Friday, December 28, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Newspaper Readers

As the end of 2012 nears, I close by sharing Jeremy Taylor’s (1613-1667) nineteenth tip for humble living. I am also saying goodbye to all dear readers of this column. First, let’s consider Taylor’s final guideline for seeking humility.
            Taylor says, “Humility teaches us to submit ourselves and all our faculties to God.” He asks followers to recall the previous eighteen rules for humble living, and he encourages seekers of humility to adore God, submit to superiors “in all things, according to godliness, and to be meek and gentle in conversations toward others.”
            Because I’ve written fifty-two columns on humble living, I now have more knowledge about humility. Attaining humility is difficult, so God and I continue to move my stubborn will into better habits of humble living. The thing that most stood out in my study this year was author Randy Harris’ suggestion that whenever we walk into any rooms to consider ourselves the least in the room. Then to ask a mental question, “Who may I serve?” That’s powerful.
           Two special scriptures about humility took up residence in my heart. They contain both directives and a promise from our gracious Father: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3), and “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). I know without doubt that as we honor God and others, God meets our needs.
            This will be my last column. After eleven years plus a few months, I find that the time has come to close out this phase of writing. Several family needs brought me to this decision, as well as offers to write for other venues. I can’t do it all. Even though I would love to write day and night, home duties call, and my dishes have not learned to wash themselves.
            First, thank you to “The Courier,” to Jim Fredricks, Andy Dubois, Bob Borders, Nancy Flake, Mike Jones, and Sondra Hernandez, who have guided, edited, and headlined. Some of you are no longer with “The Courier,” sort of ghosts of columns past. However, each of you shined your skills on my writing making it better. Any grammar mistakes were mine. I seem to be the queen of split infinitives. I’m indebted to Jim Fredricks for taking a chance on a very green writer in the summer of 2001 when I phoned and asked if I could write a column. I especially thank “Houston Community Newspapers” affiliate editors for publishing some of the columns.  
            Thank you, readers. Many of you have let me know through phone calls, emails, or in person when a certain column encouraged you at just the right moment. You have gently let me know when I made a scripture stumble, by misusing or misapplying. Sometimes, I had general information wrong, such as the time I mistakenly said morning glories have tendrils. A kindhearted horticulturist from Huntsville sent an email. We are friends to this day. I’ve grown because of the knowledge many of you shared with me.
           I also treasure those of you who introduced yourselves in aisles of stores or in restaurants. A few of you, when I pushed my cart by, got that I-know-her look on your faces. When you braved asking who I was, you gave me hugs, handshakes, and personal thank yous for the columns. You were wonderful, and your enthusiasm and appreciation kept me writing.
            I apologize for any preachiness, poor writing, and hurried writing of columns. I’ve done all three at times. When I began this column, my mission was to help readers love God because he first loved us. By faith, I knew that God could multiply any seeds of information about him. I trusted God to take the messages and use them any way he wanted. Readers, you have mailed them to prisoners, relatives, and even government officials. You told me you have them on your refrigerators and tucked in your Bibles. Aren’t you wonderful to receive and to pass on messages about God?
            “Goodbye” comes from the 1570’s word “godbwye,” a contraction of “God be with ye.” Today, I reach back several hundred years and borrow that sentiment: May God bless your journey. May God carry out the plans he has for you. May God be with you.
                  Hunger for Humility (Week 52): “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas and Tragedy: Poor Bedfellows

Christmas and tragedy are poor bedfellows.
           In this season of Advent, when we remember the coming of Christ, we long for surrounding events to reflect the joyous mood. Then an unthinkable act of inhumanity happens and we shudder to remember that all is not well in the world.
            At Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, a slaughter took place. Adults died.  They expected to return home that evening. Children’s souls lifted from this earth and passed into the hands of God. Without a doubt, we know the Evil One instigated this catastrophe.
            As I’ve read the Bible over the years, I’ve learned that God reigns supreme over all happenings on earth. He alone has the power to allow or forestall any happening, good or bad.  Questions occupy our thoughts and conversations. Why didn’t God step in and prevent this?    God alone understands all the intricacies of this devastation. Opinions about how to prevent evil are as numerous as grains of sand. We strive for solutions, for reasonable answers, to fix things.
            We want to draw boundaries around evil. We long to be in control of our lives, to make sure that our loved ones stay safe. We want good to penetrate hearts, as we long to expel evil out of every corner. That day is coming, however it’s not here, yet.
            Where are we capable of banning evil? Where do we have dominion over powers of darkness? We have power over our own heart and soul. We cannot force other humans to turn to God, to seek his will, to welcome a holy invasion of God into their hearts. We have willpower to invite God to saturate us with his goodness, to lead us not “into temptation” but to “deliver us from evil.”
           God, the origin of life set up a perfect plan: love him and love your neighbor and your enemy.
            When people lose sight of God, the creator of life, they begin to lose their way. In addition, as they stray from God, they lose respect for life. When power hungry dictators seek control through invasion and bloodshed—evil gains momentum. When selfish parents prefer mind-altering drugs to parenting children—evil laughs at their folly and tallies its rewards. When we cheat in the smallest way, have lustful thoughts, slay unborn children—evil wins victories. Life becomes cheap. When polls show that seventy-five per cent of married people cheat on their spouses, the Evil One sneers at God’s call for fidelity in marriage.   
            It’s Christmas. We want to gather with family, hug our children. We want to hear bells ringing, choirs singing, we want to be merry and happy. We want dark valleys to go away. We want shadows of death to disappear. We long for streams of living water to purify peoples and societies.
             Wholesome streams of water always have a fountainhead, a beginning place. Christians know that fountainhead as Jesus Christ. He spoke to his followers and said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
            Every moment we make choices. We either live in God’s camp or take up with the thief, whom God also calls a roaring lion, his purpose to steal, kill, and destroy. In God’s camp, he first purposes to give love, restore life, and make whole.
            Someday, all tears will cease. God will triumph over evil, sickness (mind and body), and death. In the end, God wins. Even now, a victory occurs each time we make a conscious decision to obey the Good Shepherd, who can lead us into paths of right thinking and living.
            This Christmas, may you receive the blessing of peace that comes from the hand of God. Only he can gift what we really need.          
            Hunger for Humility (Week 51): “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 5:24-27





Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Story with a Good Ending

A homeless man pictured on the cover of a book looks skyward as snow drifts down. He looks as if he’s hoping for a better day. The title of the book is “Unexpected Christmas Hero” by Kathi Macias. I downloaded the book onto my Kindle reader, and since the book contained a fictional work, I assumed that the cover featured a model for the photo, but that’s when I heard more about the cover.

            A photographer, who currently works with Christian publisher New Hope’s cover design team, found a homeless man in Ashville, North Carolina and asked if he would allow him to take pictures of him for possible use on a book cover. The homeless man Willard Parker agreed. As the photographer Michael Lê and his wife Christine took pictures, Mr. Parker told some of his story.

            He has acute leukemia and is not in good health. He lost his home and eventually ended up homeless. On the streets, his constant search is for a place to pillow his head at night and looking for food to eat. He lost touch with his two daughters and grandchildren, and later told someone, "When I had my picture taken for the book cover, all I wanted was for it to help me get back with my family. It worked, and I'm really grateful." He signed a release for the company to use his photo, and when the author heard the story, she wanted to assist him in reuniting with his family and set up a financial fund to help with travel expenses.

            “Unexpected Christmas Hero” released in mid-October, and a copy eventually fell into the hands of someone who knew one of Willard Parker’s daughters, 26-year-old Amber. Looking online, she found the book cover and wept. It was her daddy.

            However, she didn’t know how to contact him or where to find him. Mr. Parker’s ex-wife was driving near Ashville one day, spotted Willard Parker, and picked him up. Since then he has spoken to both his daughters by phone, Amber and Rebecca, but they haven’t had the miracle of a reunion. Mr. Parker is presently in Toledo, Ohio, according to Christian News Service.

            Author Kathi Macias and I have corresponded about Mr. Parker. From her, I found that Michael Lê and his wife Christine treated Mr. Parker with respect and as an equal during and after the photo session. Their respect helps introduce the eighteenth rule of humble living written by Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667). In the language of his day, Taylor wrote, “Upbraid no man’s weakness to him to discomfort him, neither report it to disparage him, neither delight to remember it to lessen him or to set thyself above him.”

            The respect involved in reuniting Mr. Parker with his family warms me all the way down to my tiptoes. I found out from the photographer that he was about to give up hunting for an appropriate subject for the book cover when his wife felt strongly that they should drive to a specific part of town. That’s where they discovered Mr. Parker.

            All involved felt that God put them on a specific path, so he could reunite a father with his children and grandchildren. God remains faithful in his work today as he breaches gaps in families and capably reunites sons and daughters to himself. After all, isn’t that what Wonderful, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace came to do.

            In the next two weeks, we’ll wrap up this series on humble living. I continue to pray that the words of God and suggestions of Jeremy Taylor have caused you to consider how you might further embrace humility in the context of your life.

            May God continue to bless the Parker family as they find their way back to each other.

            Hunger for Humility (Week 50): “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others" I Corinthians 10:24”

            Cathy Messecar welcomes comments at

Friday, December 07, 2012

            During the 1989 winter, Louise Gore and I drove our two high school seniors to Searcy, Arkansas to Harding Christian University’s campus. I phoned Arkansas relatives for a weather report, and my 90-year-old grandmother, who hadn’t been outdoors in weeks, answered, “Hon, the weather’s fine.”

By the time we reached Searcy, thick ice had formed everywhere. On a very steep decline, we inched into town taking a suggested shortcut. We later heard from the locals that we had come into town on the worst choice road. We made our icy descent into town from a steep road that had a winter name of “Suicide Hill.” One day later, travel was still treacherous, the highways glazed like a doughnut. As we traveled homeward on “black ice,” we passed numerous cars in ditches. With all of us having tense shoulders, we didn’t even make it to the Arkansas state line. We stopped our trip, and a clerk rented us her last motel room in Prescott, Ark.

Every two hours, night and day, I started my vehicle to keep the weak battery charged. We’d already had to jump it off one morning of the trip. No. It wasn’t a Die Hard brand. 

Meanwhile, back at our South Texas home, outdoor temperatures hovered around six degrees. Weighted by ice, tree limbs broke. Electric power ceased. Warm houses grew cold. With no electricity, my husband and teen daughter had the fireplace roaring and camped out nearby.

Our fireplace had a swing arm to hold a cooking pot. After many cold PB & J sandwiches, they wanted to eat something hot, so they combined culinary skills and cooked dried beans. They couldn’t find my all-metal cooking pot, so they used a teakettle that didn’t have any plastic parts. Never having cooked pintos before, they washed a two-pound-bag of beans, added water and salt, and shoved the lid onto the medium sized kettle.

As the blazing fireplace heated the metal bottom, the beans began to absorb water and swell. For about four hours, the growing beans pulsed out the spout of the teakettle. They formed a sort of cooking brigade. Add water. Catch beans. Add water. Catch beans. 

When the weather began to warm and folk began to stir, neighbors Myra and Elton invited hubby and daughter to dinner. They didn’t go empty handed. They had plenty of fresh mesquite-smoked beans. We still laugh about the miracle multiplying beans.

During another South Texas ice storm, temperatures skidded beneath the 32 mark. I was at home for that freeze, and the view out my kitchen window fascinated me. Six-inch icicles hung from the roofline, but pressed against the window panes were three red roses, the climbing kind.

The disparity of the icicles and red roses prompted thoughts about a Bible passage. God said through the prophet Isaiah, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).  

During Advent, we once again enact awaiting a Savior. One, who can scrub the darkness from a soul and turn it white as snow. We await the arrival of one who delivers on all his promises.

God’s reaches through any kind of inclement weather or stained life to provide care and healing. He sometimes sends fresh reminders in icicles and roses.

Hunger for Humility (Week 49): “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18).

            Cathy Messecar welcomes comments at

Friday, November 30, 2012

The World a Cathedral

Throughout the night, they cast bulky nets onto the inky surface of the lake. Each cast had brought the same disappointing results after they drew the nets toward the boat. Empty. Empty. Empty. Their nightshift ended without profit – or so they thought.

Dawn found them anchored on shore. Weary. Fatigued. Hungry. Wet. They were ready to wash their nets, search for tears, and untangle the snarls from lake debris.

At lakeside that morning, Jesus had drawn a crowd to hear his teachings. Finally, Jesus suggested that Simon Peter launch his boat into the foamy surf as a pulpit.

Peter moved the boat just offshore where Jesus sat down and continued teaching from a watery platform. When Jesus finished he said, “Put out into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Peter answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” On the lake, after letting down the nets, Peter felt the familiar drag of a catch, a huge catch. Checking the heavy mesh, he saw it teemed with fish and the weight of them caused tears in the sturdy rope lacings.  

He motioned to partners on shore to join them, and James and John oared out and hauled in fish after fish. The weight of the fish soon leveled the boat railings with the water surface. One more fish wiggle and water could have spilled into the crafts causing them to sink.

However, the miracles continued and they made shore without losing sailors, boats, or fish. The fishermen, the scaly catch, and The Teacher came ashore. That’s when Simon Peter recognized God’s divine hand and fell at Jesus’ feet saying, “Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man!”

Jesus didn’t leave.

Instead, Jesus consoled Simon Peter and said, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will catch men. Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Luke 5).

On this day, God provided for these men and their families. He was about to call them on a monumental mission, and their families would be taken care of through the huge haul of fish. On this day, the lakeside became a cathedral when Peter fell down to worship Master of Earth and Sea.

As had happened before, God used the earth, his footstool, as a platform for the Son of God. Concern, care, and compassion showed in the abundant catch of fish.    

Chapels, cathedrals, and church buildings are formal places of worship where body and mind can be still and quiet. Places of worship where God is present as the audience as his people adore him through worship.

God dwells in the everyday happenings, too. In addition, where you walk, play, and work can become places of worship.

On this day, nets, boats, and fish became props to display Jesus as the son of God. Thirty years earlier, a stable, shepherds, and sheep had been stage props for the Savior. Today, as in times past, a car, a rented room, or a mall can be a cathedral if Jesus is there.

            During Advent, watch for the arrival of Jesus into your ordinary days.


            Hunger for Humility (Week 48): “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving in Tough TImes

"It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels," said Augustine.
            Readers, although not planned, we arrived simultaneously at Thanksgiving and rule seventeen of Jeremy Taylor’s (1613-1667) about gratitude. He defines how appreciation helps us live humbly: “Give God thanks for every weakness, deformity, and imperfection, and accept as a favoured grace of God, an instrument to resist pride, and nurse humility.” He goes on to say a man who has a crooked back has opportunity to stoop low in spirit. Those who suffer physical maladies often find themselves looking to God for help.
            I find it difficult to thank God for trouble, even though I know that hardships can shape me into a better person – if I allow it to do so. I’m thankful that God allowed the Apostle Paul to share in the Bible about his “thorn in the flesh,” a physical limitation that Paul had. Even after a request for healing, God said no to him because the weakness would become a facilitator to strength.
            Hear what the Apostle Paul said about his chronic condition. Whatever it was, he prayed three times for healing. However, God’s return answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So, Paul said, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Taylor most likely had Paul’s experience in mind when he suggested that giving thanks for difficult circumstances could bring about unexpected blessings, most certainly internally and often externally.
            A friend once reminded me that if everything remained perfect in our lives, we could more easily be tempted to make it on our own. That’s impossible for as Luke the writer of Acts quotes, we “live and move and have our very being” in God (17:26).
            Surely, we should fully rely on God through good times and bad, but the bad times force us into the reality that we don’t take our next breath without God granting it. Often troubles arrive larger than our pocket books, our common sense, or our abilities to solve. Those difficult circumstances can cause a broader reliance on God.
            I remember something Joni Eareckson Tada wrote about her arrival in heaven someday. You may recall that she broke her neck in an accident and has been a paraplegic for decades. Her ministry to the suffering multiplied more than one-thousand fold because of her permanent injury and her willingness to praise God and embrace her new limited life.
            She said that her life on earth of being wheelchair bound has been involuntary. No one gave her a choice, or asked if she chose to be paralyzed for the remainder of her life. In heaven, her new eternal body will give her the freedom to move again. She doesn’t plan to jump, run, or shout, but she hopes voluntarily to remain before the Lord, not moving, stillness in worship of God because she chooses to worship him and he always chooses the best path for us.
            Giving thanks for tough circumstances. Yes. It’s possible. We have great advice in Jeremy Taylor’s writings, and proof that it’s possible in the Apostle Paul’s life. Joni Tada has shown bravery and courage trapped in her withered body. Many others have done the same.
            For what will you give thanks? Certainly for the good, and consider thanking God for the awful things, too. Ronnie Milsap has grown to call his lifelong blindness “an inconvenience.” I think the Apostle Paul would agree that God in the middle of any trouble makes all the difference in a life. Humility in the middle of trouble, thanksgiving in tough times, can make mere men seem as angels.
            Happy Thanksgiving.
            Hunger for Humility (Week 48): “When times are good be happy; but when times are bad, consider God has made the one as well as the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14)              

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Helpful Apologies

Jeremy Taylor, writing from several centuries back, states the sixteenth rule for humble living (out of nineteen), “Be not always ready to excuse every oversight, or indiscretion, or ill action, but if thou beest guilty of it confess it plainly.” To beest humble, one must beest ready to apologize.
            When I’m queen, all citizens will be required to take a class on humble living, at least one whole week, students will practice making apologies. A true apology comes from a contrite heart when the person realizes that a personal mistake or selfishness caused another to suffer.
            This past year, a company charged us double for an annual insurance premium. Fortunately, our bank account had enough to cover the insurance company’s mistake. By the time I discovered the error it was closing time on Friday, and the company employee said she would look into it the next business day. I may have imagined the disbelief in her voice, but it seemed she doubted that they would make such a mistake.
            On Monday morning, the representative phoned me to say they had double billed us. As we closed out our conversation, I thanked her for solving the issue. She replied, “No problem.” I realize that “No problem,” has become a phrase that can mean, “I’m happy to take care of this for you.” However, when a person is troubled in the least or double billed several thousands, a more appropriate admission of guilt keeps customers happy, “I’m sorry we double billed you. We do appreciate your business.”
            I bring this topic up because often the phrase “no problem” has filled in where an apology would be more appropriate. After a customer has struggled with righting a billing issue, the last thing I imagine they want to hear in the same sentence are the words “no” and “problem.” Businesses would do well to train their personnel in making sincere apologies.
            Most apologies come from humble people, who have consciences, and who have made a practice of saying, “I’m sorry.” However, some find confessing a wrong difficult. While others, will only admit a wrong when caught or confronted. We’re also good at vague apologies, “I’m sorry for what happened.” Instead, a noble apology will admit fault and seek forgiveness, “I had no right to call you names. Please forgive me.” Mignon McLaughlin said, “True remorse is never just a regret over consequence; it is a regret over motive.”
            When was the last time you admitted a wrong aloud? Take a minute to ponder that. We commit infractions almost daily, and they often harm someone. In the heat of a moment, we verbally wound husband, wife, child, or close friend. We cast rude or impatient glances. We become exasperated and impatient and it shows in our behavior.  
            Another kind of apology is the one that has a “but” in the middle. “I’m sorry, but my alarm didn’t go off and that’s why I’m late.” As one person said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”
               This week, act upon your pledge to live a humble life. Apologize when you’re wrong. Be sincere. Ask for forgiveness. Leave out the “but.” To better your life and your family’s lives, remember what Lynn Johnston says, “An apology is the superglue of life. It can repair just about anything.”
            Hunger for Humility (Week 46): “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Help Us Move Up

I'm not superstitious. I depend upon God to supply our basic plus unanticipated needs. Yet, a fortune cookie declared a good general message on Tuesday night as I watched the presidential election results.

            That evening, I tidied areas in my home and prayed strength and guidance over our next president. Many of you did the same – prayed for our country. Maybe you weren’t tidying your house or maybe you were. While straightening, I found two unopened fortune cookies.

            I don’t ever look to fortune telling for my future, because God alone provides for me. However, on a whim, I shuffled the two cookies wondering which one might provide at least an “aha” moment. I was hoping for a message that read, “Your candidate won the election because a voter from an obscure county in Oregon just cast the winning ballot.” Okay, okay, I know fortune cookies have no prediction power. I was only hoping because I was tired and wanted to sleep instead of waiting for election results.

            While the message in the cookie wasn’t profound, the words suggested a godly way for citizens and those who hold public offices to succeed: "He climbs highest who helps another up." Does that sound vaguely familiar? Perhaps, the fortune cookie writers look at Bible verses and spin them. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). I’m an advocate of everyone doing his or her part to give someone who has less a hand up.

            This past week, I had the privilege of attending a CLASS writers’ seminar in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico because Cecil Murphey, co-author of “90 Minutes in Heaven” gave me a tuition scholarship. Murphey had many successes in ghost writing and some books had the fortune of becoming movies, “Gifted Hands” was one. He, in turn, gives writers scholarships to conferences where they network and hone their craft. He reached out to help me up.

            Represented at this conference were organizations with which Christian audiences are familiar: Christian Broadcasting Network, Focus on the Family’s “Adventures in Odyssey” and “Clubhouse” magazines. Also present were editors and publishers of publications such as “The Upper Room,” and book publishers Revell, New Hope, WMU, and AMG. All spoke encouraging words, looked at manuscripts, and pointed writers to noble goals.

            When I turned in my evaluation form, I noted two outstanding features of the conference: the willingness of each writer to help other writers and the ever present enthusiasm for fellow writer’s successes. Competition was absent because we all grabbed a hand and helped a fellow writer up.

             Henry Cabot Lodge said, “The nation has not lived in vain which has given the world Washington and Lincoln, the best great men and greatest good men whom history can show.” Someone had given them a chance and helped them up, and each of these leaders reached out and helped this nation up.

            Although we may never rise to heights of notice in the political field or on a football field, we can write our own fortune by maintaining humility, integrity, and reaching out to help someone up.

            Hunger for Humility (Week: 45): “One man gives freely, yet gains even more.” (Proverbs 11:24)




Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Poem for the Day after the 2012 Presidential Election

The Nativity

By: G.K. Chesterton

“For unto us a child is born.” — Isaiah


The thatch of the roof was as golden,
Though dusty the straw was and old,
The wind was a peal as of trumpets,
Though barren and blowing and cold:
The mother’s hair was a glory,
Though loosened and torn,
For under the eaves in the gloaming –
A child was born.


O, if a man sought a sign in the inmost
That God shaketh broadest his best,
That things fairest are oldest and simplest,
In the first days created and blest:
Far flush all the tufts of the clover,
Thick mellows the corn,
A cloud shapes, a daisy is opened –
A child is born.


With raw mists of the earth-rise about them,
Risen red from the ribs of the earth,
Wild and huddled, the man and the woman,
Bent dumb o’er the earliest birth;
Ere the first roof was hammered above them.
The first skin was worn,
Before code, before creed, before conscience –
A child was born.


What know we of aeons behind us,
Dim dynasties lost long ago,
Huge empires like dreams unremembered,
Dread epics of glory and woe?
This we know, that with blight and with blessing,
With flower and with thorn,
Love was there, and his cry was among them –
“A child is born.”


And to us, though we pore and unravel
Black dogmas that crush us and mar,
Through parched lips pessimistic dare mutter
Hoarse fates of a frost-bitten star;
Though coarse strains and heredities soil it,
Bleak reasoners scorn,
To us too, as of old, to us also –
A child is born.


Though the darkness be noisy with systems,
Dark fancies that fret and disprove;
Still the plumes stir around us, above us,
The tings of the shadow of love.
Still the fountains of life are unbroken,
Their splendour unshorn;
The secret, the symbol, the promise –
A child is born.


Have a myriad children been quickened,
Have a myriad children grown old,
Grown gross and unloved and embittered,
Grown cunning and savage and cold?
God abides in a terrible patience,
Unangered, unworn,
And again for the child that was squandered –
A child is born.


In the time of dead things it is living,
In the moonless grey night is a gleam,
Still the babe that is quickened may conquer,
The life that is new may redeem.
Ho, princes and priests, have you heard it?
Grow pale through your scorn.
Huge dawns sleep before us, stern changes –
A child is born.


More than legions that toss and that trample,

More than choirs that bend Godward and sing,
Than the blast of the lips of the prophet,
Than the sword in the hands of the King,
More strong against Evil than judges
That smite and that scorn,
The greatest, the last, and the sternest –
A child is born.


And the rafters of toil still are gilded
With the dawn of the star of the heart,
And the Wise Men draw near in the twilight,
Who are weary of learning and art,
And the face of the tyrant is darkened,
His spirit is torn,
For a new King is throned of a nation –
A child is born.


And the mother still joys for the whispered
First stir of unspeakable things;
Still feels that high moment unfurling,
Red glories of Gabriel’s wings.
Still the babe of an hour is a master
Whom angels adorn,
Emmanuel, prophet, annointed –
A child is born.


To the rusty barred doors of the hungry,
To the struggle for life and the din,
Still, with brush of bright plumes and with knocking,
The Kingdom of God enters in.
To the daughters of patience that labour
That weep and are worn,
One moment of love and of laughter –
A child is born.


To the last dizzy circles of pleasure,
Of fashion and song-swimming nights,
Comes yet hope’s obscure crucifixion,
The birth fire that quickens and bites,
To the daughters of fame that are idle,
That smile and that scorn,
One moment of darkness and travail –
A child is born.


And till man and his riddle be answered,
While earth shall remain and desire,
While the flesh of a man is as grass is,
The soul of a man as a fire,
While the daybreak shall come with its banner,
The moon with its horn,
It shall rest with us that which is written –
“A child is born.”


And for him that shall dream that the martyr
Is banished, and love but a toy,
That life lives not through pain and surrender,
Living only through self and its joy,
Shall the Lord God erase from the body
The oath he has sworn?
Bend back to thy work, saying only –
“A child is born.”


And Thou that art still in the cradle,
The sun being crown for Thy brow,
Make answer, our flesh, make an answer.
Say whence art Thou come? Who art Thou?
Art Thou come back on earth for our teaching,
To train or to warn?
Hush! How may we know, knowing only –
A child is born?

Listen to this group, who played and recorded several stanzas of this on their Christmas album, very moving: L'Angelus (Lawn je loose) 

Friday, November 02, 2012

Meek Means?

“Blessed are the debonair for they shall inherit the earth.” When the French translated the third beatitude that is how they rendered, “Blessed are the meek.”

            “Debonair” in English means pleasant manners, courteous and gracious. Derived from Old French it means “of good disposition.” The understanding of “meek” remains vital to living out “meek.” What does it really mean? The dictionary defines meek as “humble, patient, or submissive” also as “overly patient; spiritless; tame.” That’s a bit on the wimpy side for my tastes.   

I much prefer many preachers’ definition of “meek” as “power under control.” Moses fits that description—a solid leader, a man who went before kings, a family man. Moses had his faults, but he was viewed as a “very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Jesus described himself as “meek,” and he lived a perfect life, so I don’t see the word meaning “spiritless” in any way.

For today’s Christian, one of the characteristics of a “meek” person means that they remain teachable. When instructed they readily listen to learn. The arrogant, when corrected, might reply with a flippant answer of “Whatever.” Besides not being courteous, that answer reveals an unwillingness to learn, whether it be performing a task or changing a behavior.

            My friend Jan Tickner prays for self-reliant people to “come to the end of themselves.” That prayer opens the door to a university of “higher” learning, where a person recognizes his or her own faults. The, that prayer becomes a launching pad to learn better living habits from others and from the Lord.

            Jesus defined “meek” when he said about himself, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” He then said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle [meek] and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

            Jesus invites those who have tired of trying to make it on their own to team up with him, and he is never too proud to step alongside the most unworthy person on earth. He only needs an invitation.

            Imagine yourself in a harness alone and you’re struggling to pull all your burdens against the grade of a hill. Now imagine Jesus slipping the leather straps of the same harness over his shoulders and pulling with you. Shoulder to shoulder, Jesus and you, in sync. Together, you make progress, and you have an all wisdom and compassionate person pulling with you. Now that’s power under control.

The word “debonair” and Jesus seem not to belong in the same sentence. However, when we consider that the word defines the Teacher who will come alongside and help all of us come to the end of ourselves, then Jesus is debonair.

            Hunger for Humility (Week 44): "Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (Revelation 3:20 NLT)

            Cathy Messecar welcomes comments at

Thursday, October 25, 2012

“An expert is just a little spurt who is away from home.” I heard something similar from a speaker introduced as an expert in his field. This week, we consider the pitfalls of comparison in regards to humility.  

            Here’s Jeremy Taylor’s (1613-1667) rule fifteen for humble living in the dialect of his day, “Never compare thyself with others, unless it be to advance them and to depress thyself. To which purpose, we must be sure, in some sense or other, to think ourselves the worst in every company where we come; one is more learned that I am, another is more prudent, a third more charitable, or less proud.”

            I didn’t share the rest of Taylor’s original writing about that rule, but he further explores that each of us knows what tempts us most, and many lead to unwholesome thoughts. We could tell our bad thoughts to another person, but most of don’t want to admit our darkest thoughts, even to trusted friends. There is an escape from arrogant and evil thoughts – resistance training: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

            My parents taught me that verse early in life, and it’s been a cornerstone promise because I’ve experienced the good results of resisting evil. Taylor also reminds his readers to keep in mind that none of us behaves perfectly. Someone has said that it’s disheartening to climb the ladder of success and then to discover it was leaning against the wrong wall. Some of us have experienced that. Taylor brings up the subject of Paul’s first passion to capture and punish Christians, and then how God adjusted his ladder, leaned it against a different wall.

            Paul claimed to be chief of sinners, and Paul knew his inmost sins better than others did. He had persecuted and tracked down Christians and killed them. Paul affirmed, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners -- of whom I am the worst. Paul concluded by saying, “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

            Total forgiveness vanished Paul’s past sins. Wherever he preached he could express the patience of because Christ had pursued him. He could extend the same to others. Paul didn’t claim superiority.

            Taylor calls us to consider our inclinations that we are better than others are. I see this in everyday life with the most trivial things. One woman thinks she knows best how to peel potatoes. Another thinks she knows best how to discipline children. A man in the passenger seat thinks his driving habits better than the driver’s habits. We participate in silent thoughts of patting ourselves on the back, while thinking our companions don’t quite measure up to our standards. That’s a tough habit to break. However, humble living demands that we look for the good in others. If we’re comparing ourselves and we think we’re better, then we have put the habit of comparison first, not the other person.

            A large stone can cause a stumble or it can become a steppingstone. When in the presence of others, give them a step up. From the book, “Rees Howells Intercessor,” I appreciate what Howells said about forgetting self and embracing the discipline of the Holy Spirit, "I began to side with the Holy Spirit against myself, and looked on the stripping [of self] as a deliverance rather than a loss."

            It will take some adjusting, but it’s best to think of ourselves as “little spurts.”

            Hunger for Humility (Week 42): “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:3)  

            Cathy Messecar welcomes comments here or at