Archive for Heaven

Footprints in the Soot

Pyrocumulous clouds. I’d never even heard of them until now. In all my Colorado years I never dreamed I’d drive under an enormous column of fiery smoke, watching noon turn to twilight through eyes that watered in the heat. No one in their right minds would drive toward the fire but those who are called to save, or whose children lay in the path of danger, or a couple of in-laws-to-be like Kevin and me. We trusted the heroes battling the flames to keep this only road open; that their knowledge, hard work, and sacrifice would keep us safe.

To my relief the smoke thinned, the sun came back out, and we drove into the high mountain town of Creede. We will have new family here. Their Brooke and our Jesse are marrying in August, and we came to celebrate and get acquainted. The men took off to watch trees explode while we women threw a shower for Brooke. From their lovely garden amid flowers and lace, she opened presents against a backdrop of smoke billowing from fires to the south and west. These women are tough. They laughed when I asked them about shopping at the closest mall; the nearest city is just too far away. Summer here is about two hours long. They take care of each other, and the ones I’ve met trust God to take care of them.

As each shared a moment of marriage advice, I could almost smell the smoke of the fiery trials they’ve lived through. I was a stranger among them. But I know women; women of faith, who have watched as noon turned to twilight when darkness fell on their lives. They are like these women. They show up for each other no matter what. The smoke may be choking them while tears run from their eyes, but they gather and nurture and protect one another. Danger drops them to their knees where they storm the gates of Heaven on their sisters’ behalf. They’ve learned to trust the Hero. His children once lay in the path of danger, and only His sacrifice could make a way to safety. To paraphrase the great hymn: Because He lives, we can face tomorrow. Soot may cling to our skin and smoke to our hair, but we can walk through the flames by stepping in the footprints He left behind. He always leads us into the light.

Monday we drove out of Creede. The fire keeps growing and threatens the town. I am storming the gates of Heaven for a soaking Colorado rain, and for God’s hand of protection and provision to cover these people. I pray for this young couple, my son and daughter-to-be, who are so excited to walk the fiery pathways of marriage together. From where I can see there is no rain in the forecast and no exemption from the hardships life will bring. But I know my greatest triumphs left me covered in soot. I emerged from the fire by stepping into the footprints Jesus left behind. I trust the Hero who keeps me safe.

When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set your ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 43:2b-3a

©2013 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Glory On the Other Side of the Storm

In satellite images they seem almost solid, like you could hop down onto the swirl of clouds and bounce your way across the Caribbean. Astronauts’ photos capture the spirals of silver thunderheads cartwheeling against a deep blue sea. From the heaven side, hurricanes are magnificent: silent, beautiful, powerful. From the earth side, not so much.

As a kid in Miami, I found them exhausting. Battening down the hatches, riding out the storm, and living without power were just the beginning. For weeks afterward we’d work our tails off clearing the carnage. On the earth side of the storm it seemed all was broken: budgets and branches, houses and hearts. The grownups were grumpy and the yard was a mess.

But in South Florida, renewal springs eternal like a fungus you can’t get rid of. Drenching downpours and a scorching sun smother the land in humidity soup, ensuring Nature’s speedy recovery. Life goes on in a hurry. Survivors have precious little time to decide if they want to participate, as mold has already started growing in their closets. The sun will come out tomorrow, all right- but it will roast you in your recliner if you don’t patch the roof today.

So with sweat in their eyes they hammer and saw, repairing the damage and rebuilding their homes, all the while knowing that hurricane season comes every year. How do they do it? How do they keep their faith alive with wild winds ever on the horizon?

How do we?

Jesus told his disciples (and us, by John’s account) “In this life, you will have trouble.” (John 16:33 NIV) This does not sound like good news. But in the next breath he encourages us with these words:

“But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Like spirals of silver across the deep blue sea, Jesus sees our troubles from the Heaven side of eternity. Could it be that overcoming the world offers a view of our struggles as ongoing works of art: magnificent, beautiful, powerful? We know that our cries for help and mercy aren’t lost on the wings of the wind. Jesus remembers what it was like to live here on Earth, and he is ever interceding for us at the right hand of the Father. (Romans 8:34) But how does that help? What does renewal look like in the face of a broken heart?

Hurricanes drive us to Home Depot. Heartache should drive us to God’s Word. The apostle Paul knew more heartache than most of us will ever have to endure, but he had a promise from God that he shared with the church, and also with us:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)

The rain may drive in a sideways slant and the wind blow down your trees, but the temporary shelter we call hope is open ’til the day we go home to Heaven. So let’s grab the hammer and patch the roof; renewal is ours if we choose it. Glory is just on the other side of the storm.

© 2012 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

Living Between Heaven and Earth

She seethed with all the rage an eleven-year-old could muster. I hadn’t even stopped the car completely when she jumped out of the front seat and glared at me through the window. Catherine was a force. Never had she been madder at me than she was at that moment, and she was making sure I knew it before she stomped off to her classroom.

I put the car in park and waded into the indignant fury radiating from my beloved daughter.

“Honey, I know you’re mad, and I’m sorry about that. But you and I never know when will be the last time we will see each other. I never want us to part on these terms. I love you.”

She was literally taken aback. Her head jerked upwards slightly in shock, and the body that had been quivering with rage slowed to a stop. She thought for a moment, then came over and hugged me. I’m sure she was still angry, but I was amazed that a kid her age would take that to heart. For the next three years, until the day she died, she seemed to live with the perspective born of that moment. Thank God, thank God. I had no idea I’d lose her so soon.

After her accident, I seethed with all the rage a forty-four-year-old could muster. I didn’t understand God’s perspective on my loss any more than Catherine understood why I made her go to summer school. I stomped and screamed and glared through the windows of Heaven, shaking my fist at the God who’d abandoned me. Had He not heard my prayers for her life? Didn’t He love me?

How could He do this to me?

Night after night, when I wanted to die, I instead searched the Bible for comfort. Words that had once only warmed my heart now pried open my eyes to eternity. So long ago, in an upper room, the man who was God faced an excruciating death. Rather than pleading with His friends for compassion, He gave them a hope: a hope they could cling to, a hope I could cling to, the hope that would save my sanity. He took me aback with this promise:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am. You know the way to the place I am going.” (John 14:1-4 NIV)

I wish I could say I responded to God as quickly as my child had come and hugged me. Rather, He suffered my rage and endured my fury until I collapsed at the foot of the Cross. From there He could lift me out of the pit. In the darkest of nights, when her accident haunted me, I learned to picture Jesus coming for Catherine in the high mountain meadow where she died. With her unbroken smile she’d be so happy to see Him! He’d hold out His hand, and she’d grin and accept, and together they’d fade from my sight. My daughter’s in Heaven, waiting for me. What a comfort! What a Savior. Thank you, Jesus.

…as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”– (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV)

©2012 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com.

Finding Our Way When the Boat Turned Over

Like a wounded white whale washed up on the beach, the Costa Concordia lies on her side. The pictures shock and frighten us. What’s worse- an incompetent captain running aground, or the realization that cruise ships really can sink? As a dedicated cruiser I never thought twice about putting my life in the captain’s hands. I took it for granted he knew what he was doing.

We’ve always departed from US ports, where the first order of business is the safety drill. The horn blasts, we cast off, and before the coast is out of sight we dutifully file into our assigned common areas. We grumble and groan as the crew straps us into our life jackets, until the crowd resembles a sea of heads afloat on an orange tide. “Remember your muster station,” the head strapper warns. “Come here in case of emergency.” I’ve sometimes wondered what it would really look like: passengers running in every direction, trying to remember where to go. In my wildest dreams I never envisioned the ship turning over, the lights going out, and the crew swimming ashore without me.

But now we’ve seen the pictures. The passengers must have been terrified: crawling uphill, blind in the dark, fighting the pull of gravity as the water rose around them. Photos show tiny figures rappelling across the belly of the beast, desperate to reach the lifeboats in the sea far below. Even in the movies it’s horrifying. I can’t imagine how they had the courage to try. But I have experienced the adrenaline-fueled panic of my own surreal disaster.

Last week we observed the anniversary of our daughter’s death, the result of a snowmobile accident. Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw in the Emergency Room. Blessedly, her spirit had gone on to Heaven before we saw her body. In my wildest nightmares I never imagined the worst could actually happen, but it did: our ship went down in a matter of minutes. In its place spun a vortex: a cold, silent tide, sucking the warmth from my hands and the blood from my heart. I breathed in the dirt from the ER carpet, lying on my side like the Costa Concordia.

“Expect the unexpected.” Insurance companies thrive on helping us prepare for emergencies. For peace of mind we gather under the umbrella of impending doom with like-minded others, sharing the cost to cover the poor slob with the rotten luck to die early. We are ready- just in case. As we set sail into the future we ignore the rocks under the surface as best we can.

“In this life, you will have trouble,”1 Jesus said to his disciples. Like the life jacket drill as we pull out of port, we are warned. On this night, the last night before his murder, he told his dearest friends what he really wanted them to remember. Likewise, he gives us a heads-up: once in a while we’re going to hit the rocks. This is not good news, but it’s no surprise to anyone who’s been around a while. What can be surprising is what he says next:

“But take heart! I have overcome the world.”2

What does that mean?

I will leave the literal interpretation to learned theologians, but I can tell you what it looked like to be a friend of Jesus the day our ship went down. On that day, and for weeks to come, we were surrounded (and fed, nurtured, and cared for) by our church family. We hurled our furious questions at God every day in the same place we always met him- in the Bible. God’s Word assured us we will see Catherine again; the same girl she was, only made perfect. We survived and eventually thrived because we knew what to do in an emergency. It wasn’t a matter of expecting the unexpected; it was a matter of accepting the invitation long before we hit the rocks.

Finding our way when the ship turned over was as simple as going to our muster station. Jesus drew the map on our hearts. The captain knows what He’s doing.

©2012 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

1. John 16:33b NIV
2. Ibid.

Christmas In My Brown Paper Castle

“How blind are men to Heaven’s gifts!” -Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, (39-65 AD) De Bello Civili Bk. V, 1. 528

Ripping through paper and tugging on ribbon, my kids were each about three years old when they discovered this basic truth about presents: sometimes the box seems better than the gift inside. For all my thoughtful choices of educational toys and books, their imaginations went wild when faced with cardboard possibilities. They could sail on the sea or fly to the stars! These humble remnants of sacred trees became space capsules and sailing ships, playhouses and forts, fire engines and jets. After a couple weeks of loving abuse the kids lost interest, the boxes collapsed, and I quietly folded them into the trash. The books and toys from Christmas morning looked a lot better in the light of the new year. Cardboard castles kept them happy for a while, but my kids needed more to grow into their lives.

Just before I had kids, soon after Kevin and I were married, I found out that God loved me. The gift changed my life, and certainly the way I viewed Christmas. Ribbons and wrappings of sentimentality tugged at my heartstrings every year as the holidays approached. Carols and bell-ringers and all manner of cheer brought me to tears, and I treasured the package of Christ’s love for me. So beautiful was the gift I took great care not to even tear the outer paper, just peeking inside to find His story. But like toddlers exploring their brown paper castles, I could only grow up as fast as I was able. Soon enough, the Lord would invite me to learn what was inside the box.

Decembers came and went, and my kids grew up and into their lives, until a January day when Catherine died. She was my firstborn, my only daughter, now alive only in memories of boxes and castles in our make-believe world. In a murderous rage I ripped the sentimental trappings of my love for Jesus from the plain brown cardboard, tearing open the box to see if there was anything worth keeping from this seemingly useless faith.

Without its brightly-colored paper, the box just seemed old and worn; humble remnants of a sacred tree holding only a story stained with blood. While the Biblical account of Christmas reads familiar and sweet, the life story of Christ is savage and sad. He was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3), giving all that He had for the children He loved. In the months, then the years following Catherine’s death, I read and raged and searched for comfort, for reason, for an explanation. Like toddlers exploring their brown paper castles, I could only grow up as fast as I was able. But in time, I found the box and the story it held to be my most treasured possession. The story held the answers, and Jesus held me.

Under the tree this year are brightly-colored gifts from Kevin and Jesse, and the Santa hat Catherine wore every year. God has graciously lent us an amazing son, and we are grateful beyond words for the privilege of having raised him. With all my heart I believe the promise of Heaven (John 14:1-4) and that Jesus is holding Catherine close to His heart, and I have finally grown out of my cardboard castle. It kept me happy for a while, but I needed to grow into my life with Him. And the ribbons and wrappings of sentimentality to celebrate the birth of our Savior? I’m always a sucker for a good Christmas story.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)

©2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com.

Merry Christmas to All!

The Prayers of My Farewells

One final trudge up the hill, bearing the sandy trappings of our last day on the beach: chairs and towels, cooler and blanket, boogey boards, books, and a backpack. One last trip in the roasting car, A/C blasting, merging onto the highway. Elbowing our way into line, we joined the throngs of beachgoers headed back to civilization; even more so for us, as our plane would be leaving tonight. My heart said goodbye to Hawaii.

These last ten days had been more than a vacation. The Lord not only granted us respite from the daily grind, but relief and some healing from a heartache back home. Just when I reached the point where I could simply watch the waves break instead of hearing my heart break, it was time to leave. Oh, for a few more days on Kona! But this sacred time will hold a special place with the prayers of my farewells, safe in the arms of God. He’s been gathering my sorrows where I left them on the sand like a beachcomber scavenging treasure.

When I was young, the tide was always rushing in. With each swell came fresh opportunities, new responsibilities, and a fullness of life that kept me afloat. Now the tide has turned, slowly pulling back the demands but also the richness of relationships that sprang from community. Once we were all in this together, but the ties that bound us have loosened. We’ve scattered: to different churches, different towns, different jobs. I’ve had to let go, not only of friends, but of family members, of my children, and of souls I’ve met through work and service. Some of these partings were easy; a few were welcomed; but most just tore the hole in my heart a little wider. My only comfort is the assurance that Heaven is coming. For those who know Jesus, the sun will someday rise on a beautiful, distant shore, and all those I love will be there. God will mend all that’s tattered and torn; He will wipe away every tear; He will heal every broken heart. Meanwhile, the prayers of my farewells rest safely in His arms.

The sun set over the Pacific as we flew from Kona to Oahu, rising over Asia as our planet welcomed her new day. From Honolulu we flew east through the dark of the night, until dawn broke over the Rockies on our way back into town. It’s time for me to welcome my new life in the light of the rising sun. The time for heartache has passed, and I’m ready to face the dawn. As always, and forever: To God be the glory. Amen!

©2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

To see my favorite books on Heaven, visit Coconut Mountain Communications Resource Pages

To visit my website for resources and more, visit Friendship With Jesus

Treasures of Darkness

I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.- Isaiah 45:3 NIV

Their roster reads like a Who’s Who of those blessed by God. The authors of this anthology wrote of miraculous healings and divine deliverances; finally I closed the book and tucked it into the seat pocket in front of me. The drone of jet engines drowned out all but my thoughts as I pondered how my relationship with God changed when Catherine died.

In January 2000 our 14-year-old daughter died in an accident. Though our faith certainly sustained us in the moment, the following years erupted with hard questions about the Lord’s love, His plan, and ultimately His character. For all her short life we had prayed for her. Her dad and I tried to do the Christian life “right.” So why did God say no to our prayers for her safety, while saying yes to other parents in similar situations?

Inspirational stories of those healed and delivered from harm drove me crazy with fury and doubt. For years I simply avoided reading them, and now I wondered why I brought this book on vacation. But as I leaned back in the seat and closed my eyes, I was surprised to realize that reading these stories no longer causes me to doubt God’s love. I know God better because Catherine died. The warmth of His love enfolded me as I cuddled up in the airline’s blue blanket.

In those early years, I raged against God. I wanted answers, and I wanted them right away. I read the Bible again and again, and I learned.

When Catherine died, God’s heart broke with mine even as it celebrated with hers. I will be with them both before I know it. The search almost killed me but it lead me to the treasure: a love affair with Jesus and the solid hope of Eternity. Oh, I still forget to trust Him sometimes; but when I do, He sends a message- through His Word, through nature, through the prayers of a friend. And once again, I cast my cares at His feet.

Sometimes I feel like waiting for Heaven is like flying to Hawaii- it’s a long, arduous, frequently uncomfortable trip. But the destination is worth the wait. Two weeks ago, Kevin and I sat in the shade by the sea, celebrating the joy of Easter with God’s people. The breeze ruffled my hair as the worship team jammed in praise. Men in aloha shirts and women with flowers in their hair closed their eyes and raised their hands to Jesus. I was grateful for the moment, and for the Spirit of God who lives within us. But on this special Sunday, He sent me a gift to remind me of my daughter. That first Easter morning, Christ threw open the door to Heaven; there she now waits for me.

The raucous praise of the worship team gave way to the voice of one man with a ukulele. He strummed and sang Catherine’s favorite song, Shout to the Lord, in his native Hawaiian. Two yellow butterflies danced through the leaves above my head.
Tears ran down my face as Heaven touched Earth, just for me. I have learned to love the treasures God gave me in in darkness; I hold them close as I dance in the light.

My name has been added to the roster: I’m listed in the Who’s Who of one blessed by His love. He has summoned me by name- I am His, and He is mine. To God be the glory- Amen!

©2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com



Hearing the Heartbeat of God

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge.

I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”– King David (Psalm 57:1-2 NIV)

Were we still in the days of paper and stamps, the letters would arrive damp with her tears. Instead she updates by email from a hospital far away. Her husband’s heart is failing. I plead with God to hold them so closely they would feel the beating of His very own heart as they walk through the valley of the shadow. In the sterile domain of the mortally ill, where the hush in the hall is broken by sobs, sometimes it seems God is nowhere to be found. Perhaps He is across the street, flying a kite with a child in the park? But while I’ve flown plenty of kites, I’ve also been to the morgue. In the still of that silence I heard His heart best.

When our daughter died, we walked the sacred ground between Heaven and Earth, and there I first heard the heartbeat of God. I also felt it; I smelled it. Curled up on the hospital carpet as we waited for Catherine’s body, a virtual stranger wrapped me in her arms, my back against her chest, and the steady rhythm of God’s heart pushed my breath in and out, in and out. Later at home, and for days to come, it thrummed through the sounds and the scents of the saints coming and going, bearing hams and lilies; pleading prayers and passages on our behalf. Steadily it thumped in the rhythm of life, pulling our own hearts in tow lest they lose their momentum and surrender their song.

I’ve changed in the years since my daughter went home, because I now know the heartbeat of God. I hear it in the wail of the siren and the hum of the heart monitor. It throbs in the background as children let go of their parents, parents let go of their children, and as husbands and wives whisper, “goodbye, for now.” We can drown out the tempo with a flurry of fists as we pound on His chest and scream out our pain. But in the quiet of after, when our voices are broken and we’re fresh out of tears, He pulls us in close to His steady, strong comfort. He gathers us in and holds us next to His heart.

I have little to offer those who walk through the valley of the shadow, but I’m not afraid to go with them. I’ve been there before, and I know God is there. In the shadow of His wings I’ve felt the beating of His heart.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18 NIV)

©2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

Looking Forward to Heaven With the Eyes of My Heart

Sunday, January 23 marks the anniversary of my daughter Catherine’s death. At the age of fourteen she died in a snowmobile accident on a sunny Sunday afternoon, enjoying an outing with her friends from church.

In the eleven years since her passing, I’ve made some important choices, but one stands out above the rest. I chose to seek God in the midst of the tragedy.

In the years and the months, the weeks and the days leading up to the accident, we as a family lived a life of faith as best we knew how. All four of us had invited Jesus Christ into our hearts as Lord and Savior, and accepted salvation through His death on the cross. We had given Him free reign in our lives (again, as best we knew how) and prayed for each other in faith every day.

You can imagine our shock and rage at this turn of events. As far as we could tell, our prayers for Catherine’s safety had fallen on deaf ears. The Lord we thought we knew had been replaced by an impersonal, uncaring God who allowed our daughter to die horribly before she really had a chance to live. Our pain defied description, underscored by a sense of betrayal by the Jesus we had taught our children to love.

But the three of us who remained made one major decision, and it was that decision that saved us. We went to the Bible, the source of our answers before the disaster, and sought to understand a God who would allow such a heartache. We, who had endeavored to follow Him wholeheartedly, hurled the same questions as Job, and prayed the same laments as King David (both grieving parents themselves.) Finally, we followed Christ to the cross, only to hear the magnificent promise given to the thief: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” And finally, as far as we could go in the Word of God, we followed them to Heaven, reading everything the Bible had to say about the home where Catherine waits for us. Though we cannot understand the ways of God (Isaiah 55: 8-9) He gave us enough to cling to for the days we still have here on Earth.

Today, I look forward to Heaven with the eyes of my heart. Catherine- we miss you, honey. To everyone else: if I have only one message I can share with you, it is this: Jesus is always enough. Between His saving grace and the power of His Word, He gives His followers strength for today and hope for tomorrow. If He can keep this addict clean, this alcoholic sober, and this grieving mom from losing her mind, He is enough for anyone and everyone. To God be the glory, Amen!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am. You know the way to the place I am going.” – Jesus Christ, on the night He was betrayed (John 14:1-4 NIV)

Do you know the way? If you would like to know more about friendship with Jesus, visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

©Rachel Ophoff, 2011, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC, All Rights Reserved.

Watching For Lights In The Sky

Keep watch out your window; there might be a light show tonight.

A few days ago our Sun released a giant solar flare. While Earth is not directly in the path of this particular outburst, the Swedish have seen the Northern Lights this week, and are expecting more tonight. You’ve seen the pictures: enormous ribbons of blue and green undulating against the midnight sky. All my life I’ve yearned to see the real thing, but I live too far south of the Arctic Circle. Just once I’d love to open my curtains at night to see swirls of color blown by the solar winds.

Even more than the Aurora Borealis, I’ve yearned for a glimpse of Heaven; I yearn for the road home. To throw open my window and take to the skies, dancing along a ribbon of light and into the arms of my Savior. Instead, the black night of winter lies silent beyond my curtains. She coldly turns her back on me, pulling even the glow from the distant stars into the shadow of her cloak lest the starshine light my path.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
(Isaiah 9:2 NIV)

To us, the birth of Christ is history; to believers, this verse is as familiar as a well-worn prayer. But with all the promises of Heaven, we still live in the land of the shadow of death, and sometimes we grow weary of the dark. This Christmas I seek a fresh insight from an old story, to shine light upon my path.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel of the Lord said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
     This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in a manger.

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:8-20 NIV)

I love the shepherds. They were just regular guys- not special, not wealthy, though probably a little smellier than most. Just as we would be, they were no doubt scared witless when the sky lit up like a nuclear explosion. But as soon as the angels went home, they hustled off to Bethlehem to see the Christ child, spread the word to everyone who would listen, and finally went back to their fields, glorifying and praising God. Their day-to-day lives had not changed; they still worked outdoors in the cold and the heat and the sun. The sheep were still stupid and stinky and constantly wandering off. Wild animals still stalked their charges, and their night sky probably never lit up again. But God spoke to them and they knew it, and the light from that one night lit up the countryside, and all who heard it were amazed.

Here in the twenty-first century, this past year has brought heartache to many. Even our tiny group of believers has walked through the darkness of job loss, poor health, financial devastation, and more. These faithful have not given up, but they are tired and the road ahead looks to wind through shadows of sorrow and fear. In this season of miracles, let us sit with the shepherds on a faraway hill. Let us rejoice with them in worshiping the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness.” Let us spread the word to all who will listen, then go back to our lives glorifying and praising God. Sure, we’ll still have heartache in this land of the shadow of death. But God spoke to us through His Word and we know it. May the light from each believer spread through the countryside, and may all who hear it be amazed.

As for me, it’s not yet time to go home, so I’ll keep my eyes on the skies. Who knows? There might be a light show tonight.

©Rachel Ophoff, 2010, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

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