Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mary Letter - Day 21 - Nothing is Impossible






In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

We have only a few more miles and we will reach the outskirts of the city. We have been more relaxed and happy since we came back onto the Bethlehem road. It is terribly crowded and people are rude and pushy. We have to go slow so we stay to the side and stop quite often. I tire easily and have to get down and rest quite often. Joseph doesn't seem as anxious anymore. He has been very affectionate and seems excited to visit the city. The gloom has disappeared from his face, and that makes me smile.

Last night I had a very powerful dream. I saw the angel Gabriel again, and he reminded me not to be afraid. He said that all would be well for the rest of our journey and God would guide us every step. I sat straight up, thinking I was awake and at home. I then woke up and looked around. It was just a little room at a stopping place, very simple and very basic. It was not home but for awhile I was so filled with the sense of the angel's presence that I couldn't get back to sleep. I lit a candle and tiptoed around, not trying to wake Joseph. I sat in the one chair in the room, holding my huge belly, wondering about that dream. I had goosebumps all over! I must have fallen asleep in the chair for I woke up as the morning light reached into the window. A day or two more and we can do what we need to do and return home to have this child!

love

Mary





The Collect
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mary Letter - Day 20 - Lean On the Lord



On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on the one who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in all the earth.
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: O my people, who live in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians when they beat you with a rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. For in a very little while my indignation will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction. The LORD of hosts will wield a whip against them, as when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb; his staff will be over the sea, and he will lift it as he did in Egypt. On that day his burden will be removed from your shoulder, and his yoke will be destroyed from your neck. Isaiah 10:20-27 

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

It was a less stressful day and we ran into friends from our village. They told us that the men who were looking for us had given up and headed home. We joined them for several miles before I tired and we had to find a place to rest. We sang this song, together, as we walked, and it made me happy for the first time in a long time. 

We will lean on the Lord
those who would hurt us
lost on the dusty road
we will no longer be afraid. 

We will not be afraid 
The Lord God is with us
we are blessed children
and we are hidden in the heart of God.

Today is filled with light
we have forgotten the pain
the shame of the past
is like a silly murky dream.

We will not be afraid 
The Lord God is with us
we are blessed children
and we are hidden in the heart of God.

We are settled for the night in a soft bed, after both washing and putting on fresh clothes. Joseph spent too much on this, but we felt we needed a clean room and a chance to rest well. I am so sleepy, I will have to write again tomorrow.

Much love

Mary

 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Mary Letter - Day 19 - Hear My Cry

 I waited patiently upon the LORD; you stooped to me and heard my cry.
You lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay; you set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.
You put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many shall see, and stand in awe, and put their trust in the LORD.
Happy are they who trust in the LORD! they do not resort to evil spirits or turn to false gods.
Great things are they that you have done, O LORD my God! how great your wonders and your plans for us! there is none who can be compared with you.
Oh, that I could make them known and tell them! but they are more than I can count.
In sacrifice and offering you take no pleasure (you have given me ears to hear you);
Burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required, and so I said, "Behold, I come.
In the roll of the book it is written concerning me: 'I love to do your will, O my God;
your law is deep in my heart.'"
I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I did not restrain my lips;
and that, O LORD, you know.
Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance; I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the great congregation.
You are the LORD; do not withhold your compassion from me; let your love and your faithfulness keep me safe for ever,
For innumerable troubles have crowded upon me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more in number than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails me.
Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me; O LORD, make haste to help me.
Let them be ashamed and altogether dismayed who seek after my life to destroy it; let them draw back and be disgraced who take pleasure in my misfortune.
 Let those who say "Aha!" and gloat over me be confounded, because they are ashamed.
Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad; let those who love your salvation continually say,
"Great is the LORD!"
 Though I am poor and afflicted, the Lord will have regard for me.
You are my helper and my deliverer; do not tarry, O my God. Psalm 40


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I try to start every day hopeful and prayerful. The night in the cave was long and it took me a good long time to fall asleep. The creatures around us made noises I had never heard and the baby was active every few hours. But I got up and made us some breakfast before we set out. Joseph had made a fire and it lasted through the night, so we were able to have some warm food for a change. Unfortunately the day went downhill from there.

We followed the path we had been given, a slow crawl through the hills and around ridges. Sometimes we could glimpse the main road. My was it crowded, but moving still much faster than we were able. As we were coming across one rocky outcropping, the donkey lost his footing. I went sliding off his back and bumped down about  20 feet before I rolled another 20. I was stopped by another small outcropping, and boy was I grateful. I could have fallen much further! Joseph came sliding down after me and wouldn't let me move for a good long time. He was worried and furious all at the same time. I wasn't hurt except for a few bumps and bruises. Thank God! And the baby is moving and active, so I suppose he is alright too. We set up camp in a level place nearby and gave up trying to travel for the rest of the day.

Joseph has decided that we have to move to the main road tomorrow. He said he understands that people might still be looking for us, but that if we move mostly in the darkness and stay inside during the height of the day, we should be ok. He is so worried about me and the baby. He doesn't think this way will make us any safer in the long run. In the morning he will leave me here and find a place for us to rest along the main Bethlehem road until the twilight and we can move more easily. I think it's a good plan. We have only each other and we have to trust that God will keep us safe. This hiding has been more dangerous than we could have imagined.

I am very weary right now so I will say goodnight for now. Please pray for us. We want to do God's will and some days it feels as if we are not up to the challange!
love

Mary



Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mary Letter - Day 18 - To Whom Will You Flee?



For wickedness burned like a fire, consuming briers and thorns; it kindled the thickets of the forest, and they swirled upward in a column of smoke. Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts the land was burned,
and the people became like fuel for the fire; no one spared another.
They gorged on the right, but still were hungry, and they devoured on the left, but were not satisfied;
they devoured the flesh of their own kindred; Manasseh devoured Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh,
and together they were against Judah.
For all this his anger has not turned away; his hand is stretched out still. Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees,
who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey!
What will you do on the day of punishment, in the calamity that will come from far away?
To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth, so as not to crouch among the prisoners
or fall among the slain?
For all this his anger has not turned away;his hand is stretched out still. Isaiah 9:18-10:4 

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

we finally got back on our way, having gotten help from the kind elders who housed us. It took a while for us to get back to where we were supposed to be, and the going is very treacherous. I know the men wanted to spare us from any further attacks, but sometimes the road itself is a real danger. I was hanging on for dear life as we skirted along the mountain passes. It is windy and cold, and I felt so tossed and ragged by the time we rested for the day. It seems like it is taking forever and I wish we could travel on the better roads. When we finally got to a stopping place for the night, every muscle in my body was sore and aching.  Joseph tried to rub my muscles, but then I started to cry. He drew away. I didn't mean to scare or upset him. I just missed Momma terribly then and the sweet salve she used to rub on me as a child. I am a grown woman and I still want my mother. What is wrong with me? Fortunately, he has already fallen asleep, so weary from walking these challenging paths.

Tomorrow we will continue on our way. I hope the time to Bethlehem isn't too long. We are camped for the night in a deep cave, and I can barely sleep the baby is making me restless and I can't get comfortable. There are shepherds in the fields below us who promised to keep watch for us since they will be up all night, watching their charges. All these poor folks on the margins, and yet they are so generous and kind. Why are the supposedly faithful people of our hometown ready to hurt us, while poor strangers make us welcome? Where would we go, if we didn't have the help of outcasts? I pray that God will give me insight into all of this. In the meantime, I will try to get some sleep so I can be cheerful for the next part of the journey. Joseph deserves so much more than me weeping and whining all the time.

love

Mary

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mary letter - Day 17 - In the Wilderness


The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
   “Prepare the way of the Lord,
   make his paths straight” ’,
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’Mark 1:1-8


Dear Auntie,

 We got very, very lost today. Despite all of the plans and the maps that we were given, all the preparation that came before, we still managed to get lost. I had already sensed something was wrong when Joseph got very silent for a very long time. He's not a big talker, mind you, but for the most part, when we are traveling, we manage to keep each other company and chat as we go. But today there was a long silence. When I finally asked Joseph to stop because my back was hurting, he yelled at me. I was so shocked! He's mostly so gentle and patient that I couldn't believe it. Here we were in the wilderness and my husband is yelling at me. I started to cry like a little girl. He was so apologetic then, I thought he might cry too. He admitted we were lost, and he could not find seem to get his bearings.

We sat for awhile, holding each other, both sorry for falling apart. Both feeling very lost. There was silence between us but it was finally not tense. I opened up one of the food bundles and made us a little meal right there, out in the middle of nowhere. As the sun was low in the sky, we thought we might have to camp there. Just as the sun was setting, an old man wandered by, and invited us to his home for the night. There it was, his little home,  a small dwelling not a  quarter mile away. We had not seen it before. His wife welcomed us in. They were both ancient, wrinkled all over but very bright still. They seemed happy to come across two young people needing help! It was as if the Holy Spirit were guiding us, despite ourselves. Auntie, it seems that when I give up hope, when we are totally and completely lost, somehow God finds us and puts us back on our way. This little one must have some life ahead of him.  For tonight, I will rest my aching back and be grateful for the intervention of our loving Creator. There is so much more road ahead!

much love,

Mary

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mary Letter -Day 16 - Light Has Shined



But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:1-7 

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

We are making progress on our journey but it is very slow. The route we are taking is complicated and the terrain is rough. The road along the Jordan River would be much easier.  We have been warned not to go that way because it is very crowded,  and the people looking for us would look there. We are also traveling some at night, both to avoid the heat of the day and not to be seen. Last night as we set out I was very worried. It was hard to see and the poor donkey was bouncing me all over the place. Then the sky seemed to explode with stars, and it was if God was sending light from the heavens. My little child kicked and wiggled inside of me, as if to celebrate the gift of light. Auntie, I am learning to be grateful for small things. It's as if the baby is showing me the way. Maybe I am just growing up.

We didn't get very far last night but are sheltered here by friends of Miriam. They are all shepherds, living rough, but they have tents for their families and made room for us. Joseph was given very specific instructions on who to seek out when we needed to rest. They have been very kind to share their small spaces with us. I fell asleep last night, nestled in my husband's arms and looking up at the brilliant night sky. How wondrous and mysterious are the works of God!

love

Mary

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mary Letter - Day 15 - Consider the Poor


Lord delivers them in the day of trouble.
The Lord protects them and keeps them alive; they are called happy in the land. You do not give them up to the will of their enemies.
The Lord sustains them on their sickbed;  in their illness you heal all their infirmities.

Happy are those who consider the poor; the
As for me, I said, ‘O Lord, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.’
My enemies wonder in malice when I will die, and my name perish.
And when they come to see me, they utter empty words, while their hearts gather mischief;
   when they go out, they tell it abroad. All who hate me whisper together about me;
   they imagine the worst for me.


They think that a deadly thing has fastened on me,  that I will not rise again from where I lie.
Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted the heel against me.
But you, O Lord, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them.


By this I know that you are pleased with me; because my enemy has not triumphed over me.
But you have upheld me because of my integrity;and set me in your presence for ever.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.Amen and Amen. Psalm 41



Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

we got on the road again today, although our route now is complicated and circumspect to avoid trouble. We set out today, as if we were going to the market, but then we doubled back and climbed the hills behind  Miriam's home. We climbed and walked for several hours, then stopped for the night in a small hut which they knew about. We were sent with provisions - oh, they have been so kind! After a simple meal of dates and bread we settled down for the night.

As we were climbing, we came across a small boy herding a large flock of sheep. He was dirty and ill-clad. I asked him if he had anything to eat or drink. He said he had finished everything he was given to eat some time ago. We gave him some food and water from our very generous provisions from Miriam. My heart broke for this little boy, who dove into the food like a wilds animal. I couldn't help but think of the dream I had and also of young King David. The shepherds of Judea are treated so badly.  They are so necessary to our lives and yet we push them away from our towns and make them live such hardscrabble, cruel existences. The little boy spoke with us a bit after eating and then fell asleep under the shade of a tree. He looked too small to be left on his own, with his scruffy dog curled up next to him. Joseph said we had to move on before nightfall and so we did. The image of the scrawny little boy, so brave and wise for his years,  will linger with me for a long time,

It is time for sleep. The thin straw mats are no match for our recent comfort but the climb made it so that I could sleep anywhere. The stars are bright tonight as I write to you. I remember fondly the nights by the fire looking up at the stars with you and talking with excitement about the children to come. It seemed so simple then. Goodnight, Auntie!

love

Mary