Light in the Darkness

[Reposted and updated from January, 2012]

stars in night sky

Light Shines Brightest in Darkness (image by bulldogza at freedigitalphotos.net)

The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.
(Isaiah 9:2, also referenced in Matthew 4:16)

Have you happened to notice the stars shining in the night sky this week? They were so amazingly clear and bright!

On December 21, this year, we have an unusual event that occurs about once every 30 years or so.  The New Moon falls on the exact same night as the Winter Solstice.  For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the longest, darkest night of the year is also a night with no moonlight.

Quite simply, this is as dark as a clear night sky ever gets. Yet, the stars are so brilliant! Only on such a dark night can we fully see just how bright those stars really are. Light always shines brightest in darkness!

Speaking of the coming Messiah, Isaiah, the prophet, said, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light!

Jesus is the Light of the world, yet His ministry is to those in darkness. In order to minister to us, He came to this land of darkness, this world that is filled with sin, deception, and blindness. The sin and darkness did not simply disappear in His presence. Jesus, Light of the world, was surrounded by darkness during His ministry on this earth.

And in the midst of that darkness, the Light of God’s glory shone more brightly than ever!

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light!

Jesus, himself, is light, yet he ministered in the midst of darkness, and to those in darkness He was a great light. Now, watch what happens to those who choose to follow Him.

I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life! (Matthew 8:12)

As we follow Him, we become surrounded by His light. Although we still inhabit a world filled with darkness, we ourselves, now walk in light.

Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.

Though we still live in a dark land, the light of God’s glory shines on us, as we follow Him!

The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.

Not a light away from the darkness, but a light in the darkness. When we follow Him, we are not called to be removed from the darkness, but to walk in His light, as we continue to live in a dark land.

Why? Why leave us living in a dark land, if we are now walking in light?

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

We are called to the same ministry as Jesus, to be the light of the world, to shine the light of God’s glory in a world filled with darkness.

To be a light in the darkness, we must be surrounded by darkness, while walking in the light. We cannot just hang out at church, with fellow believers, any more than Jesus could stay in Heaven, with the Father. To be a light in the darkness, we must connect with the people in darkness, on a personal level.

As a light in the darkness, we also suffer the consequences of darkness. During His earthly ministry, Jesus suffered hunger, cold, rejection, and temptation, just as we do. Those are a natural part of living in a world filled with darkness. We also live with the effects of a dark world, even as we walk in the light.

As Christians, it is easy to start expecting God to insulate us from all of the effects of living in a dark land. Since we are walking in light, we start expecting to be untouched by the darkness surrounding us. However, it does not work that way. Though we are walking in the light of God’s glory, we still live in a dark land, and that darkness still affects our lives with sorrow, grief, relational devastation, rejection, illness and temptation.

And you know what? Continuing to feel the effects of the surrounding darkness is neither accidental nor incidental. This is God’s intentional plan for our lives. We are the light of the world. We are called to a ministry of being light in the darkness, and to fulfill that calling it is necessary both to walk in light and to live in a dark land.

Light always shines brightest in darkness!

Your thoughts?

Essence

blackberry wine label

My Blackberry Wine

I like wine.

I’m not a connoisseur…a critic…nor an expert. I’m more of an enthusiast…one step removed from a wino only because the color, clarity, body, aroma and taste are more important to me than the alcohol content.

Not only do I enjoy drinking wine, but I also enjoy making wine. As a hobby, wine making is a nice mixture of creativity and science…with a healthy dose of patience and hopeful expectancy thrown in.

Although I’ve enjoyed making a few classic grape wines, I mostly enjoy making wines from local produce such as blackberries, peaches, or plums.  The challenge is to produce a wine that captures the essence of the fruit…a taste of summer extracted into a bright clear liquid bursting with color, aroma and flavor that are the essence of the fruit from which they are derived…carefully preserved in a bottle.

When I give a bottle of wine as a gift, I’m not just giving a bottle of wine. I’m giving the gift of my patient hard work in meticulously cleaning and sterilizing all of the equipment, washing and preparing the fruit, extracting the juice, monitoring the fermentation process, carefully racking the wine through multiple stages of clarification, and bottling…all for the purpose of allowing the recipient to experience the essence of the fruit in liquid form.

When I taste my blackberry wine, I expect the aroma and flavor to pop with the unmistakable essence of blackberries. No, it’s not the same as eating a blackberry, nor should it be.  The juice has been extracted out from the pulp.  The acidity has been reduced by diluting with water.  Sugar has been added to replace loss in the water dilution.  Tannins have been added.  The sugar has mostly been converted to alcohol.  The clarification process has left a bright, clear, deep red liquid. These are fundamental chemical and physical changes…for the purpose of drawing out the essence of the fruit.

Hope Watermelon Festvial in Hope, Arkansas

Hope Watermelon Festival

In my efforts to extract the essence of favorite local produce, I would truly be remiss if I excluded watermelons. Hope, Arkansas is the self-proclaimed Watermelon Capitol of the World.  Local farmers take pride in producing excellent melons.  And chilled fresh watermelon happens to be a favorite of mine!

Southwest Arkansas summers routinely see temperatures on the range of 110 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity close to 100%…heat exhaustion is a very real life-safety concern.  On a hot muggy August evening, few things are more refreshing than a crisp slice of chilled watermelon.  One bite of that sweet delicious melon heart bursts with refreshing flavor and rejuvenating liquids.

It’s good, y’all!  :-)

Needless to say, I do make and enjoy watermelon wine.

wine_watermelon

A freshly bottled batch of watermelon wine

My first experience making watermelon wine was a bit disconcerting, though. The juice starts out a nice pink rosy color, as one would expect.  And, of course, the juice tastes just like the sweet melon meat from which it is extracted.  However, as the clarification process removes all the pulp particles, a pale green liquid is left.  My first taste of watermelon wine was not at all what I expected.  I was looking forward to that burst of flavor from a crisp chilled melon heart.  What I tasted, instead, was melon rind.  Initially, I didn’t like it at all.  I now enjoy watermelon wine, but caution novices on what to expect.  Although I sweeten the wine a little, the color and flavor that come through are still the rind.  It is an acquired taste…closer to watermelon rind pickles than that fresh burst of sweet flavor in a bite of melon heart.

It turns out the essence of watermelon is the rind.

What is the essence of a man?

When the lifelong processes of sorrow mixed with joy, love mixed with loss, and disappointments mixed with accomplishments combine with natural aging processes to extract a man’s essence, what falls out as the precipitation of pulp particles, and what is extracted as the clarified essence?

I remember, as a child, admiring my Grandpa Mitchell as an anointed Bible teacher, while also timidly withdrawing from his harsh tone, impatience, and severe expectations…children are to be seen and not heard.  Although I admired him, I was also frightened of him.  Yet, as Grandpa aged…as he lost his beloved wife…as he suffered strokes and diminishing health…as he lost his independence and increasingly relied on others for assistance…he also lost that impatient edge.

Grandpa’s impatience and strict expectations precipitated out with his other losses, leaving behind an essence of patient love, grace, and thankfulness.

As the Master Vintner monitors the processes of my life experiences, I pray that when the process is complete, He will find my essence to be a reflection of His own character…His own image.

Your thoughts?

 

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Unforced Rythms, Wellspring, Trading Good  ]

 

Come Lord Jesus

My father wrote this Christmas hymn many years ago. Lately, I find myself humming or singing snatches of it while I drive or feed animals.

That God Became
Henri D Pote

That God became our brother through Christ’s birth,
When in the ox-stall Mary’s Baby came,
I know – for it was Man of my own earth
That God became.

We were a needy lot, all much the same
In bitterness of heart and spirit dearth,
Though some had heard God speak to them by name.

Then in a wakening night of holy mirth,
Angels filled the sky with loud acclaim
To that wee child of fingers-spanning girth
That God became

It’s certainly related to last week’s post, though I honestly couldn’t tell you whether the song inspired the post or writing the post reminded me of the song.

Today, I feel very mixed emotions…and am shedding a few tears…as I ponder these lines. It’s been 13 months since Papa went home with Jesus.  Every Christmas, Papa and Mama would sing this song, together.  The song certainly carries nostalgia for me…but it’s so much more than just nostalgia.

It’s the message of the song…

It’s the message of my last post…which is a similar theme to the song…

It’s knowing that, today, Papa is in the arms of the Savior he trusted to get him there…

It’s knowing Papa well enough to be honest about his failings as well as his strengths and his faith…

It’s David Rupert’s post about not becoming grumpy and old…

It’s Kelli Woodford’s post about the fragility of life and the awful amazing risk of placing an infant in a manger, in a world of wolves, and trusting that infant with the eternal destiny of the human race…

It’s Rick Dawson’s post about no such thing as a true ‘cure’ in this life…

It’s Candace Jo’s post tying the first advent to the second advent…and singing “Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel” in longing for His second coming as well as in celebration of His first coming…

It’s recalling how Papa, as he aged, as he lost his hearing, as dementia began to steal his memories…how he became more thankful…more full of praise…more patient…more kind…more full of grace…more confident of God’s love…

It’s a deep thankfulness that Jesus chose to become a man…to live among us…to suffer and die for us…

It’s a deep longing to become more like Christ…recognition that I can never accomplish that…faith that He can and will accomplish it…

It’s a deep sorrow over the loss, pain and brokenness in this life…

It’s a deep joy in Christ…

It’s a deep longing for His return…

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

 

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Unforced Rythms, Wellspring ]

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