It was just a Night…

Imagine with me what it was like for the simple shepherds on that holiest of nights, so many years ago.

The quiet hillside breathing silently under a clear, star filled sky; the sound of their flocks settling in, like they always did, with murmurs, rustlings and scrabblings; the occasional noisy bleat of lambs, fussing for a warm spot next to the fluffy ewes.

Shepherds, ever watchful and alert, yet calm and ready for a typical, peaceful night; perhaps they, too, scoot in close to the warm and fuzzy sheep, as the night air cools and chills.

Quiet conversations around a small fire and a simple meal, perhaps? Jokes and a recounting of the day wan and fade, as night falls deeper still.

It was just a night, until it wasn’t.

Imagine their quiet night, suddenly interrupted by the sky exploding in radiant, holy light and sound, like nothing ever seen before; certainly nothing ever seen by a group of tired shepherds, outside a sleepy village on a typical night. The terror and fear must have been palpable, washing over them like a terrible nightmare, until they heard the angel voice, saying, “Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the City of David! And this is how you will recognize Him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!” (Luke 2: 10-12)

Add to this amazing announcement, this supernatural display, the addition of a vast host of the armies of heaven, praising God and rejoicing at this beautiful, holy, saving gift, just given to all people, for all time. A gift that will never be fully understood; mocked and ridiculed and murdered, yet the only gift that will love, redeem and save your life and mine.

Imagine that first feeling of terror, turning to incredible joy, an unspeakable love and a supernatural peace, that in all its Divine power was quite possibly unbearable; wild and fierce.  I can feel in my bones the uncontrollable need to fall to my knees in reverence, awe, fear and worship before such an announcement! A Savior, the Messiah, the Holy One come to save; a divine encounter with the King of Kings and the heavenly host. The atmosphere must have been sizzling with a supernatural, divine portent.

When the angels departed, did the shepherds stand around arguing about what they had just experienced? Did they try to explain away this divine encounter with the supernatural as indigestion? An atmospheric distortion, strange cloud formations, tainted wine? Did they try to explain away the best gift ever given to mankind; a gift of love so deep that human minds cannot fathom it? No, they didn’t. They believed. They wanted to seek out the Savior, to see him, to worship him, to accept the love gift freely given to them. They accepted the joy, excitement and love and shared it with others.

I don’t imagine they slept much that night. Returning to their now still and silent hillside, I wonder if they spoke. Did they attempt to recount to each other the events they just witnessed? I wonder if they fully understood the impact of what they beheld in that lowly stable. How can they explain the Divine? I wonder what changes took place silently in their hearts? What did they ponder? Mary quietly treasured up all she witnessed and went through that night in her heart and pondered it often. Did the shepherds do the same?

It was just a night on the hillside with their sheep, until it wasn’t.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

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Praise in the Ordinary

What is praise? The dictionary gives it these definitions: the act of expressing approval or admiration; commendation; the offering of grateful homage in words or song, as an act of worship: a hymn of praise to God. What is worship?  Reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to.

I have had many opportunities to praise and worship the Lord Jesus Christ over the past several years. There are so many circumstances, health issues, family crises that He alone has brought me and my family through; not unscathed, but scarred, healed, grateful and thankful; forever changed in profound ways because of His intervention and miracles, His perfect timing, extravagant love and omnipotence. Those situations and circumstances will forever be etched into my mind, burned there. Those life situations are now an intimate and intricate part of who I am; they make up a deep part of my relationship with Jesus. Not easily forgotten or minimized, these profound supernatural interventions are part of my personal story, that I get the honor of sharing with others, with the hope of introducing them to Jesus, their savior and deep lover of their souls. These kinds of circumstances and situations are so obviously and wondrously worthy of all praise to God our Father, Jesus Christ our Savior, Holy Spirit our comforter, because we know like we know, like we know, that but for Him, there was no hope.

But what about the ordinary days, when nothing earth shattering happens, no crisis raises its horrible head, no blindsiding tragedy leaves us reeling and completely off balance? What about the days that we can call “good days”? This is something I have been giving a lot of head space to lately. What about those good days? Do I only practice praise when I’ve been delivered from a tragedy? God is worthy of my praise all the time; daily, no matter what that particular day will bring. What do we praise Him for, on a day with no tragedy, no arguments, or close calls? We praise Him for that very thing and everything else.  I want to be so thankful and mindful of Him and all the small, barely discernable ways that He is caring for me, organizing and weaving my life together, that I can’t not praise Him; just for life and another breath; for another day to sit outside on my patio with delicious coffee and the Finches at the birdfeeder, the dogs investigating the yard, the sun or rain, a gentle breeze that stirs my hair or a wild wind that is full of excitement! Praise is never wasted.  Never. I find that when I practice active praise my attitude shifts, I become aware of all He has done for me. It makes me content and happy and at peace.  I praise Him for the ways He directs my path and keeps me from harm that I am completely unaware of. Maybe I am 5 minutes late getting out of the house today, because He timed things perfectly for me to miss a terrible accident.  Absolutely praiseworthy. Maybe I have to run back to the grocery store for a forgotten item, because there is a woman outside the store that needs to feel seen; that I am supposed to smile at, buy her a sandwich and pray for her.  Praise to Him that I could be used by a mighty God to be His hands and feet to a fellow sojourner in need. Praise to God that He created so much natural beauty at the duck pond near my house, that it takes my breath away. Praise to Jesus that if I slow down, I can feel His touch in the sun and breeze on my face. Praise to the Creator who delights in painting beautiful landscapes, sunrises and sunsets, just so He can delight me and bring me joy. Praise to the One who knows me so intimately, who knows that some days I need to just sit by a warm fire, under a blanket, with my purring cat, and just be and He arranges that just for me.  To me, this is praise in the ordinary and I want to be a praising woman. Can you and I look around today with fresh eyes, aware that all around us are wonderful praiseworthy things and amazing praiseworthy people, created just for us by our Father, for our delight and our joy? Can we take a few minutes and praise Him and thank Him for the ordinary blessings He lavishes on us? I think that would delight Him to no end!