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.

DayBreaks for 12/19/16 – Christmas in One Word

Graphic by Tim Etherington, https://i2.wp.com/www.byfarthersteps.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Immanuel.png?zoom=2

DayBreaks for 12/19/16: Christmas in One Word

G. K. Chesterton, the noted British poet and theologian, was a brilliant man who could think deep thoughts and express them well. However, he was also extremely absent-minded and over the years he became rather notorious for getting lost. He would just absolutely forget where he was supposed to be and what he was supposed to be doing. On one such occasion, he sent a telegram to his wife which carried these words: “Honey, seems I’m lost again. Presently, I am at Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?” As only a spouse could say it, she telegraphed back a one-word reply “HOME!”

This is precisely what this classic passage in the first chapter of Matthew does for us… it brings us home…

— Home to the real meaning of Christmas
— Home to the most magnificent truth in the entire Bible
— Home to our Lord’s greatest promise
— Home to the reason we celebrate Christmas

Namely this: “GOD IS WITH US!” When we accept Christ into our lives, nothing, not even death, can separate us from God and His love. It is what Christmas is about. God is with us. The great people of faith have always claimed that promise. Just think of it:

Moses caught between the Pharaoh and the deep Red Sea in a seemingly hopeless situation believed that God was with him and he went forward and trusted God to open a way and He did!

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went into the fiery furnace into a seemingly hopeless situation and they trusted God to be with them and He was!

Little David stood before Goliath. What chance could a small boy with a slingshot have against this giant of a warrior? But David believed that God was with him and it made all the difference!

Now, it’s interesting to note that when the writer of Matthew’s gospel wanted to capture the meaning of Christmas, the meaning of the Christ event, the meaning of Jesus in a single word, he did a very wise thing. He reached back into the Old Testament, pulled out an old word, dusted it off, and used it to convey the message. The word was Immanuel.

Carry that Word with you this week, let the meaning sink deep into your heart. You may just find that your outlook on life is different.

PRAYER: Immanuel, thank You for being with us and in us! When we are lonely, afraid, discouraged, desperate – let your name and promise be sufficient for every situation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 11/29/16 – Psalm 23 for the Advent Season

DayBreaks for 11/29/16: Psalm 23 for Advent

Here is a version of the 23rd Psalm that ought to be mandatory reading each day of Advent. Maybe it’ll speak to you as it did to me:

The Lord is my pace setter . . . I shall not rush

He makes me stop for quiet intervals

He provides me with images of stillness which restore my serenity

He leads me in the way of efficiency through calmness of mind and his guidance is peace

Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, I will not fret, for his presence is here

His timelessness, his all importance will keep me in balance

He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity by anointing my mind with his oils of tranquility

My cup of joyous energy overflows

Truly harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours for I shall walk in the Pace of my Lord and dwell in his house for ever.

PRAYER: Lord, even as David spoke great truths about you in Psalm 23, may this remind us in our own busy and frenetic lives that when we abide in you we shall always have your peace! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple.  All rights reserved.