Unlikely Threat

“He [King Herod] called together all the chief priests and the experts in the Scriptures

 and tried to find out from them where the Messiah was supposed to be born.

They told him, ‘In Bethlehem in Judea.

The prophet wrote about this:

 ‘Bethlehem in the land of Judah,

you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah.

A leader will come from you.

He will shepherd my people Israel.’” 

Mtt.2:4-6  GW

desert spring blog by Janet Lenz Unlikely Thread

Herod, an egocentric, scheming King calls on top religious leadership – ‘experts in the Scriptures’ – under the guise of wanting to worship the Messiah.  But his heart was focused on removing the Messiah’s perceived threat to the King’s position.

The religious leaders knew their Scriptures, and readily shared the ancient prophecy of where

the Messiah would be born.  Religious top leaders, and now political top leadership knew where

the Messiah would first touch the earth.  Bethlehem.  Considered to be least among the leaders of the land.”

In the midst of those top leaders, the ancient prophet’s words rang out.  “A LEADER will come from you (Bethlehem.)”   But not a political leader.  Not a wealthy leader.  Not a flashy or self-absorbed leader whose goals in life would be fame, wealth, or popularity.  This “leader” would be a shepherd.  The Shepherd of all shepherds, a drastically sharp contrast to the leaders hearing the words of that ancient prophecy.

A shepherd’s life included…

     …no house to shelter him

      …no pillow for his head each night

      …no money to accumulate towards a better life

      …long absences from a wife to care for him, love him,

      …long separations from his children to snuggle every morning and night

      …away for months at a time to provide good pasture for his flock

      …no prospect of wealth, influence nor popularity

The ancient words spoke of a simple shepherd.  A Shepherd of God’s people, His “Sheep,” with all of the struggles and dangers of that humble shepherding life. A Protector, Leader, Provider, always “on call”, always watchful.  Always ready to use his simple tools – a staff, a rod – with the expertise of keeping at bay all of the dangers lurking in the shadows, watching for the opportunity to steal and devour a helpless lamb.  A Shepherd who could read the stars in the night sky to navigate the sense of direction he must have.  A Shepherd who understood the sweetness of a song in the silent night. 

May this Christmas season find us sheltered under the loving care of our Good Shepherd.

What’s in a Name?

gareth-harper-175342-unsplash

“So the Lord himself will give you this sign:

A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son,

and she will name him Immanuel [God Is With Us].”

Isaiah 7:14

Try to imagine young Mary, a teenager, unmarried, having grown up under the powerful, evil rule of an occupying government, where every move you make is watched, controlled, and dictated by cruel men who have no tolerance for nor acknowledgement of the God of Israel.  Underneath that dangerous dynamic was the power of the Jewish religious leadership, whose authority dictated all daily life…especially the inner world of faith, attitudes, behaviors and connections with God.

Mary would have been taught the ancient Scripture prophecies about the Messiah Who was to come….the One who would save her people from thousands of years of suffering.

In a moment of her everyday life, she was transported into the ancient Story…the ancient Promise that they had all been longing for.

She would carry and give birth to that baby boy, “Immanuel.”  God is With Us.   God had set it up…every detail, and brought Mary into that world-changing story. God entrusted Himself in the most vulnerable form, into the arms of a young girl…  She would have to hold Him close to her heart from the moment He entered this world.

The angel instructed both Joseph and Mary, separately, to name her baby, “Jesus.” (Meaning: He Saves.”)  A far more common, unassuming, and simple name.  I wonder if that wasn’t a ‘mercy’ for that new family.  Can you imagine how complicated it would have been if the “official”  ‘Immanuel’ was the public name!   “God-with-us”, it’s time to eat!  God-with-us, where are you?  God-with-us, come help your father!”

Oh! How she would need to know that God was with her from that day on.  Every day.  Every time she spoke her tiny baby’s name…every time she called to him as he played or approached an everyday danger, or heard the cruel whispers of shame from her neighbors.

“God is with us.”

“God is with me.”

As we walk through these days remembering that moment in Time when God came to us in baby-form, may our hearts embrace God where He always intended to be….With Us.

With me.

Refuge

Refuge post on Desert Spring Blog

The refugee camps had been devastated by unprecedented flooding.  Homes were gone.  Buildings were down.  Shops had collapsed.  Everything was changed.  Large ponds now covered the Sahara sands.

It was shocking to see the disaster that people with so little were now dealing with.  What will the future hold?  How do you rebuild when you have nothing?  

As regular visitors, we wondered what would now change in life as we’d always known it there.  

Seeing the concern in our eyes, our old Saharawi friend gently, simply said,  “Don’t worry.  

We are your refuge.

Another Checkpoint

desert spring blog by Janet Lenz

Another checkpoint stop.  Another middle-of-the-night flight to catch.  Another long, lonely stretch of travel beginning.  Alone in the truck, while the driver shared tea in the cooler night air, I felt the loneliness, the weariness, swelling in my heart.

A soldier emerged from inside the checkpoint and strode toward me.  A passport check?  A flashlight scan?  

Through the open window, he handed me a cold, sweating bottle of water.  A smile, and he was gone.  

I was not alone.  God’s care and love, in unlikely form, turned my sadness into sweet rest and reassurance.  He was there.

Life Goes On

Life Goes On a story from Desert Spring by Janet Lenz
Heavy rainfall pounding on tin roofs for the seventh day.  Extremely rare in this vast desert.  Muddy bricks shrinking, dissolving.  Walls will move….fall.  A nearby scream compels neighbors to bundle necessities and run to higher ground.  The sound of falling walls, bending sheets of tin, shouting voices all announce that struggling survival will have to begin again.  

Yet, in the midst of the chaos…the devastation, there are tiny cries of new life.  Babies are born.  Life will go on.  Neighbor helps neighbor.  No one is alone.  The old tents return to their ancient roles of shelter…..of family….of heritage.  

Beauty of hearts and spirits continue to bloom in the desert.