Keeping the Star

“Are you keeping that forever?” Chase sidled up next to me in the kitchen. We glanced at the yellow star craft I made with my 2nd-5th grade Sunday school class last December.

starpic

“Maybe.” I stirred the meatballs. “Can you believe it’s been almost 365 days since I put that on the fridge?”

Chase shrugs and scurries away, still in the throes of his first decade, not yet in awe of the brevity of life adults feel more heavily each year.

I continue preparing dinner but glance back at the star, again and again. How often had I noticed and read the words during the year it had graced the side of our fridge?

There’s a small splat of pasta sauce on it and the edges are beginning to curl. The words of Matthew 2:10 tuck neatly into the folds of my heart. “When they saw the star they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”

How I’ve needed that star, needed that reminder of GREAT JOY. Foundational joy, because at the end of the day–and at the end of this year–through difficulties, death, and disappointments, we have Jesus.

We have a risen Savior who was a babe in a manger.

One of my favorite worship songs is called Forever, by the talented Kari Jobe. Maybe you’ve heard it, or your church has sung it?

The moon and stars they wept
The morning sun was dead
The Savior of the world was fallen
His body on the cross
His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon him
One final breath He gave
As Heaven looked away
The Son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken
The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting
Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated
Forever, He is glorified
Forever, He is lifted high
Forever, He is risen
He is alive
He is alive

 

There’s a verse nestled in that song, a verse that’s awful and wonderful and achingly beautiful. “One final breath He gave/as Heaven looked away.”

And it always reminds me of Christmas. Weird? Maybe. But it does. Because Jesus didn’t come to earth to hug people. He didn’t come here to make us feel better or to teach fishermen how to catch the most fish (though He did help with that… 🙂 ).

Jesus came to earth because He had to. Separated from His Father–oh, that’s what gets me every time.

Heaven looking away from the Prince of Peace because he wore our filth in order to save us. He was the perfect sacrifice on our behalf, to make God’s creation right with Him again. It’s ugly and bloody and uncomfortable.

It’s the GOSPEL.

He’s the lamb.

And He was tiny once, helpless, born in a stable and laid in a manger. And I’m so incredibly grateful as I gaze at that crinkled yellow star on my fridge. The weight of the year lifts, the worries of the moment evaporate, and the joy of the Lord once again becomes my strength when I have none.

Is He your joy, too? Is the knowledge that He died on the cross for you strengthening your heart this wonderful, difficult season?

I pray that it is. I pray that you’ll take that knowledge–that God sent His only BELOVED Son–to rest among dirty straw and sinners alike, and you’ll praise Him and cling to that in your dark moments.

Keep that star close–keep that truth close.

I pray you and yours have a Jesus-filled season of wonder, peace, and most of all–JOY.

 4183141

 “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

 

 

 

The Osprey and the Fish

s538976724472867119_p19_i14_w596[1].png

 

Traffic trickled along US-301, impatient moms in mini-vans and battered utility trucks bracketing the two lanes beside me. It was a quarter to three, and I had to get gas before picking up the boys at 3:15.

Up ahead, the Alafia River crisscrossed 301, a bronze waterway that emptied into Tampa Bay to the west and bled inland to the east. Lightposts stood at attention, skinny towers marking the road’s edge, every third or fourth pole topped with a messy, stick-strewn bird’s nest.

osprey4_bob%20howdeshell_tn_2012_gbbc_kk1

Ospreys gliding overhead, hugging the river’s edge, were a commom sight on this stretch of 301. The white and brown winged-creatures gained easy access to fish in the river from the tall vantage points.

As I slowed at a red light, a flurry of animal-sized movement caught my attention directly to my left. An enormous bird flew beside my truck, only a few few higher than my driver side window.

A human-eye view of a glorious example of God’s winged creation.

While I admired his wingspan and elegant flight (and tried desperately not to bump into the car slowing in front of me), the reason for his low altitude became clear.

Inside the grasp of his razor-sharp talons, a struggling silver fish glimmered in the sunlight on its way to feed hungry chicks in a nest high above.

But right then, the powerful bird flew low, the burden it carried weighing down its normally-graceful flight. And the Holy Spirit pin-pricked my heart.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth,

Neither faints nore is weary.

His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall,

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)

For our families, for me personally, it’s been a difficult, sad year. There have been blindingly painful losses (my sister-in-law) and shocking goodbyes (the sudden death of our family dog).

Add in a couple writing disappointments, some parenting trials and one 40th birthday, and it’s a recipe for a year I’m eager to put in my rear-view mirror.

God in His mercy and grace carried us through, and we’re grateful for His comfort and the comfort and prayers of others.

Still, the burden of loss and my escalating worry about a recent health issue have made me feel like that Osprey–low-flying through life, burdened with a twenty-pound Snook of worry and fear. Are you feeling that way, too?

But those who wait on the Lord…

As the Osprey finally ascended, curving toward the blue sky and its hungry chicks, God’s gentle peace gripped my heart. I pray it grips yours, too.

…will renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles…

If you’re barely airborne right now, skimming muddy earth because of heavy burdens and slippery fear, look to the Lord. He will renew your strength.

Wait on Him. He is faithful, and His mercy is everlasting.

For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.

(Psalm 100:5)