December 25, 2011

Unto Us a Child is Born

Merry Christmas. We have reached the high point of our Advent journey together!

During this six-week blog-study we’ve been unpacking the story of the Nativity with reference to scripture (the Gospel of Luke) and snippets from Mary, My Love by Cynthia Davis. You do not have to have read the book to enjoy the blog. If you do want to order a copy, email me.

Luke tells us “In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:8-20)

Handel’s Messiah shouts the news triumphantly, even though the real birth was barely noticed. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” The words are from Isaiah 9:6. The scene has been a favorite of artists, like this 17th century rendition by Abraham Bloemaert.

Luke says that “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” For Joseph, (In Mary, My Love) the visit of the shepherds had the effect of reaffirming for him that he was, in fact, living into his call-into God’s plan for his life:

“Why did you choose me, a humble carpenter of Nazareth, to be father of this child? What can I give him? Messiah should be clothed in purple and live in a palace.” I whispered my nagging question into the silence.
Eventually I drifted to sleep no closer to an answer than any time in the past nine months. Voices roused me. For a moment I was disoriented. Then I remembered the stable, the birth, and the visit of the shepherds. They were back, joyfully celebrating and praising God. Somewhere a skin of the local wine had been obtained.
“To the father!” The tall shepherd, a little unsteadily, raised the skin to his lips and then offered it to me.
The rest gathered around me with more congratulations as I took a drink.
“God truly is wonderful!”
“Messiah is announced to shepherds!”
“Always it is to the humble and lowly that God reveals His works,” Jediah announced.
He was not drunk except with peace and joy.
“What did you say?” I stared at the man in amazement.
“It is not the proud or mighty who see the Hand of God. We who are poor and humble are the ones who know God.”…
Mary called me from my reverie. Hastily I entered the cave. My wife sat on the bed of blankets and straw Elam and I had prepared the night before. The baby slept in the food trough carved in the cave wall. More straw and blankets made a cozy nest. With her hair loose around her shoulders, Mary looked more like a child than a woman who had recently given birth.
“Yes, my love, did we awaken you?”
A warm smile softened the young face even more. Then she looked serious. Mary leaned over the infant and kissed his cheek, gathering the little body into her arms.
“Your aunt is only the first to doubt that Jeshua is Messiah. You and I and Jediah have the words of angels to reassure us. But, he is so ordinary, just as Rachel said.”
When the woman looked up, I saw disappointment and even doubt in her eyes. Tears brimmed and threatened to spill over. Dropping to my knees beside my wife, I gathered her reverently and gently into my arms. My lips touched the baby’s forehead. I held my family in silence trying to find an answer. Jediah’s words came back to me.
“I think the old shepherd was right,” I faltered, trying to explain my insight. “The God of our Fathers reveals himself in unexpected ways. Yahweh uses the ordinary to show his power and glory. Jediah mentioned Gideon, David, Moses and Joseph as examples of ordinary men used by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This stable is perhaps the most fitting place of all for Messiah to be born, among the people where God has always sought to dwell.”
“Yes, my husband. It is in the commonplace that God is present.” Confidence was back in Mary’s voice and she smiled up at me. “Stars and sand were signs of the promises to Abraham. Esther was not born to be a queen, yet she was raised up and saved her people. This child is indeed the Son of the Most High. The shepherds were sent to affirm that to us so we would not doubt.”
“Truly God has blessed us,” I agreed.
I held my wife and child as the darkness outside the stable lightened into day. When the baby stirred and whimpered, Mary roused from her doze to offer her breast. I rose to say my morning prayers from the entrance of the cave. My heart was full of praise.
“God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, blessed are you, awesome and mighty are your deeds. In the common is found the holy. In the ordinary is your hand, Creator of the Universe. Praise to you, O God.”

God offers hope and encouragement when we need it, often it is only after we allow God to be God. Our ministry will have ups and downs, we only need to trust that God is present through it all.

May your Christmas Day and Christmas season be blessed. May your ministry and call be affirmed as you celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ in a manger in Bethlehem.

Next week we’ll take one final look at the Nativity story and living into our call from God.

December 18, 2011

Discouragement Happens

During this six-week blog-study we’re be unpacking the story of the Nativity with reference to scripture (the Gospel of Luke) and snippets from Mary, My Love by Cynthia Davis. You do not have to have read the book to enjoy the blog. If you do want to order a copy, email me.

The first week of Advent we saw Mary accepting the call of God on her life. Then we met Joseph. His acceptance of his call to be Mary’s husband seems small, but was vitally important. Last time we explored how essential it is to have friends who offer support to our call and ministry like Mary and Elizabeth did for each other.

Mary and Joseph settled into their life as a married couple expecting a baby. Their plans for a normal life were shattered by the Roman demand for a census. In just 5 verses Luke tells us of the upheaval of their lives. “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.” (Luke 2:1-5)

Joseph and Mary surely expected the Child to be born in Nazareth where they lived. Those who have heard the Christmas story, know otherwise. The Roman demand for a census meant that despite being close to her delivery time, Mary had to travel with Joseph to the City of David-Bethlehem. “While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 6-7)

We have probably all felt that sense of discouragement when we were sure we were following God’s call, but things aren’t working out as we expected. Like Jeremiah we heard God’s voice loud and clear saying, “I appointed you a prophet to the nations” and the next thing we know, we are in a mud pit. Jeremiah warned the king and people that they would die by sword and famine. This made the leaders fearful and angry. “So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mire, and Jeremiah sank in the mire.” (Jeremiah 38:6) He was stuck there, literally, until the king relented and had him pulled out.

Discouragement met Joseph, not in the form of a muddy pit, but in a cave at Bethlehem. This is how it happens in Mary, My Love. He and Mary arrive and cannot find a place to stay even with his aunt.

I held my breath as she muttered to herself. “All the regular inns are full. The home of Isaac bar Ephraim is taken. Miriam, wife of Zedekiah, has filled her home as has Simon bar Dan.”
“What of Uziah or Nahum?”
The old man’s suggestions were met with negative movements of the woman’s head. She squinted and gazed around the courtyard seeking a solution. My guide continued to offer names. Each was met with a shake of the head. Finally she turned back at a small cry from Mary.
Reaching a decision, she nodded, “It might serve. At least it will be private and quiet and dry.”
Torn between irritation at our talkative guide, who still suggested fellow villagers as hosts, and concern for my wife’s condition, I was less than polite.
“Yes, where is it?”
Rachel responded with a vague gesture toward the rocks at the back of the house, “It is the cave against the hill. We use it to shelter the ewes in the early spring when they are lambing. I am sure Perez has cleaned it…”
“A stable!” I interrupted angrily.
Mary placed a hand on my shoulder. “I am sure it will be fine.”
Her words ended with a sharp intake of air as another pain grabbed my wife.
“It is settled then. Elam!” Turning quickly for such a large woman, she called for her son. The lad scampered over.
“This is your cousin…”
“Joseph bar Jacob.” I supplied my name through clenched teeth.
Further delay was unnecessary. I wanted to get Mary settled somewhere and find a midwife. My heart pounded with fear. A brief nod from Rachel acknowledged my name.
“Take them to the lambing cave. Get fresh straw for a bed and bring water and fodder.”
Orders complete, the woman turned to go. Feeling churlish, I held out my hand to stop my aunt.
“Wait. Thank you for your help.”
“Yes, yes, let it never be said that Rachel, wife of Perez bar Mattat turned away a kinsman or woman,” she added, glancing at Mary.
“Where can I find a midwife?”
Another gasp from my wife warned me that time was short.
“I will send for her and come myself as soon as I can.”
With that assurance, I had to be satisfied. Moving away, my aunt reminded me of the ship in full sail I saw once in Tyre. She strode across the courtyard dropping orders right and left. …
Elam led the way through the many animals. Camels grudgingly moved aside when the boy shouted at them. A couple of donkeys barely shifted as they eyed the new arrival walking past. Chickens scattered with great clucking and a cow decided to follow us. We went past the house and up a small incline, then back down. The path led to a round opening in the rock. With the ease of familiarity, the boy located a lamp and struck a flint. The small flame flared and settled into a steady glow.
“This way,” Elam gestured and led us into the cave.
Mary leaned heavily on me and walked slowly. I had to bend to enter. Once inside I was pleasantly surprised. A decent sized room was hollowed out of the rock. Several mangers were chipped out of the walls. Low wooden partitions divided the space into separate pens. …
“Help me up. I must prepare the swaddling clothes myself.”
A gasp shortened her planning. Gently I pushed her back down.
“Tell me what to do. You, um…, rest.”
I was embarrassed by the situation. Men should not attend a woman in childbirth, but I had no choice. I had seen animals born and even helped Balaam into the world when he was too slow. The memory of the wet, spindly, weak-kneed donkey foal was not much comfort now even when the animal looked my way with big brown eyes.
“Blankets and the swaddling clothes are in the bag.”
Glad for something to do, I unpacked the faithful little beast. I tossed the saddle into the corner, followed by my tools. I carried Mary’s bundle to her side. When I unrolled it, she showed me which items were needed. Every time the contractions came, she grabbed my arm with surprising strength. The woman scanned the cave obviously looking for something. Anxiously I bent over my bride.
“What is it? What do you need, my love?”
I thought she flushed in the lamplight, before she met my eyes.
“When the baby comes, I will need something to balance against since we have no birthing stool.”
My confusion must have shown in my face.
“I cannot give birth lying down,” she explained patiently. “A woman squats to deliver a child.”
“I will hold you,” I declared, sure it was something I could handle.
She shook her head with a forced smile, “Joseph, my dearest husband, you will have to receive the baby.”
Another, longer contraction interrupted our conversation.
I said hopefully, “Surely Rachel or the midwife will arrive before then.”
“I think the child will be born very soon,” my wife panted. She closed her eyes and steadied her breathing.
Silently I called out to God. “Why are you doing this? The Son of God, Messiah, should not be born in a stable with only a man to assist. Send help,” I pleaded. “Mary deserves better than this!”

Joseph turns to God in doubt and despair because nothing is working out as he expected. When we are discouraged, we focus on the negatives. We forget that God is in charge. In Romans 8:37, Paul reminds us “in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Like this “Knots Prayer” says we must then ask God to “untie the knots” and the ‘nots’ so we can see that God is at work.

When our ministry plans don’t fall into place, God has something infinitely better planned. However, it’s not easy to look beyond what seems like a wall in front of us to find the window. In the Sound of Music, Maria has to reevaluate her call to ministry. Mother Superior tells her “when God closes a door He opens a window” and reminds her that she must “climb every mountain…until you find your dream.” Our call is the dream God has for us. Mary and Elizabeth believed the angels’ messages and embraced their Call. I more often feel like Joseph when God moves me to ministry-hoping I am doing the right thing and going in the right direction. Joseph struggled with his part in the plan of God-his call, esp. when it didn't fit his preconceived ideas of the 'proper order' of things, like the birth of a baby.

Have you ever felt discouragement, disappointment or disillusionment when your plans for the ministry don’t fall into place? How did you cope? Did you give up or regroup?

Lord, help me look to you when I am discouraged or feel that I'm not following your call. You make us conquerors and provide windows of opportunity. Let me look for your guidance each day. AMEN.

Next week we will look at how Joseph (and Mary) were affirmed in their faith, even though (or perhaps because) the Child was born in a manger.

December 11, 2011

Bearers of the Promise

During this six-week blog-study we’ll be unpacking the story of the Nativity with reference to scripture (the Gospel of Luke) and snippets from Mary, My Love by Cynthia Davis. You do not have to have read the book to enjoy the blog. If you do want to order a copy, email me.

The first week of Advent we saw Mary accepting the call of God on her life. Call is where our woundedness meets God’s love and where we offer ourselves to move the Kingdom of God forward. Joseph, Mary’s betrothed husband, had to struggle with whether he could or would accept the call on his life. It involved accepting and claiming a child not his own and giving up his own plans for his life. Often God’s call is like that. God challenges us to move beyond ourselves and outside our comfort zone.

We cannot live into our call alone. God made us to be social. From the beginning, God said “It is not good that the man should be alone…” (Genesis 12:18) Mary knew that she needed the affirmation of someone who could understand her experience. Gabriel had told her “Your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has conceived a son; and this is now the sixth month with her who was called barren.” Despite the distance and danger of travel, Mary “arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah.” This is a journey of 60 or 70 miles, as the crow flies, and longer on winding mountain roads. It probably took the young girl over a week to arrive in Hebron (the traditional home of Zechariah and Elizabeth).

The trip was worth the effort though. Both Mary and Elizabeth realized that they were truly servants of the Lord and burst into praise. Elizabeth tells Mary, “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:45) She could have said the same thing about herself since she, too, had accepted God’s call on her life and the gift of a son in her old age and barrenness.

Friends in faith can affirm our call and help us with support and encouragement. The song “You Raise Me Up”* written by Brendan Graham in 2002 says “You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains; You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas; I am strong, when I am on your shoulders; You raise me up: To more than I can be.” That is what a friend in the Lord can do.

We hear that “Mary remained with [Elizabeth] for about three months and then returned to her home.” During that time the two women probably shared many joys as each prepared to bear a child who bore the promise of God. When Mary returned to Nazareth she news of her visit with Joseph (from my book Mary, My Love):

“Why? I would think she would want to share her news.” I frowned, confused by the older woman’s actions.
“I wondered that, too. Elizabeth said, ‘They would have stolen away my secret joy.’ When she finally did venture to the market after five months, the comments were full of amazement.”
“I am sure they were.”
I could well imagine the stir that Elizabeth’s pregnancy and Zechariah’s muteness caused in the small town.
Mary smiled, “When I arrived, Elizabeth was so glad to see me. I think the whispers and speculation were tiring her out.”
My mind turned to the gossip around the well in Nazareth. I drew my wife closer wishing to protect her from the inevitable comments that would start again now that she was back. Mary understood my silence.
“Joseph, we cannot stop the mouths of the neighbors. You and I know the truth. That will be enough.”
“My love, I wish I could spare you. If they knew that you carry Messiah…”
The vehemence in my tone made the girl open her eyes wide with surprise.
“God will make the truth known,” she assured me, “just like God did for Elizabeth, when I arrived.”
“Tell me.”
Mary snuggled close and continued her story. Her face glowed with serenity.
“Elizabeth started across the room to greet me. Then she stopped suddenly and put a hand on her belly. She said, ‘Blessed are you. Who am I that the mother of the Savior comes to me?’ It was a final piece of proof that this baby is of God.”
A sigh of contentment slipped out as my wife smoothed her gown over the tiny rounding of her figure.
“My cousin told me, ‘When I heard your voice my baby leaped with joy.’ God confirmed my child through Elizabeth’s baby.”
I laid my rough hand over the girl’s small fingers. “Yes, and your presence affirmed her child also.”
“You do understand! Our joy was so great that we sang together, praising God for raising up salvation for the people.” Mary began to sing softly. She slipped from my lap to pirouette around the shop as she repeated the joyous chant, “His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
I marveled at the radiance of my wife and smiled, “Surely just so did Sarah and Rebecca proclaim their joy when they conceived. This child is the fulfillment of their longings and the longings of all Israel.”
“Yes, my husband, our son is the One promised from the beginning.”

We are not meant to be solitary beings, but to live in community. We are supposed to share our joys and sorrows and fears. We support one another when we are in need of support and encouragement. Mary & Elizabeth affirmed each other’s child as a gift from God. God gives us friends who ‘sit awhile’ and who ‘raise me up.’ God acts through our friends who support us.

Have you ever been supported by those who believe in you because they are your friends or because they are fellow servants of God in a similar ministry? Who do you look to when you need affirmation? Conversely-who have you lifted up and helped with their burden?

As the song says, “When troubles come and my heart burdened be; then, I am still and wait here in the silence, until you come and sit awhile with me.” Then “I am strong, when I am on your shoulders; You raise me up: To more than I can be.” Look to your community of friends when the call to ministry seems to be too difficult or dim. They will give you the courage to go on-to be 'more than I can be'.

PRAYER: God of Mary and Elizabeth, you call us to be in community with one another. Help me to seek out those who support me so that I can follow your call with joy and eagerness. Let me be willing to be vulnerable to them and to you as I become “more than I can be.” AMEN

Next week we'll see that following the Call of God isn't always smooth sailing.

*You Raise Me up
When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up: To more than I can be.

There is no life - no life without its hunger;
Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;
But when you come and I am filled with wonder,
Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up: To more than I can be

December 4, 2011

Dear Joseph

During this six-week blog-study we’ll be unpacking the story of the Nativity with reference to scripture (the Gospel of Luke) and snippets from Mary, My Love by Cynthia Davis. You do not have to have read the book to enjoy the blog. If you do want to order a copy, email me.

Last week we saw how Mary responded with joyful acceptance to God’s call to be mother of Messiah. Her reply, “let it be according to your word” changed not only her life but those around her. Identifying our call is only the first step. We have to act on it. Mary had to tell her parents and her betrothed husband, Joseph of the angel’s visit. The Bible says nothing about her parent’s response and very little about Joseph’s shock.

As Mary’s betrothed husband, Joseph would have had the right to have her stoned for adultery, or he could have divorced her. Matthew 1:19-20 tells us he decided, “Being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, [he] planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’”
In Mary, My Love, Joseph has a much more human response.

Unable to work, I threw on my outer garment and stormed from the building, nearly trampling Benoni. He backed away from my rage without even a question. Blindly I headed for the hills beyond Nazareth. If anyone greeted me, I did not hear. Mary’s words repeated their terrible litany in my head.
“Bear a son…God man…I do not lie.”
Faster and faster I walked, until I was running up the mountainside. The same grove of trees that saw my decision to wed Mary received me. Like a mad man I smashed my hands against one trunk and then another until my rage was spent. In despair I fell to my knees.
“God, why do you mock me? I believed you gave me Mary’s love. Now she admits that she carries a child which is not mine!” Renewed anger set me to pacing. Suspicion fueled the fire. “Joachim was eager to accept my offer. Did he know that his daughter was no virgin, even then? Was I the dupe all along?”
Worn out from the day’s passion, I sank to my knees. The Name of the Most High was all I could say. Over and over I repeated the word.
Eventually, I resolved to divorce Mary and send her away to preserve her life. Exhausted, I leaned against a tree trunk and closed my eyes. I must have dozed. The dream, when it came, held me tightly even after I awakened. As Mary said, the angel was a figure of light without real form. Even in my sleep, I felt my heartbeat quickening.
“Joseph, do not be afraid. You may take Mary as your wife. The child is conceived by the Spirit of God. She will bear a son. You will name him Jeshua. For just as his name means ‘God saves’, so this child will save all people.”
Then the messenger from God was gone. The peace that enveloped me left me comforted. Gradually, I opened my eyes to stare at the surrounding trees. The grove was in darkness but my soul was in light. Moonlight filtered through the sparse early spring leaves to illuminate the trunks and the ground. Slowly I sat up, reassured and unafraid. God had stolen my beloved but I would not lose her.

Joseph, in the night-long struggle with God and his conscience comes to accept his own call-his own place in the unfolding drama. He accepted the child as his own, knowing that there would be whispers and gossip. Joseph’s feelings of betrayal by Mary were put aside out of love and for the healing of both his anger and the sins of the world.

In the Disney movie Hercules, the hero sings “I Will Go the Distance”*. By embracing God’s call, this is exactly what Joseph agreed to do. He would have agreed with Hercules who says, Down an unknown road, to embrace my fate Though that road may wander, it will lead me to you And a thousand years, would be worth the wait It might take a lifetime, but somehow I'll see it through. And I won't look back, I can go the distance And I'll stay on track, no, I won't accept defeat It's an uphill slope, but I won't lose hope Till I go the distance, and my journey is complete”

Unlike Hercules, Joseph knew his call was to follow God’s will, not the desire for a ‘hero’s welcome’. He did not know how his resolve would be tested in the coming years. When we step out in faith to follow God’s call, we don’t know where that road will lead us. However, we can know that when we stay in God’s will, “I know ev'ry mile, will be worth my while When I go the distance, I'll be right where I belong.”

As Mary learned, it can be hard to tell others of our call, our vision to make a difference in the world. Sometimes we are met with resistance, anger, disbelief, even rejection or condemnation. It takes courage to hold fast to the call of God.

Sometimes the challenge to accepting the call can come from within. It can be easy to look at the ministry and success (by worldly standards) of other’s work and response to their call. We can say, ‘my little bit doesn’t matter.’ I am reminded of a story Max Lucado tells of visiting a woman who carved Bible shapes from wood then decoupaged a Bible verse on each plaque. Her call was to make these plaques which offered encouragement to those who got them. She might have sat at home and done nothing, esp. if she compared her wood carvings to someone like Lucado’s fame. Yet, she did not. Joseph is often overlooked because he ‘just’ married Mary. However, his response to God’s call changed his expectations of his life dramatically.

Many heroes and heroines in the Bible met with resistance, both internal and external, when they stepped out in faith. Sometimes it is their own doubts that prevent them from acting. In the Book of Esther, she hesitates to approach the King when the Jews are threatened with death. Mordecai reminds her, “If you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

Joseph did not believe Mary at first. He had to struggle with his conscience and with God’s demands before “he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24-25) His ‘yes’ to God was a tiny pebble in the sea, but without it, the story would have been very different. Can your ‘yes’ to God make a difference? Indeed it can!

Have you ever shared your dream or call to ministry with someone and been met with skepticism or worse? How did you react?
Are you resisting responding to God’s call because you think it’s ‘not big enough’?

Holy God, help me to ‘go the distance’ you require of me. I want to respond to your call on my life with joy, but sometimes I am fearful and doubt that I hear you correctly. Inspire me with your love to share that love with the world. AMEN

Next week we'll see what happens to Elizabeth and how she and Mary encourage one another.
*I Can Go the Distance (from Disney's Hercules)

I have often dreamed, of a far off place
Where a hero's welcome, would be waiting for me
Where the crowds will cheer, when they see my face
And a voice keeps saying, this is where I'm meant to be

I'll be there someday, I can go the distance
I will find my way, if I can be strong
I know ev'ry mile, will be worth my while
When I go the distance, I'll be right where I belong

Down an unknown road, to embrace my fate
Though that road may wander, it will lead me to you
And a thousand years, would be worth the wait
It might take a lifetime, but somehow I'll see it through

And I won't look back, I can go the distance
And I'll stay on track, no, I won't accept defeat
It's an uphill slope, but I won't lose hope
Till I go the distance, and my journey is complete

But to look beyond the glory is the hardest part
For a hero's strength is measured by his heart

Like a shooting star, I will go the distance
I will search the world, I will face it's harms
I don't care how far, i can go the distance
Till I find my hero's welcome, waiting in your arms