Friday, December 24, 2010

Grace in a Person, the Favor of Jesus

An Ohio man asked his aunt about a painting she had in her house. She responded, “Oh, that old thing. No one wants it.” Since none of her family wanted the art work for their homes, she had already commissioned the art to a local gallery, but hadn’t delivered it to them, yet. Her nephew said he would love to have it, so she gave it to him.

Nephew Bill took the painting to an Antique Roadshow for appraisal and was quite shocked to hear that in a New York gallery, the art could fetch $250,000. A painting deemed of little value to the aunt was re-discovered by the nephew. I once was lost but now I’m found.

The painting of Jesus in the temple at the age of twelve is by N. C. Wyeth. The appraiser at Antique Roadshow noted, “Wyeth first gained fame by illustrating some of Scribner’s Classics, including Robinson Crusoe, The Last of the Mohicans and Treasure Island.” The painting, believed to be titled “When He Comes He Shall Rule the World,” was done to illustrate a story in Harper’s Monthly magazine called “The Lost Boy,” by Henry van Dyke. Wyeth’s painting was on a list of missing artwork.

For many in the world the Messiah remains undiscovered. Over 2000 years ago, the treasure of heaven arrived boxed in a manger. If I had been in charge of God arriving on earth, there would at least have been a feast in Bethlehem and a town crier announcing the birth. However, God in his wisdom chose to send splendor to the earth without a great deal of fanfare or spectators.

God revealed facts about the Anointed One through Isaiah:

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” (42:1-2)

When Jesus began his public work, he didn’t twist arms. He didn’t coerce or force his rule upon his audiences’ hearts. His delivered no brash messages to the masses. The weakest sinner coming to him was lifted up not quashed. His core group of friends was commoners and his ministry non-pompous. When God sent Jesus he sent first-class character to renovate man’s family tree.

Melito of Sardis wrote about his personal discovery of the Messiah: He is all things: when he judges, he is Law; when he teaches, Word; when he saves, grace; when he begets, father; when he is begotten, son; when he suffers, lamb; when he is buried, man; when he rises, God.

Rediscover Jesus, Messiah, Redeemer and Friend this last week of December through re-reading Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. From the manger, to the boy rabbi, to resurrected God, he alone remains full of favor, meaning “grace in a person.”

Jesus -- worth discovery -- a treasure in plain view, the one who ably bestows “peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

(Tune in next Friday and start the “Year of the Index Card” with me. Buy a packet of 100 index cards for about a dollar and see how those simple pieces of paper, 52 Bible verses, and meditation on them can broaden your faith throughout 2011.)

Contact Cathy at

Sunday, December 19, 2010


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I rarely have the luxury of traveling alone. You may not deem it a luxury to be alone in a car doing all the driving into five different states in a four day trip, but that’s how I viewed last December’s road trip. It was a rare time when I stepped away from everyday duties, traveled new territory, and listened to my favorite music. If you want to know how Elvis, Christmas, and Graceland, added together to bring to mind a revival scripture then keep reading.

I left a day before my husband and son to visit my aunt in Arkansas, and then later the second day I was to meet Dave and Russell in Mississippi. I reached my aunt’s home on my first day of travel, and after visiting for awhile I drove more miles and spent the night at a Comfort Inn. The next morning, I started driving toward Mississippi on I-40.

About mid-day, I learned that hubby and son were at least six hours behind me. They were in a semi, pulling a load of antique tractors to the National Antique Tractor Pull. On a whim I took a side trip into Tennessee.

I can’t ever recall doing that before. All by myself. Without directions. Head into a busy metropolis and expect to find a whim-destination. Not many opportunities to explore on my own these days. I’m not a big Elvis fan, but once Graceland got on my mind. It just wouldn’t leave. I didn’t have a map of Memphis or GPS, so I called “information” from my cell phone. The operator connected me to Graceland Insurance Company. The receptionists said, “Oh this happens all the time. What do you need to know? I give out their information a lot.”

“I’m arriving into Memphis on Interstate 40. And I need good verbal directions to get to Graceland. I’m driving . . . can’t write anything down.” She told me five simple turns and merges, and I repeated them back to her. That Tennessean was better than Map Quest. An hour later, I drove directly to Elvis Presley’s home Graceland.

But when I was just entering Memphis, my phone rang and our son Russell said, “Mom, Dad and I wanted to check on you. Where are you?”

“I’m in Tennessee….Memphis….. I decided to take a little side trip and see Graceland.”

Laughing with abandon, I heard Russell tell his Dad, “Mom’s on her way to Elvis Presley’s Graceland.” Dave groaned loud enough that I could hear him through Russell’s phone. I knew he wasn’t aggravated with me. It was one of those glad-you’re-going and happy-I’m-not-along audible grunts. Who knows, Graceland might close to the public one day, and I’d live with regrets. After all, only a year ago on December 12, 2009, the Roy Roger’s museum closed its doors.

In Tennessee, worldwide visitors spent hefty parking fees and sums to tour everything. I opted to tour “the Mansion.” The mid-sized house shimmered with holiday decorations from the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, including an aluminum Christmas tree. Remember those? Christmas carols played, sung in Elvis’ own velvety voice.

At the front entrance, a paved apron allowed visitors to get a panoramic shot with cameras after the tour. A man in his early twenties by me tried to take pictures but discovered his batteries were dead. I asked what size batteries his camera used. When he checked, they were the same size as mine. So, I loaned him my batteries, and he clicked his shutter and images of the Mansion went into his memory card.

This time of year may not offer much time for solitude, but watch for everyday things which have God’s gift tags on them -- from him to you: A flock of geese flying south in V-formation, a child in a Christmas pageant, or reminders of Jesus in yards, on T-shirts and in every “Merry Christmas” greeting. Or maybe, you just get a mini day-cation all by yourself.

Jesus joined us for a time on earth, and God reminds us, “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15). During this busy season a revival can be yours, just watch for those times God tags a gift with your name.

Friday, December 10, 2010

God's Timing

The subject of when-God-acts has been on my mind for a couple of years. But this week, I looked out my house window and saw something that reminded me of God’s timing. And once that baby-step of understanding settled, I said to God, “There’re so many things where I trust your timing. Let me trust your timing more.” Let me tell you what led up to that prayer.

We celebrated a 90th birthday party for my father-in-law in our home mid-November. Prior to the party, my husband, David, and I groomed the yard. I weeded around sidewalks and the foundation of the house and Dave mowed. When I got to the front gate of our home, I noticed that the paperwhite narcissus bulbs had sprouted bordering the sidewalk. Small green leaves had pushed through the soil, and I thought, “Those are coming up way too early; they’ll bloom in December instead of January like they’re supposed to.”

We don’t often use our front gate and sidewalk, we’re back door people. But this week when I looked out my window toward that sidewalk, I saw taller narcissus plants. When I went outdoors and on closer inspection, I found the paperwhites biding their time, awaiting the right internal and eternal signals to start creating the buds that will eventually pop open and display delicate beauty.

Through God’s genius those plants know it is still 2010 and that 2011 hasn’t arrived. Embedded within them is God’s green-thumb-clock. They knew when it was time to push up through the ground, and they will know when it is time to bloom

The Apostle Paul wrote about God’s perfect timing of sending his Son: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, . . . that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4). Several deep truths exist in chapter four’s message other than the timing phrase.

But basically Paul tells his readers that only through Jesus we’re reborn into a new relationship with God. We become adopted sons. We have the privilege of calling our creator Father. We become heirs of his loving kindness, his forgiveness. We inherit blessings as his dear children and receive unfathomable help to cope with life on earth, even when personal timings unsettle us.

During this season, like no other throughout the year, the world’s eyes are drawn to the Christ. Most are acquainted with Christmas, but not as many are acquainted with the Christ of Christmas. I’d love to have been a sheep or a shepherd or a blade of grass on the night the timely angelic message arrived near Bethlehem.

When the host of angels appeared in the night sky, they brought both an immediate and a timeless message: Present tense for the people living at that time. The angel with a speaking part said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be [future tense] for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). At the perfect time, to the right set of shepherds, near Bethlehem, the city of bread, Jesus arrived.

The narcissus plants reminded me that I’ve trusted God’s growing and production season for a long time, why not trust his timing in my personal life. In the plant world, I’ve seen his faithfulness. His replenishing. His produce. His timing. And it’s perfect. The promised seasons have never failed to live out their purpose.

For now, doubts about his timing in my life have fled. I’ve reread the old, old story and peace has replaced uncertainty. This celebratory season cues us to remember God’s perfection and God’s timetable.

With gracious planning and purpose for all on earth, the eternal clock continues to tick, and because of Jesus, it ticks to our advantage and support. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (v. 14).

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Win a Copy of Christmas Book

Visit friend Elizabeth Ludwig's Borrowed Book Blog and leave a comment to possibly win a copy of A Scrabook of Christmas Firsts ~ Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holiday Drawing this Friday. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Pies and Table Time

If you’re like most families you had a pie for dessert sometime last week. I don’t know why I like writing about pies so much, maybe because I like to bake them and eat them. We had pumpkin, pecan, and lemon meringue pies at our Thanksgiving feast. I know that I’ve told you this story before but it’s worth sharing again. It’s about our family rolling pin. Now if you aren’t familiar with kitchen gadgetry, I’ll explain. It’s a cylindrical object used to flatten out pie dough.

In the early 1900s, Beulah Harris Messecar (my husband’s grandmother) and her fiancé traveled by wagon from Almeda to Houston to buy their household furniture. When they returned home, Beulah’s mother, Ann, looked at their selections: chairs, bedstead, pots and pans and asked, “Did you buy a rolling pin?” They hadn’t bought one.

Great-Grandma Harris said, “Never mind. I’ll get one for you.” The next time Beulah saw her mother, she handed her a crude shaped rolling pin, wooden and all one piece, obviously whittled into that shape.

All I know is that when her much younger brother Jean next wanted to play baseball, he was missing a wooden bat. The homemade rolling pin leans in my kitchen window and is still used to make pies for the family. Genuine hospitality never requires a pie, but it does require a good host to welcome the guests.

When Jesus was guest in the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, I suspect he was greeted with both good food and good company. Jesus visited in other homes too, but he also hosted meals. How did the resurrected Jesus treat his guests when hosting breakfast?

Throughout a night fishing trip, Jesus’ disciples had cast their net numerous times, and again and again they hauled up empty nets and their disappointment must have mounted. Near dawn with nothing to show for their efforts, they decided to call off the fishing. Not knowing it was Jesus on shore, they heard him advise them to throw the net out one more time. They did. On the last cast, their net teemed with 153 large fish!

When the disciples stepped onto the sandy beach, they recognized their fishing guide -- Jesus. On a bed of warm coals, he had fish and bread awaiting the weary night shift. Jesus welcomed them, “Come and have breakfast” (John 21:12). He then served the fatigued men, first the bread and then the fish.

All the ingredients for a meaningful gathering were in place. The fishermen needed rest from the night’s grueling work and they were very happy with the last catch at dawn. Besides that, their best friend had a fire going, and a satisfactory aroma of bread and fish must have made their mouths water. Good friends were together, and Jesus was present as servant and host.

Just like Grandma Harris changed a baseball bat into a rolling pin, God is in the remaking business too. He longs to reshape us into the same hospitable likeness of his Son. During the regular days of December and the feast times ahead, whether you are furnishing the pie or the appetite, cherish the time with family and friends.

Some of our most memorable gatherings are around tables. And this December we recognize again our impoverished state and that the Lord as gracious host still “prepares a table before us.”