A Lifetime of Waiting

Story is adapted from Luke 2:25-34
By Denise Cunningham

Anna opened the door of the temple and with slow steady steps she walked into this familiar place. She began to walk toward the altar, her wrinkled hand gripping the smooth wood of the pew to steady herself. The smells of oil and incense filled the air; a sweet fragrance reminiscent of times of worship and prayer being lifted upward just like the incense and candles.

Anna loved this place. It had been her home for many years now. Seven years after she had married, her husband had died and she had given herself to the service of the Lord, and that was eighty-four years ago. It was here in this temple that she had served Him faithfully. She had prayed with friends and strangers. She had shared burdens and joys alike. She had heard the preaching of God’s Word and was reminded of God’s promise to send a Savior. She looked for Him here every day as she carried out her duties.

Today as she made her way toward the altar she heard her friend, Simeon. His voice was jubilant and excited. There was an air of anticipation and Anna felt a shiver seize her small frame. Though her eyes were dim, due to her ninety plus years, she thought she could see Simeon holding a baby in his arms. Yes, it was an infant and standing beside Simeon was a young couple, most likely the baby’s parents. Then Anna heard Simeon’s voice as he lifted his eyes towards heaven, the baby held tenderly in his hands,

“Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people, A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”

Anna was lost in her own joy as Simeon then turned his words toward the young parents.
“This is my Savior!” she thought to herself. Tears formed in her eyes as she took in the details of this baby. Not just any baby, God’s Son, the Promised One!

Anna clasped her hands, tears of joy finding their way down her wrinkled cheeks. She would have wonderful news to share with all that entered the temple today…to all that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Christ was born, their salvation was here , their future secure!

We can learn much from the story of Anna. We could ask ourselves several questions in response to her life:
  • Who am I preoccupied with today?
  • Am I looking for the Lord’s return with as much anticipation as Anna waited for the Savior?
  • Am I sharing with others the redemption that has come through Christ?
  • Is my life happily filled with service to my God?

Memory Making Crafts

I have a video tape of our youngest daughter Allison helping me make cookies. She is standing up on the step stool stirring the dough. I asked her what we put in the bowl and she answers in her crackly three year old-voice,

“Sugar, butter, eggs”

“And and what else?”
“’M ms!’” (M & M’s)!

One of my fondest memories of being the mom of young girls is the time we spent baking or crafting together. What does a child love more than: 1.) spending time with their mommy

2.) getting to make something, edible or not?

Days are busy in December, but if you have young children in your home, let me encourage you to spend time doing projects together. Lay down newspaper or some kind of protection on the floor and then let them cut, glue, and glitter! We have several ornaments on our Christmas tree that we crafted together when the girls were little. They have become special treasures in that box of memories that we call “the ornament box.”
There are some great web sites to encourage your child’s creativity.

These are just a few places to get you started on a day of fun! Get out the glue sticks and have a memory making day! Be sure to take pictures!

(While the web-sites listed have great suggestions for crafts, I haven’t explored the other parts of their web pages; read with discernment.)

The Fulfillment of a Plan

Planning an event can be huge! My sister’s son was married last weekend, and while everything was beautiful and appeared to go as planned, I know of at least one detail that got a bit confused. Our efforts and good detailing beforehand don’t always end up with the results we had planned for.

As I’ve been reading through the Christmas story, however, I was struck by the reading of a phrase that I found three times within two chapters of Matthew 1 and 2. In Matthew 1:22 we read the first mention. The verse reads: “Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet…” Then next time we read it is in Matthew 2:15, “And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.” Then, lastly, in verse 23 it reads, “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” Each event in Christ’s birth was done “that it might be fulfilled.” God had a plan, a perfect plan that was executed to the minute detail.

That plan continues in Christ’s life as He lives His perfect life, then heads toward the cross of Calvary. In Matthew 24 we find Jesus in the Garden praying and being arrested by the soldiers, led by Judas, his betrayer. It tells us in verse 56, “But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.” The last time we read this phrase in the book of Matthew is in chapter 27:35, “And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.”

How my heart grieves when I see what was necessary for my salvation. The plans that had to be fulfilled cost my Savior such pain, sorrow, and suffering. His life was in jeopardy from the time He was born. He was forsaken by all those that had followed Him. He was stripped of His clothes and hung on a tree to die in shame. It was all because He loved me that He was willing to fulfill God’s plan. God’s perfect plan for our salvation was fulfilled exactly as it had been prophesied. There were no slip-ups. Nothing was forgotten. No detail was missed. Our salvation was no accident, it came as a result of God’s plan and was revealed in His Word exactly as it would come to pass. We can be sure we have eternal life because, praise God, it was fulfilled!

A Father’s Provision

Nighttime can be a fearful time for some children. My girls were no exception to the fear of “things in the dark.” My husband affectionately referred to those things as “Hanger Man.” If the closet door got left open in the bedroom and then the lights were turned off, the things in the closet could look like all kinds of scary creatures! As parents, we did what would could to alleviate their fears. Closet doors were promptly shut, night lights were clicked on, a story was read, prayers said, and music was turned on. Many nights their daddy would even lie down with them (guess who went to sleep first?). Going to bed was an event! I even would occasionally put a surprise under the girls’ pillows to reward them for getting into bed promptly. We went before them to ensure their safety and peace of mind in order that they might sleep well and not be afraid.

Most nights all of this effort payed off, but not always. Even though we’d gone before them to ensure their safety we’d sometimes still hear the call from down the hallway, “Daddy! I need you! I’m afraid!”

This morning as I read Psalm 78 and was reminded of how God went before the Israelites to care for them, I saw God as a loving Father. He wanted them to trust Him to provide for them, and know that He was taking care of their every need. However, as you know, they complained and were dissatisfied with what God did for them. They weren’t always sure that He would be with them. Wouldn’t the pillar of fire been a wonderful “night light?” Yet verse 32 says “For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.” Why did they do this? Verse 37 explains: “For their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant.” After all He’d done they still turned their hearts away from God.

It’s easy to wonder how they could do this, yet I find myself calling out in the dark, too, forgetting what God has done for me just a little while ago. A new “hanger man” appears and I become worried and anxious instead of looking for the provision of the “night light” He has in front of me. I forget what He did for me yesterday, what He wrote in His Word and promises to do. But God, the loving Father, doesn’t turn me away as I so deserve. In verses 38 and 39 it says, But he being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not; yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath, For he remembered that they were but flesh…” However, because of the demands they placed on God, it tells us in verse 41 that they “limited the Holy One of Israel.” Spurgeon says, “To chalk out a path for God is arrogant impiety.” He is Lord and he will do what seems good for His children.
Instead of being fitful, fearful and demanding, trust God. Look behind you at all that He’s done in the past and remind yourself that you can also trust Him for today. He’s gone before you in the darkness. The “hanger men” have been removed and He’ll even reward you for trusting and obeying Him! Trust His provisions for you.

Feeding on Foolishness

A man working in the produce department was asked by a lady if she could buy half a head of lettuce. He replied, “Half a head? Are you serious? God grows these in whole heads and that’s how we sell them!”
“You mean,” she persisted, “that after all the years I’ve shopped here, you won’t sell me half-a-head of lettuce?”
“Look,” he said, “If you like I’ll ask the manager.”
She indicated that would be appreciated, so the young man marched to the front of the store. “You won’t believe this, but there’s a lame-braided idiot of a lady back there who wants to know if she can buy half-a-head of lettuce.”
He noticed the manager gesturing, and turned around to see the lady standing behind him, obviously having followed him to the front of the store. “And this nice lady was wondering if she could buy the other half” he concluded.

Have you ever been “caught” having said something foolish? I certainly have. At those moments you just wish the floor would open up and swallow you. However, it does not, and we’re left with the results of our foolish words.

Proverbs 15:14b says, the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness. A foolish person makes it their practice to make a meal of foolishness. We can picture a hungry person going after the things that would aid them in speaking foolishly. It’s like when a person is hungry late at night and they go to the pantry and are looking for something to snack on. They open the chips and munch away. They have a few cookies. The bag of M&M’s are consumed. Then they’re left with the result of that foolish snacking.

The mouth of the foolish look for things that would aid their foolish speaking. They are hungry for information, or news to feed on so they can share it with others. The opposite of foolishness is wisdom, and the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Prov. 9:10). We could say, then, that anything that disregards a fear of God is foolish. When I say cutting things about others behind their back I’m forgetting that “the eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the evil and the good.” (Prov. 15:3) That is foolish. When I say things that make me look good and others not so good, it’s foolish. When I speak about a person and say things I would never say to their face, guess what? Yes, there I stand in the pantry pigging out on foolishness.
It’s not just slander and gossip that are foolish. Sometimes we may say something while talking to a person that is totally unnecessary. It may be hurtful or cutting words. It may be something that is true, but better left unsaid. Proverbs 29:11 says, A fool utters all his mind, but a wise man keeps it in till afterwards.

Psalm 34:8 gives us much better nourishment than foolish snacking. It says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good…” Rather than feeding on foolishness, we should instead talk about our wonderful Lord. He’s done so much for us. He’s never failed us. He loves us unconditionally. That’s something to talk about, and it will keep us from getting into trouble like the opening illustration of the clerk in the grocery store. Today, feed on God’s goodness instead of foolish things. It’s much tastier!

Helping Grieving Parents

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.
Who comforteth us in all our tribulations,
that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble,
by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
II Corinthians 1:3,4

When a person has lost a loved one they don’t really need a lot; just people that care. Often, however, it’s hard to know how to show your love. It’s difficult to know what to say. One preacher from our area slapped my husband on the back after we lost Ashley and said, “Well, you’re young, you can have another baby!” Needless to say, he was not a comfort to us, though I’m sure he meant well. If I may, let me list some things that might help you to be a blessing to someone you may encounter that’s experienced an infant death.

  1. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. Just put your arm around the parents and tell them you’re sorry and leave it at that. If they’re believers, they know Romans 8:28. This is not the time for mini sermons. They’re hurting and just need a shoulder to cry on.
  2. If you have a child the age of the one that has died, be sensitive about bringing it around the parents for a while.
  3. Use the baby’s name when referring to him/her. This is a sweet reminder that this child is a real person and is now alive in heaven.
  4. If the couple has other children offer to babysit so they can spend some time together alone.
  5. An ornament in the baby’s memory is a touching gift. I look for baby bootee ornaments and then write the child’s name and year of their birth/death on the bottom.
  6. Give a live plant or tree to plant in the baby’s memory.
  7. Listen for opportunities to meet special needs. My mother and mother-in-law bought a beautiful soft blanket to wrap Ashley in. We had no preemie clothes and the funeral director had told us he would wrap her in gauze (not exactly a comforting thought). They made a diligent search for the perfect blanket. This touched my heart beyond words.
  8. Take the mom out for coffee or lunch and just let her talk. Ask questions about the baby’s features, the reason the couple chose its name – topics that will allow her to remember her baby without digging for details of the cause of death, etc. She may wish to talk about that, but let her bring it up.
  9. Remember the couple on the year anniversary with a card, and again, use the baby’s name.
  10. Try not to share your own story at this time, if you have one. Even if your situation was similar, no one can really say, “I know how you feel” because everyone’s circumstances are different.

Grieving parents are not touchy people that you cannot help; it just requires some sensitivity to know how to help. I pray these tips will guide you the next time you encounter someone who is hurting.