DayBreaks for 12/30/16 – Sightless Eyes

DayBreaks for 12/30/16: Sightless Eyes

From the DayBreaks archive, 1999:

A while back, I received a call from the county sheriff’s office asking if I was available to go with one of their deputies to notify a woman that her husband of many years had died. I went down to the emergency room at the local hospital to meet the officer before going to the home and he took me into the room where the man’s body was. The man had died only minutes earlier, apparently of a heart attack while driving. He was alone in the quiet room, surrounded by medical equipment and signs of the lost battle that had been waged to keep him alive. His eyes, sightless, were open – staring at the ceiling.

I was reminded of the words of God through Jeremiah the prophet in Jer. 5:21-22: “Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: Should you not fear me?” declares the LORD. “Should you not tremble in my presence?” As I stood gazing at the body of this man, I couldn’t help but wonder what his “eyes” were seeing at that instant. Was he beholding the face of the Redeemer or was he seeing the reality of a horrifying destiny for eternity? It added a sense of urgency to tell others about Christ.

In Matthew 13:13-15, Jesus spoke about sightless eyes and as usual, got to the heart of the problem. The people couldn’t see for the simple reason that they had closed their eyes. They didn’t WANT to see. What they saw (Jesus!) made them uncomfortable because he revealed what man was meant to be and what God demanded – holiness! And the sad part of it is that if we walk in rebellion long enough, we do become blind (Romans 1).

Think about it: what happens to you if you close your eyes? It isn’t long before you start getting hurt. There was a group of Pharisees who were referred to as the “blind and bleeding Pharisees” because when they were walking on a public street and a woman came along, they would close their eyes so they wouldn’t lust – with the inevitable result that they got bloody when they began bumping into buildings and other things in the street! That wasn’t what Jesus meant, but it illustrates the dangers of closing our eyes.

We have a choice. We can close our eyes if we want to – and when we do we run the risk of being hurt – not to mention we can’t see our brother or neighbor in need (remember the Good Samaritan and those who passed by the injured traveler?). But the worst thing we can do is close our eyes when we look into the mirror of the Word of God (James 1:23-25) and refuse to see the truth about ourselves, what we are and what we do, and what we can become through Jesus.

How is your vision? Is it clear and sharp? Are you closing your eyes in rebellion? By closing our eyes to failures and imperfections, we are only blinding ourselves – not God.

PRAYER: Keep us from willful blindness, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/29/16 – Fixer Uppers

DayBreaks for 12/28/16: Fixer Uppers

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

From NEWS OF THE WEIRD by Chuck Shepherd, United Feature Syndicate: “A year ago, News of the Weird reported that a jury in Westminster had convicted Cal State-Long Beach engineering professor Elena Zagustin, 61, of massive health violations at her exceptionally odoriferous and messy home, which included many buckets substituting for broken toilets. By September, Zagustin had sold the house (at a discount for its conditions, but still, because of the California real estate market, $301,500), and when the buyers pried the door open, they found trash two feet high in every room.”

You’ve heard the term “fixer-upper”, right? It implies a building or car in less than ideal condition – one that needs lots of work to be useable. As horrible as the home in the story above may have been, if someone was willing, they could reclaim it and make it serviceable again.

Jesus faced this situation many times with the people that he met. Many people who were physically “unclean” and repulsive came to him. Matthew 8:2-3 tells of one of those encounters: “A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.”

Did you notice the keys for the leper? First of all, he had to know who to go to with his problem – Jesus! It would have done him no good to go to anyone else. But there was an even more important key to his being “cleaned up”: Jesus had to be willing for the man to be cleaned. What if this rabbi from Nazareth was not willing?

Physical cleansing is one thing and Jesus responded to the struggles of people with disease and physical illnesses. Moral filth pervades humanity. We won’t all suffer leprosy or some other disfiguring disease, but we all suffer from moral filth. Our lives were in horrible shape – the rooms of ours heart and minds were filled with every kind of filth imaginable. The same two keys apply: will we go to the right place for cleansing, and is he willing to take the time to “clean” us?

Jesus specializes in fixer-uppers. He doesn’t care how dirty you might be. You don’t have to be cleaned up first before He’ll accept you. He comes into the home of your heart and begins the life-long process of cleaning up what he finds there.

Our prayer should be the same as the plea of the leper: “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Just know this: Jesus’ response to us will be the same as it was to the leper: “I am willing. Be clean!”

PRAYER: How reassuring it is to know that you not only can, but do, wish to heal us of all our infirmities – physical and spiritual! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/28/16 – The Dusty Ones

DayBreaks for 12/28/16: The Dusty Ones

The ancient Egyptians had a name for the Hebrews who lived in their land and who built their cities and granaries. They called them the Hapiru. The word, literally translated, is “the dusty ones”. You can imagine how they got the name – working day after day under the hot Egyptian sun in the dust and dirt of Egypt. It was a name of scorn and derision intended to bring shame to the Hebrews.

It is interesting that God’s people were called the dusty ones as a name of ridicule. Mankind was originally formed of the dust of the earth. Maybe it was appropriate that God’s people were given a name by the Egyptians that reflected that original truth.

But it is even more interesting to me that God chose not to leave His children alone as “the dusty ones”. He found it necessary to become a “dusty one”, too – to get right down with us and walk the dusty roads of Palestine, to get His feet “dirty” Himself. God chose to be like His children, His people. He didn’t consider it beneath Himself to become like us.  And in fact, when he was here, he also washed our feet to remove the “dust”.  Maybe we should see something very significant in that – his children are no longer “the dusty ones”, but “the chosen ones”, the washed ones, destined not for dust, but for eternal realms.

When you think about the humiliation of God it almost takes your breath away to realize that He was willing to do it. And I often won’t go the slightest bit out of my way to help someone else because I am too proud or self-conscious about how I may appear to someone watching.

God did not worry about those things. He just did it. We can learn from a God who will become a dusty one Himself. We are to become “dusty ones”, too.

Get involved. Humble yourself. Get your feet dirty in service to God and others. Get dusty! Help us to walk in your footsteps! PRAYER: Thank You, Lord, for getting “dirty” so we could be cleansed! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/23/16 – We Were All There

DayBreaks for 12/23/16: We Were All There

In my most recent DayBreaks, I mused about what I would have noticed had I been in Bethlehem the night the Christ Child was born. For a different perspective, read on:

In her wonderful children’s picture book We Were There: A Nativity Story, Eve Bunting (illustrator: Wendell Minor) turns Christmas upside down for us in ways that are revealing.

The simple story shows us first a slithering snake, then a warty toad, a scary scorpion, a shiny cockroach, a swooping bat, a hairy spider, and a furry rat all on a journey. Each creature introduces itself and then concludes with the words “I will be there.”

As the book ends we are shown more common nativity creatures: fuzzy lambs, doe-eyed donkeys, gentle cows. But as those traditional figures in the stable stand around the manger in which the Babe has been laid by his mother Mary, we see in the corner, unnoticed, that small gathering of the snake, toad, scorpion, cockroach, bat, spider, and rat.

Bunting has found a lyric way to remind us that the coming of the Christ is not all about the traditional and cozy trappings in which we have for too long wrapped the Christmas story but that this is a story for all creatures and that Jesus came to embrace and renew the good, the bad, the ugly; the expected and the unexpected.

A simple children’s story like this reminds us of the paradoxes and unexpected twists of the season, that Jesus came not just for those whom might have been considered righteous and good, but for derelicts like me and recluses reeking of alcohol. He came that night not just for those who would readily receive him – he also came for those who would reject him – the spiders, the snakes, the bats and cockroaches of humanity because his love for us would not permit him to do otherwise.

What a wondrous time of year this is – so full of reminders and lessons for us all. Let us take a lesson that Christmas isn’t just for the neat and tidy – but if Christmas is for anyone, it is for all of us. May we share that love with those we may find repulsive and ugly – for we are that way, too. The greatest act of grace ever witnessed was viewable in a manger to human eyes.

May you be filled with the wonder of CHRISTmas!

PRAYER: For your love for human snakes and cock roaches – for us all – that brought you from eternal glory to a cold manger in Bethlehem, we give you our praise and bow in wonder and amazement! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/22/16 – If I Had Been There

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Church of the Nativity, January 2016, by Galen Dalrymple

DayBreaks for 12/22/16: If I Had Been There

Not quite a year ago, I stood in Bethlehem. Across from the church of the Nativity the bright, colored lights were still lit in celebration of what had occurred in that little village nearly 2000 years ago. As I stood there, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would have heard had I been there that night when Jesus was born. It is a question that haunts me. Would I have heard the choirs of angels singing or simply the sounds of barnyard animals shifting around? Would I have seen the star in the sky that night or simply two poor and very frightened kids? Would I have understood the hushed silence of the divine presence, or simply the chill of a cold east wind? Would I have understood the message of Emmanuel, God with us, or would the cosmic implications of that evening have passed me by as it so often does even today?

I am convinced that had any two people been there that night in Bethlehem it is quite possible that they could have heard and seen two entirely different scenes. I believe this because all of life seems to be that way. God never presents himself in revelation in a manner in which we are forced to believe. We are always left with an option, for that is God’s way. Thus, one person can say “It’s a miracle, while another says “It’s coincidence.”

Certainly very few people in Palestine saw and heard and understood what took place that night. The choirs of angels singing were, for many, drowned out by the haggling and trading going on in the Jerusalem bazaar. There was a bright star in the sky but the only ones apparently to pay any attention to it were pagan astrologers from the East. If anyone did see Mary and Joseph on that most fateful night, they were too preoccupied with their own problems to offer any assistance to a very pregnant woman and the man who accompanied her.

Even now, what do I see when I see little children act out the story? Do I just see a cute play with cute children, or do I see the unveiling of the greatest story ever? When I hear the carols, do I just hear pretty music, or do I hear the whisper of God in my ear and my heart?

Christmas is getting so close. Am I letting Christ get close to me this year? Will I recognize him when he arrives? Will I hear him when he speaks? Can I hear the angels still singing his praise and pouring honor on him? The time is almost here, people. Let us look for the star and be led into wondrous worship for the One who came to earth.

PRAYER: Jesus, I want to see you this Christmas as I never have before. I want to hear you and worship you deep in my heart! Please don’t let this Christmas be like every other Christmas – let this Christmas be a time when it becomes more real to us than ever before! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/21/16: He Is Part of Us

DayBreaks for 12/21/16: He Is Part of Us

When I think back about all the mistakes and bad things I’ve done in my life, I find it both amazing and strange that God has never deserted me. I frankly don’t understand that kind of grace and I certainly do not deserve his eternal presence. Nor do you. Yet, God has chosen to be forever identified with the human dilemma. There quite likely is not a single soul in the world who truly understands your feelings. God understands. All in your life may fall away. God will never fall away.

In Tom Brokaw’s book The Greatest Generation, a story is told of Mary Wilson, presently of Dallas, Texas. You would never know by looking at this modest woman that she was the recipient of the Silver Star and she bore the nickname “The Angel of Anzio.” You will recall that when the Allies got bogged down in the boot of Italy during World War II, they attempted a daring breakout by launching an amphibious landing on the Anzio Beach. Unfortunately, the Allies got pinned down at the landing site and came dangerously close to being driven back into the ocean. It looked like another Dunkirk was in the making.

Mary Wilson was the head of the fifty-one army nurses who went ashore at Anzio. Things got so bad that bullets zipped through her tent as she assisted the surgeon in surgery. When the situation continued to deteriorate arrangements were made to get all of the nurses out. But Mary Wilson would have none of it. She refused to leave at the gravest hour. As she related her story years later, she said: “How could I possibly leave them. I was a part of them.”

Our God is a good God. He does not desert us in our hour of need. He hears the cries of Israel. He hears the cries of the church. He hears the cries of His children. Christmas is about God’s eternal identification with the human dilemma.

PRAYER: Why should you be so closely linked to us, so near to us? Why should you choose to associate yourself with people such as us? It is a mystery, God, but one for which I am forever grateful! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/20/16 – He Can’t Look Away

DayBreaks for 12/20/16: He Can’t Look Away

Matthew 1:20-21 (NLT)  As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew doesn’t want Joseph or any of us to get stuck in the dream. Matthew wants to bring us back down to earth, back to our waking reality, by invoking the name of Immanuel. Because if the Jesus, whose name was given to Joseph in a dream, is to do us any good, he’d better meet us and be with us in all those times when dreams end and when the crushing weight of a miserable world comes crashing down around our shoulders again. If he is only Jesus, the one who saves us from our sins, it would still be too easy to turn him into the one who also saves us out of the real world. But if he is Immanuel, then we realize we don’t have to go anywhere to meet him other than the hurly-burly reality of our Monday mornings and our Thursday afternoons. We don’t have to go find him in some other realm because he has already found us in exactly this realm and this world.
Immanuel is God-with-us in the cancer clinic and in the Alzheimer’s ward at the local nursing home. Immanuel is God-with-us when the pink slip comes and when the beloved child sneers, “I hate you!” Immanuel is God-with-us when you pack the Christmas decorations away and, with an aching heart, you realize afresh that your one son never did call over the holidays. Not once. Immanuel is God-with-us when your dear wife or mother stares at you with an Alzheimer’s glaze and absently asks, “What was your name again?”
Ever and always Jesus stares straight into you with his two good eyes and he does so not only when you can smile back but most certainly also when your own eyes are full of tears. In fact, Jesus is Immanuel, “God with you” even in those times when you are so angry with God that you refuse to meet his eyes. But even when you feel like you can’t look at him, he never looks away from you. He can’t. His name says it all.

PRAYER: I am thankful that you never look away from me, that you cannot look away because that would mean you are not Immanuel. Help me to look at you more often and find in you all I ever could need or want. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.