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Safe Place with Ruth Graham

I had an interesting conversation with my 9-year-old grandson yesterday morning. He was asking how I could be sure God was the real God when there were thousands of God’s. He likes to argue.

The last Psalm, 150, which I read this last day of the year is full of praise for our exalted God.

I begins with the exclamation and command: Praise the LORD! When “Lord” is capitalized it is the Almighty God. Yahweh. It makes us have big thoughts about God – too often my God is too small. I need to think worthily of Him.

Then it says to praise Him in His sanctuary – that’s inside. Then to praise Him in His mighty expanse – that’s outside. So praise Him everywhere.

Then praise Him for His mighty deeds – what He has done for you. Praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Not just plain greatness, but excellent greatness. That’s who He is.

Praise Him with trumpets. Trumpets usually herald or announce. Tell of His greatness to all you meet in 2019. Praise Him with harp and lyre – that is usually comforting and soothing. He is our comforter.

Praise Him with dancing – praise Him bodily. I’m not good at that. I was raised a staid Presbyterian so that sort of thing is difficult for me. We never danced! It is not my usual display. That’s something I need to learn.

Praise Him with stringed instruments. The strings of any instrument are under enormous pressure. A typical piano has 10 tons of pressure on its strings. Praise His while you are under stress and pressure. Praise will put it all in perspective.

Praise Him with cymbals. Cymbals are usually for celebration! So praise Him in the joyful moments to the coming year…and repeat it.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!”

May God bless you greatly in 2019!

Yesterday morning, Christmas, I got up early to drive over to my oldest daughter’s home to watch the kids open their stockings. Since it was early I decided to stop by Starbucks and treat myself to a decaf latte. (I don’t drink caffeine and I am very self-righteous about it! I don’t drink it because it causes terrible tremors.)

Anyway, on my way to Starbucks I passed a man standing beside the road holding a sign asking for help. I think we call that “panhandling”. It was cold out and he was bundled up as best as he could. As I drove on to Starbucks I decided I’d get him a cup off hot coffee and breakfast sandwich.

I gave my order and when it came time for me to pay I was informed that the preceding car had paid for my order! There was no opportunity to thank the person – all I knew was it was a white car.

I backtracked to give the coffee and sandwich to the man but saw he was walking away. Fortunately, there was no traffic ’cause I went across several lanes the wrong way to try to catch up with him. I got his attention and gave him the coffee and sandwich. He was more than grateful and said, “God bless you, ma’am”.

Oh, I was blessed. Indeed! It made my Christmas.

I went to prison this week! Not for crimes which I had done but to attend the graduation of 45 men from college. Through The Global Prison Seminaries Foundation, founded by my friend, Burl Cain former warden of Angola Prison in Louisiana, these men had the opportunity to graduate with a four-year degree and it came with all the pomp and circumstance of a full-blown graduation. Members of the faculty and Provost and President came in full regalia and gave speeches. The graduates were in cap and gown – two gave their testimonies: where they had been – they are serving “15-to-life” sentences – but, their lives are changed. You could see the transformation in their faces.

And their families sitting off to the side were beaming with pride. I am sure several mothers never dreamed she’d see her son graduate with a 4-year degree in Christian Ministry. All the long nights of tears and hours sitting in a courtroom…What did she feel? Pride? Relief? Joy?

Their sentences were not shortened or commuted or pardoned. Those circumstances are the same. They are still incarcerated. but now they will be sent to other prisons as “missionaries” to minister to other prisoners. Their transformation does not depend on their circumstances.

At Christmas, we speak of transformation. The heavens were transformed with an angelic host proclaiming “Good news of great joy”. A teenaged virgin was transformed into the mother of God. The simple, humble shepherds were transformed into evangelists. The kings from the East, so used to being honored, were transformed into gift-bearers. Indeed, our very world-history was forever changed. This baby’s birth changed everything. We divide our calendar with BC – before Christ and AD – anno Domini “since Christ was born”. (Yes, I know they are trying to change that, too.)

John’s Gospel tells us, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” What a transformation! No longer was the Word from on High – it was here, in the flesh. It walked among us. It was real. Because of God’s willingness to transform Himself into a baby we can be transformed into His likeness just like those graduates!

That is good news of great joy!

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Last evening I went to my granddaughter’s school program. She is in 6th grade. It was not billed as a Christmas program or even a “holiday” program. But being the time of year and, past events and past years that had a “holiday” theme or even a Christmas theme, I had some expectation.

As far as I saw, there wasn’t a decoration, a tree, a candle anywhere to be seen.

The families came. They took pictures. They were excited to see their child perform. All seemed the same.

The children did well. The title of the program was “The Travelers, A Quest for Sunlight”. The Story line was a group of people had lived in darkness for too long and were seeking the light. The children sang, Simon and Garfunkle’s Sound of Silence,, the Beatles, Let It Be, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing”, U2’s “Stuck in the Moment”, Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”, and the final song was the Beatles’, “Here Comes the Sun”.

At first, I was angry at the lost opportunity and the message which was human-centric and “group-think”.

They almost got it right – but they missed it by a mile. We were in darkness but we didn’t have to go search for The Light. It has shined out of that darkness into our hearts in the person of Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us that the light did shine in the darkness but the darkness did not comprehend it. I saw that last night.

“Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

Our culture has moved away from the Truth. They are trying to un-Christmas – the greatest gift of light mankind has ever received. We don’t have to search in the darkness. The Light Has Come!