Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Gift Makes A Way...

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
Portrait of Christina Rossetti, by her brother Dante Rossetti

 Proverbs 18:16 

A gift opens the way 
for the giver
and ushers him 
into the presence 
of the great.

At Christmas time we think of giving and receiving gifts.  I find myself asking what can I do that would bless the sock off of Jesus this Christmas. I also think, I wonder what spiritual gifts Jesus might want to give me. I think of the words to a poem by Christina Rossetti (1830 -1894)   
What can I give Him, Poor as I am? 
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him, Give my heart.

I have pulled some of her beautiful Christmas poems to add to this post.

I guess as I think about what gift I can give, I think of those things that I do for the least of these - are things that I do for Jesus. So I give Him my heart and my life and my songs and my thoughts and my words.  I pray He will be blessed by my faith and obedience to write these devotional posts. I am thankful that He is using my words to encourage people all over the world. While I have conquered the "I am not _____ enough" thing that as hounded me most of my life I still find myself often thinking but who am I, what do I have of any great value to give. I suppose I still struggle with the insecurity of seeing myself as very ordinary and very broken and I am truly humbled that the Lord would use me to touch others with His love. I was told by my pastor and his wife that I needed to sit with the realization that my prayers were profoundly impacting the lives of people. So I am sitting with that this morning and my tendency is to say but thats not me thats the Lord working. I just pray as the Holy Spirit leads me and pray what He puts on my heart in that moment. Truly it is his work ...but I see, that as I sit with the realization that my prayers are making enough of a difference that it is getting back to my pastor, while all the glory goes to God.... that I have become useful because I have spent the time to know the Lord and to be found at His feet. So I am blessed to hear that my prayers and writing are making a difference in the lives of the people. I like to think of myself as a carrier of God's presence. I resist the notion that I am special - we are all special and I tend toward I am available Lord for your plans and purposes. You, who at one point used a donkey to speak to a prophet - now that was a "special talking donkey." But I have been instructed to sit with this knowledge by two people that I trust and respect deeply. So I find myself wondering what is it that you want me to see. Its not that I have a lack of confidence that you would use or speak through me, I see that, and I know that. I think perhaps is has to do with realizing the Lord's value of me. Clearly there is a deeper revelation of God's love for me that I need to somehow grasp.

When I pray for people. I lay hands on them and the Lord puts in my heart what to say. I rarely have any idea what they are going through or why they are wanting prayer, the Holy Spirit leads me as I pray. I am blessed that God would use something as simple as a prayer to make a difference in the life of another. I am humbled and in awe of Jesus who can take brokenness and make beauty from it. That he can take us, simple creatures that He formed from dust and fill us with His Spirit and reveal his glory in earthen vessels. I realize that if all I am is His, then it is more than enough. God who would come as a baby and fill a lowly stable with His glory is also willing to draw near and fill the likes of you and I.

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.
by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Christina Rossetti was an interesting woman who turned down several proposals of marriage because her suitors did not share her faith in Christ. Back then being an un married woman was not so cool or accepted as it is today. She was one of the formost women poets of her time. She was the youngest of four children and was educated at home by her mother.  She started writing as a young child and continued to write though out her life. She suffered from depression and a thyroid disorder called Graves disease and lived much of her life in seclusion. She died of cancer in 1894. 

I found another of her Christmas poems to share with you.

The Shepherds Had An Angel

The shepherds had an angel,
The wise men had a star;
But what have I, a little child,
To guide me home from far,
Where glad stars sing together,
And singing angels are?

Lord Jesus is my Guardian
so I can nothing lack;
The lambs lie in His bosom
Along life's dangerous track:
The wilful lambs that go astray
He, bleeding, brings them back.

Those shepherds thro' the lonely night
Sat watching by their sheep,
Until they saw the heav'nly host
Who neither tire nor sleep,
All singing glory, glory,
In festival they keep.

Christ watches me, His little lamb,
Cares for me day and night,
That I may be His own in heav'n,
So angels clad in white
Shall sing their Glory, glory,
For my sake in the height.

Lord, bring me nearer day by day,
Till I my voice unite,
And sing my Glory, glory,
With angels clad in white,
All Glory, glory, giv'n to Thee,
Thro' all the heav'nly height.

So to tie this post together. I think that as we give the Lord our hearts, our lives, our words... that he takes even the simplest things and begins to use them. Christina used her words and they have lived on long beyond her and still to this day inspire me and others who read them. So today as I sit with the knowledge that my prayers are making a difference,  I guess I am hopeful that my words will as well. There is a passage that says of Samuel the prophet in 1 Samuel 3:19 The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground."  I hope that God would say that of me, that my words in the things I write and in the things I say or pray would not fall to the ground but that they would encourage and inspire and bring hope to people and draw them closer to Jesus. I will end with this verse from Isaiah because it speaks to me of how God desires to establish us and move us from being afflicted and storm-tossed to becoming something of great beauty. To become his treasure and a gift to His kingdom.

Isaiah 54:11-14

“O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of agate, your gates of carbuncles, and all your wall of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you.”
Beloved, hear the word of the Lord to you. Rise up, take off the heavy cloak of sorrow and shame. Know that he is healing you and wants to set you free from the chains that have held you back from being all He has called you to be. He wants to replace that old raggedy cloak with a new one called hope.  He wants to pour over you the oil of gladness, that His joy might be your strength. He would give you temperance that you would no longer turn to old addictions and behaviors as a bandaid in a vain attempt to numb your pain. I pray you would receive the gift of His forgiveness and the have a deep and growing revelation of His love for you. I pray you would truly receive His acceptance and would begin to walk in the freedom of His grace and mercy and to once and for all finally cease from trying to atone for your past indiscretions. Jesus paid it all! May you have the faith to receive His Gifts to you this Christmas and the courage to leave the old behind and follow Him into the new things He has prepared for you. May you, yourself, become His gift to the many lives around you.

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