspect of service fit in? Well, it fits in because it reminds us that life is not about us. It isn’t all about the demands on us, the things that we have or need, or even the goals and desires we have.
Christ came as a servant, He came to serve you and I and to touch our lives with that service. He said so very directly when He said, “I came not to be served, but to serve; and to give My life as a ransom.” It is in our deliberately focusing on the needs of others around us that we are put in the proper perspective.
The Communion Cross also reminds me that I am not alone. I am in covenant with a band of brothers and sisters whom I uphold in prayer and who regularly pray for me. Communion is fellowship, communion is strength.
KNOW THAT I AM GOD
At the center of the Communion Cross is an ever present reminder that He is God.
He is the one in control. He is the one leading, guiding, directing, enabling, strengthening, and giving his peace. When you know there is a God who is in control, you can know the peace of God.
So, today, my counsel to you and my prayer for you are one …
May you find the time to be still.
And as you are still, quietly focusing your heart and your mind on God, may His presence surround you with the knowledge that He is God, that your life is in His hands, and in that you are precious to Him.