Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Twas the day after Christmas when what did i spy...

I spy a child.... do you?

Pen on paper, coffee in mug, i sat at the kitchen table making lists. One list for things i needed to restock after a wonderful two days of feasting together. The other list of names -- people to contact --- special people who make a difference in my life because of the way they pray. Pondering the lists, i took a long, slow drink of my wonderfully warm flavored coffee and thoughtfully gazed out the window.
Looking across the table, through the curtains, beside the lighted pencil tree sitting atop the cabinet and just over the ceramic head of the tiny Santa my dear Mother-in-law painted years ago ----- i held my breath when i saw her looking back at me.
So stunned by the tiny one standing still beside the path leading out of our sideyard --- i closed my eyes, counted to ten, and opened them again to see if she was still there.
She was...
Or was it a he...
I couldn't tell if it was a boy or girl --- it didn't matter. Why was this child standing alone, in the rain?... in wood?
Steve and i had just finished our time of reading, and had navigated our way from the office where we sometimes read to the kitchen for a bit of breakfast. Oddly enough, even after such a peaceful Christmas day followed by a restful night's sleep, i had awakened feeling a bit edgy. Anxious over what needed to be accomplished in the shortened 3 day week, i was eager to get the morning started -- list making always seems to organize the week. Sitting at the table, rolling off names on one list and edibles on the other ---- my mind was a whirl of activity.
Moments earlier...
While pouring my coffee and putting biscuits in the oven, familiar words had been rolling off my tongue. Just weeks before, reading Brennan Manning's "The Wisdom of Tenderness" had led me to adopt a new daily practice. He tells of a lady who once visited him, anguished over her false self-perception and sense of guilt from sins of days long past. While ministering to the lady, Mr. Manning had suggested she consider repeating this simple phrase... "Abba... i belong to you". With the additional guidance to say the words aloud and with a distinct breathing pattern. Breathe in when saying "Abba", breathe out while saying "i belong to you". I tried it even as i was reading his instructions to her. Oddly -- it is quite difficult to speak aloud while breathing in --- hence, "Abba" comes forth with a whispered sort of sound. "I belong to you" comes out easily in comparison. Breathing in ABBA softly --- while pressing air into the world around me declaring that I belong to Him -- it's a beautiful, clarifying, grounding sort of way to feel His nearness. So each morning as i wake --- i find myself whispering this truth to myself. (Thank you Brennan Manning!)

"Abba... i belong to you..." had just rolled off my tongue a dozen or more times when my mind averted its focus to task mode and i wielded my paper and pen.

These details matter. For it was a human distraction to get work started that drew me from what mattered more.  Organization and list making are great practices ---- but not when they come at the expense of compartmentalizing Abba.
So ---- He trumped my distracted self ---- and captured my attention.
look closely to the right of the pine tree, just under the limb

The little one standing alone by the pathway, appeared to be frozen stiff, not moving, not breathing. Standing less than 3 feet tall, the tiny dark figure looked as if it was holding its frail arms in front of itself, staring at me. i was captivated. The image was so powerful i jumped up out of my chair and ran to the window, hoping to see more clearly. Just as my mouth opened to call for Steve ---- i saw the tree limb blow in the breeze ---- moving her frail arms and revealing her tiny body as a black tree-trunk.
i was frozen inside.
i knew instinctively --- the image of the child was not simply a fluke.
Lists didn't matter --- my heart had been stirred profoundly.

Nothing weird happened, no voices spoke. But i felt the gentlest touch to my soul, reminding me of what needed to be remembered...

"dear donna, you're ready aren't you? Ready to tackle the tasks and get something accomplished these next few days (months, years), you'll feel better about yourself if you can check off some tasks on your list of "to-dos". But pause and remember, just moments ago you sincerely declared to Me, that you belonged to Me --- you are mine. So i want you to focus on what matters most to me. Lists are nice, details can be important, after all, i'm the One who gave Noah specifics on the ark, he had plenty of lists and details when i was finished with my orders to him. 
But most important of all, is that you focus on what matters ---- to ME. 
Accomplishing things may matter to you ---- but if the things you accomplish do not matter to me ---- why give them so much of your time? ...why give them any of your time?
Do what matters to me donna --- it's what will last. 

And remember, you'll better know what matters to me, if you spend time with me. I'll pour my heart into your heart --- as you sit with me, read about me, talk to me, watch for me. And right now, in front of your eyes, i'm reminding you of something that matters very, very much to me."
"The little ones who are out in the cold, who don't sit at fine tables covered with food, who don't sip warm drinks or have safe walls around them. They matter to Me donna."
"Don't feel badly because you do have these things. BUT always focus on using what I have given to you to accomplish the things that matter to me. 
Focus on using what I have given you to accomplish what matters to Me... 
The little ones matter ---- to Me. 
Focus donna, on my list --- not yours."

In his book, "Who I Am in Christ", Neil Anderson writes, " -->
It is not what you do that determines who you are
but it is who you are that determines what you do.
  (if you're like me ---- you might need to read it again ---- slowly...)

Romans 12:2 – "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world – but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..."

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

When Jesus breathed His first earth-air...

painting by Hannah Renae Joiner (

Shoppers and shooters and holidays and lay-offs and presents and pain with feasts on tables and a red-suited sleigh-driver...
madness ---- sheer madness surrounds.

Last week a walking nightmare stepped into an elementary school --- a cold heart carried guns.
In the moments next, nothing mattered more than saving little souls and trying to survive.

As minutes ticked off on the clock, billions of breathers went about their routines 'round the world ---- but in a 1st grade classroom, the plans changed quickly from reviewing new spelling words to hiding in closets and cabinets.
My beautiful daughter was trying on wedding dresses, twirling in front of lights and mirrors --- when the monster we'd all feared lurked under our childhood beds walked into a classroom, and red love flowed from little ones.
When we heard the news of evil's arrival at Sandy Hook --- Maggie and i ended our day and drove home with sick stomachs.

Since then --- news media has hammered out words turning the terror into drama. People with good hearts have struggled with how to react, what to think, who to blame, what to do now. Before the little ones were even laid to rest, arguments erupted ---- gun control vs. mental health issues, personality disorders vs. protection of children.
Madness flowed full force as tears came from pain and created rivers of anger.
We humans react so poorly.
When gut-level grief is in order ---- we all too often gush forth with opinions and attitudes that have nothing to do with comfort and presence.

Weeks ago, as the Christmas season drew near, i shared time with hurting hearts and wounded souls. Emails, phone calls, sit-down together times, produced a flood of words from a world of aching saints. There are SO MANY among us who carry smiling faces and pray their shaking knees will hold them up for the performance required of them in this world gone mad. None of us wants to give into the shattering inside --- so we get up, dust ourselves off, move ahead, and hope for the best.
We feel our need.
Some of us admit it.
(There are those though who wear painted masks so well with pacifiers of medications or materialism -- they can no longer even name the need that gnaws at them.)

Regardless though ---- this time of year --- we celebrate the God-child's birth with twinkling lights and big-bowed packages.

When baby Jesus came, when He arrived into Mary's arms, do we suppose He knew there would be stable animals, unsanitary mangers, and the need to run from soldiers even before His legs could walk? Do we think, as we gaze at the glowing Christmas tree, that the Savior wrapped in swaddling clothes might not have known the fullness of the passion that was soon to come upon him?
Our Christ's arrival came after 400 years of silence --- no prophet spoke a word, no angel of God revealed a glimpse during the 400 years before the angel's visits to Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, and then Joseph.
Four centuries of silence.
Then the beginning ... that would lead to red-love flowing for all us little ones...

As i've sat with so many wounded during these past weeks ---- i've also rejoiced over the goodness of His red-love flowing to us.
Sadness, depression, down-trodden gloom is not the right response.
But twinkling lights surrounding festive parties filled with overflowing tables feeding needy souls ---- not the right response either.

When Jesus breathed His first earth-air, 
He began the journey that would take Him to the cross.

In Bethlehem...
Angels sang to shepherds, "Glory to God ... Peace on earth..." the Savior has arrived. (Luke 2:14)
"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord." (Luke 2:11)
Celebration for mankind was in order.
But the God-child knew --- His journey to the cross had begun.

The cross.
The place of greatest suffering -- where flesh was torn and hell's gates were opened.
Why would i dare speak of the cross ---- at CHRISTMAS time?

Why have i failed to focus on the magnitude of the Gift that came when the babe was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in that manger???

The gift to the earth came that Christmas morn. But the baby lying in the manger knew the gift would be fully handed to mankind when His red-love flowed at the cross.

In the delivering of the Gift, the Giver knew the price it would cost.
The passion of the cross, the suffering of the Savior, the arrival of the God-child, the skin covered presence of Peace.

Suffering and Goodness --- Pain and Joy ---- it all flows together --- and can cause beauty to rise from ashes, the oil of joy to wrap around our mourning, and a garment of praise to cover the chill of despair. (Isaiah 61:3)

This Christmas i'm pondering the Cross as i look at our "tree"(the twinkling, ribbon wrapped one).
Next Easter i'm purposing to remember the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, willing to breathe earth-air and give red-love on the "tree"(the heavy, splintered, bloodstained one).

It's a massive mix-up of sorts i suppose ----- but then again ---- it just might bring more clarity -- in the madness of this world.

(Hannah is selling copies of her painting- proceeds of these prints will be sent to The Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims Relief Fund, which will provide counseling to survivors, pay for funeral expenses for victims, create a scholarship fund for the school's students and fund a memorial.
Contact with any questions)

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe