Simply praise

Many people begin each year choosing a word to focus on for the year, to learn more about, to look for, to grow in.  Anyone have a word for 2017… Maybe it’s a word that you are praying through…

This year my own word was something terribly profound:  the word, BUT.  Now let me explain.  I realize that might not be too impressive… so let me explain.  I have come to understand that so often we use the word but to negate something we’ve just said.  Think about…

I really like your dress, but I think it would better if it were green not blue.

The dinner was delicious, but I would have preferred chocolate cake as dessert.

You did a great job on this project, but there’s just one little problem.

Clay, you got 2 A’s this semester, but that C in Math isn’t so good.

The service was so worshipful today, but that last song was off.

So… for this year, I’ve really tried to replace the word but with the word so

It just changed a negative turn… to, at least, a different thought.

So what?  Recently I've read through the accounts of Matthew and Luke about the birth of Jesus.  Always drawn to Luke… probably because of the familiarity, while trying to see the story with new, fresh eyes. 

Luke 1:28 reads,  "The angel went to her and said, Greeting, you who are highly favored.  The Lord is with you.  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.."

She didn’t know what the greeting would mean.  I have to believe the Lord says the same words to us often… and we are also greatly troubled… because we don’t know what is coming… what He may be asking us to do… not in our own power… but in His.

The conversation with Gabriel continued with some details of what is to come…. Crazy details. 

So Mary responds with grace… I am the Lord’s servant.  May your words to me be fulfilled. 

So then… she really responds…beautifully, humbly with an overwhelming 9 verses of praise…

Can you see this scene:  Elizabeth says, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her…  Cue the lights.  Dim everything except the spotlight on Mary.  Kinda like the scene in Charlie Brown… Linus… reciting Luke 2.

So even though she didn’t fully understand what was coming, she chose praise.  The next verse brings the lights back up with the words, Mary stay with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

I can't claim to get inside her head, but I have to think Mary surely was "paused" by the sudden announcement she received. She did not ask for or seek this role in God's plans; God has simply stepped into her life and brought her into His service. Her response was the choice to be faithful. Faithful to serve… faithful to praise… faithful to His guidance..

So we are being called… sometimes daily, sometimes unexpectedly, sometimes with little warning…
Do we respond in praise and faithfulness… or in uncertainty and fear…

I so want to be like Mary… faithful…

So, I’ve tried to take the “but” out of my responses… and then … Jesus is born, the shepherds come..

And verse 19, But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart…

Instead of fear, instead of angst,  instead of questions for all the details… But Mary … I think she could do that because she was faithful… so just maybe I’ll put the word but Susan back in my vocabulary…

What do you think?
 For today, let's focus on responding to God's call simply in praise to Him... the Mighty One...

 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
    for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”  Luke 1:46-55

No phone, no lights, no motor car...

Can you finish the jingle?  

No phone, no lights, no motor car...
Not a single luxury, like Robinson Crusoe, it's primitive as can be.

You may recognize the theme song... from Gilligan's Island.  The show actually aired on CBS from September 26, 1964 to April 17, 1967 according to Wikipedia.  I remember watching the show in the afternoons when in the 70's.

My two sisters and I would pretend to be the characters...  my oldest sister got first choice, so of course, she was Ginger, the movie star.  Second choice for the middle child gave me the title of Mary Ann, and that left my younger sister with the classy, "Lovey - Mrs. Howell".  She was probably 4 or 5  at the time!  :)  We acted out scenes and could certainly belt out the theme song.

This week, however, my thoughts are focused on two words from the song... "no phone".  Frank and I found ourselves in the car headed out for an evening of dinner and hopefully a movie.  As we turned out of our neighborhood, I reached for my phone... and realized "in horror", I had left it at home.  The discussion to turn around to get it was quickly steered toward the fact that, "surely... I could be out of touch, unreachable... for a few hours without the world coming to an end."  So we continued...

Out of habit, even during dinner, I reached for my phone.
Out of habit, as we slid back into the car, I reached for my phone.
Out of habit, as the movie started, I reached for my phone.
Out of habit, as the movie ended, I reached for my phone.
Out of habit, as we rushed back to car, I reached for my phone.

Are you noticing the pattern??  I'd like to honestly tell you that I really only checked for my phone those five times... but that isn't true at all.  I tried to find a statistic on it... the results vary from 80-150 times per day.  Just taking a middle number of 120 - hoping we sleep/shower 8  hours or so, that means our phones are checked at least every 10 minutes.... every 10 minutes... that statistic doesn't show how many minutes are used WHEN we check that phone.  Does that boggle your mind just a little?  

You've been to dinner... let's be honest, we've been THAT family seated at a table with the majority of the members attached to the phone of choice.

Can I challenge you... challenge us.  Choose a time of day... maybe a full day, that you take a break... not just adjusting your phone to vibrate or even silent/airplane mode.  Really push the button, turn it off... for an hour... half a day... give it a try, and in its place, listen to some beautiful Christmas music, read a book to your kids, sit in silence, be still to ponder God's grace and mercy through Jesus, His son.  

Mary took a moment in Luke 2 to simply, "treasure up all these things and ponder them in her heart."

No phones... no lights... no motor cars...  Choose the day.... Choose the time... 

Oh, by the way... my phone was in the bottom of my purse the whole evening... silenced...