Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent 1.2 -- Zechariah and Elizabeth: Desires and Disappointment

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:5-24, 39-80

Background: Zechariah and Elizabeth lived righteous lives for God. Zechariah was a priest, and Elizabeth too was a Levite, a descendant of Aaron. I can imagine Elizabeth faithfully serving her father and mother as a youngster before growing up to marry Zechariah and help him in his life of service. What was Elizabeth and Zechariah's reward for years of faithfully following the Lord?

For a time -- decades even -- it wasn't apparent that God saw their service and blessed them for it. Children were recognized as blessings from God, and Elizabeth and Zechariah yearned for children of their own. Yet, Elizabeth was barren, and they had none. Where was God's blessing?

My thoughts: It is so easy to make plans based on our desires and lifelong dreams. Yes, it is alright to dream and plan, but when it comes down to it, we must desire God's best for our lives even when that best doesn't match the plans we made for ourselves.

Elizabeth and Zechariah wanted a baby. They wanted the joys of parenthood and the privilege of raising a child in the ways of the Lord. Probably, they expected children to come soon after their marriage. The aging husband and wife must have held on to hope long after their friends shook their heads in pity. They might have withstood gossip and speculation about them -- that they had a terrible secret and were not as righteous as they looked. Otherwise, why would God withhold His blessing?

They prayed for children -- for years. It might have become a habit that was gradually pushed to the back of their minds as time passed and everyday life continued on without the arrival of the long awaited baby.

What happens when our plans aren't fulfilled the way we would wish? Do we become angry? Do we pass blame? We don't know how much Zechariah and Elizabeth struggled with their thwarted plans, but we do know one thing: "They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord." In other words, they kept serving; they kept obeying God. They didn't become bitter and retreat from worship. Elizabeth became a mentor and refuge within her family -- evidenced later by her relationship with her cousin Mary. Zechariah continued on as a priest.

So, that is the answer. We must pray and ask God to make His plans our plans. We ask that He give us the strength to obey regardless of whether we have been "rewarded" or not. God's blessings are given -- not deserved -- and joy is found in being content regardless of our circumstances.

This is hard for me to understand. There are things I want -- desires that mean a great deal to me. Could I give them up if He asked me to? Is God first in my life? It is my desire that my answer always be "yes" to those two questions. Then, once I have prayed and asked God for direction, I must obey Him. I must live blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.

Sometimes, our desires may truly be God given and be His best for us, but our timing differs from His. Elizabeth and Zechariah were in for a big surprise when they found out God hadn't said "no" to children; He had just said "not now." ...but more on that later.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent 1.1 -- Zechariah and Elizabeth: Righteous Before God

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:5-24, 39-80

Background: The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is one of my favorites. I return to it several times a year -- but especially at Christmas time. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I am named for the Biblical Elizabeth. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that Elizabeth is famous for one thing -- being a mother -- and I too want to be a mother someday. Whatever the case, this true account of events leading up to the birth of John the baptizer -- and ultimately the birth of Jesus Christ -- continues to challenge and inspire me.

My thoughts: Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous before God. The Bible says that they walked blamelessly in the commandments and statutes of the Lord. My first thought is this: I want my life to match this description. I want to follow God in such a way that when I grow into my old age, people can look back at my life and see the consistency of a life lived wholly for God. So how can I be more like the woman I was named for? How can I be a modern day Elizabeth?

I must know the commandments and statutes of the Lord. I must follow them. It is that simple. It isn't easy, but it is simple. I can't be righteous on my own; I must rely on God's forgiveness -- the forgiveness granted through the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. He makes me blameless in God's sight. But I have to want it. Zechariah and Elizabeth spent their lives in the service of God. They gave their lives over to Him. I too must desire that righteous life and serve God with everything in me. I want my life to glorify God.

Now, we don't live a righteous life for some perceived list of rewards. A blameless life may not always look the way we think it should look. ...but more on that later.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Give Thanks!

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!"

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

My Dad asked me, "What would happen if we went around the table saying what we are thankful for, and someone said 'I am thankful for Thanksgiving!' What would we do then?"

Today, I am thankful that Thanksgiving didn't burn! Okay, so some of it did burn, but just a little! (and not the part we served!)

To the right: an appetizer of Autumn Carrot-Apple Soup with a Spanish Lingonberry Apple Sparking Juice

I was responsible for organizing the meal this year, so it was definitely an adventure. It was fun too! How could I help but enjoy it when I had such great help? My brother spent hours in the kitchen yesterday making chicken stock, cranberry sauce, and pecan pies, Dad took countless trips to the store for different things, Susanna made a delicious Waldorf salad and stayed up late making pies, my Dad was my faithful helper today as I cooked, my Mom set a gorgeous table and cleaned the house... I feel blessed beyond measure. Even though I didn't sleep too much last night (I was up till 1:00 with the soup), today was worth all the work. My aunt, uncle, and grandfather came for dinner, and it was wonderful to have them with us. We don't see my aunt and uncle very often.

So yes, I am thankful for my family today. I am also abundantly thankful for my friend Zachary who is a gift beyond measure. I miss him today and can't wait to see him soon!

Today's menu included:

Carrot Soup
Waldorf Salad (Susanna)
Roast Turkey
Cornbread Dressing
Glazed Sweet Potatoes
Garlic Roasted Green Beans with Shallots and Hazelnuts
Cranberry Sauce (David)
Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
Pecan Pies (David)

And no, I didn't cook in the chef's whites. They are my dad's, and he wanted a "chef" picture of me. He certainly has a sense of humor!

Thursday, November 12, 2009