An elder told his grandson, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”
The boy thought about it and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?” The old man quietly replied, “the one you feed.”
This story speaks to the core of our being. It does not matter who actually spoke this story. It raises a question that has resounded through the ages. Do we feed evil or do we feed good? And where do we find our nourishment? I believe only God can fill us. The two Scripture verses for this week are just a brief selection of the deep wisdom that comes to us through God’s Word, as written in the Bible and as lived in Jesus Christ.
I particularly enjoyed the reading from today’s (December 31) My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. This writing sets an excellent and wonderful tone for the new year.
“Our present enjoyment of God’s grace tends to be lessened by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present.
“God’s hand reaches back to the past, settling all the claims against our conscience.
“As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, forgetful delight, nor with the quickness of impulsive thoughtlessness. But let us go out with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ.
“Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.”
I wish each of us such a future! Blessings, Eric
God calls us to participate in a reciprocal relationship of love, but too often we are too busy, too “moral” (in our own eyes), too self centered to respond. More than three thousand years ago, when the people of Israel were forming their relationship with him, Yahweh instructed the Israelites to show their love for him by “walking in his ways and holding tight to him.” As we know, then and now, we fail in this walk. Yet God never gives up on us. He “delights in showing us unfailing love.”
And so at this time of year, we are again reminded of how much our Creator cares for us. We could not recognize his love in the abstract, so he came to live with us, to join us on our journey, to listen to our story. As Henri Nouwen writes, “the God of love who gave us life sent his only Son to be with us at all times and in all places, so that we never have to feel lost in our struggles, but can always trust that he walks with us.”
On Saturday, I participated in the annual Christmas Market at our local conference center. I have participated since 2003 and sell a variety of my photographic products. Toward the end of the day, a young mother and her five year son came by my display. The boy could barely see above the table, but he saw a picture I had taken of a dolly varden fish jumping up a rapid. He held in longingly, hoping his mother would buy it. However, the fifteen dollar price was more than she wanted to spend. So, I told she could have it for a dollar. When she paid, and the boy knew it was his, his joyful surprise of a hope fulfilled was an absolute delight to be swept into. He will never remember me, but I do hope he remembers this moment and passes it on to others when he is an adult. And I also hope that he, like each of us, will have more opportunities to be “surprised by joy.”
Certainly, that is one of the messages of the Christmas season: to be surprised by the wonders of joy and love and to share with “even the least of these.”
This week was filled with unexpected encounters–meaningful meetings that interrupted “my” schedule, but were part of “His” plan. I will not go into details, but those unplanned conversations caused me to slow down, to let go of my needs, and to enjoy the opportunity to listen and to counsel.
Henri Nouwen writes, “That is the great conversion of our life: to recognize and believe that the many unexpected events are not just disturbing interruptions of our projects, but the way in which God molds our hearts and prepares us for his return. Our great temptations are boredom and bitterness. When our good plans are interrupted by poor weather, our peace of mind by inner turmoil, our hope for peace by a new war, our desire for a stable government by a constant changing of the guards, and our desire for immortality by real death, we are tempted to give in to a paralyzing boredom or to strike back in destructive bitterness.
“But when we believe that patience can make our expectations grow, then fate can be converted into a vocation, wounds into a call for deeper understanding, and sadness into a birthplace of joy.”
At a time when this nation debates whether to say “merry christmas” or happy holidays,” banners are already up in China with the words, “Merry Christmas.” And Marshal, our Chinese student, tells us that in Mandarin, Christmas is translated as “holy birth festival.” So, China, a nation that does not particular support religion. is willing to use the word Christmas with its religious meaning. Interesting to say the least.
Regardless of one’s religious or non religious beliefs/inclinations, celebrating the birth of Christ does give us the opportunity to consider our lives anew. God came to earth clothed in human flesh so that we could be clothed in God. What an amazing gift!
I like what Brennan Manning writes: “Christmas is the promise that the God who came in history and comes daily in mystery will one day come in glory. God is saying in Jesus that in the end everything will be all right. Nothing can harm you permanently, no suffering is irrevocable, no loss is lasting, no defeat is more than transitory, no disappointment is conclusive. Jesus did not deny the reality of suffering, discouragement, disappointment, frustration, and death; he simply stated that the kingdom of God would conquer all of these horrors, that the Father’s love is so extravagant that no evil could possibly resist it.”