No Room for Them

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. – (Luke 2:4-7, NIV)

 

This portion of the Christmas story seemed to strike a new chord within my heart this past week, as my pastor pointed out the scandal and outrage that would have been associated with an unwed woman expecting a child who was engaged to a man with whom she had no intimate relations. Joseph came from the house of David. His heritage was quite significant, and his family name was likely known. Everyone was expected to return to the place of their familial ties for the census, so it is quite conceivable that Joseph had numerous relatives who were also traveling to Bethlehem at the same time. Under normal circumstances, a family would have traveled and stayed together, yet Mary and Joseph made the journey alone. Their isolation leads me to believe that they were being shunned by the family, and left to their own devices to survive. Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, they were unable to find a proper place to stay. What I found intriguing is that each version of scripture that I read, says that “there was no room for them. This leads me to believe that perhaps there was room, but they were turned away because of societal standards, and left stranded and a bit desperate. Who was the inn keeper who did at last show some compassion, and at least allow the pair shelter as the time drew near for Mary to give birth? It is both incredible and admirable to think of Mary and Joseph and all that they must have gone though, just to get to the stable birth. Additionally, the thought of the two of them having to deliver the Son of God in their surroundings is overwhelming. She was quite young and he was a carpenter; nothing in their life experience had likely prepared them for what they endured, other than the very presence of God with them. May we continue to ponder with awe and wonder, the miracle of God with us, this most holy season.

 

Hard was the journey, No Room for Them

To travel alone;

This chosen couple,

So far from their home.

Upon arrival,

No room granted them;

Just a small stable,

In old Bethlehem.

The time had arrived,

For the babe be born;

Courage delivered,

Wrapped Him in cloths torn.

No isolation,

Could stand in God’s way;

Strength to them granted,

Right there in the hay.

Though they’d been alone,

It did not last long;

For angelic hosts,

Announced this with song.

The shepherds they came,

They followed the light;

In awe and wonder,

On that holy night.

The baby swaddled,

God’s very own Son;

The faith of this pair,

God’s will had been done.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the miracle and wonder that surrounds the story of You sending Your Son to us as a baby, in humble beginnings, to make Him approachable to all. Thank You for showing us Your faithfulness through the hearts of the people that were part of Your story, and modeled what it is to trust in You. Forgive us for forgetting the depth of Your love that sent Your Only Son to us so that we could have life in You. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would pause and ponder in wonder, the miracle and the majesty of all that You have done. Show us how to love those around us in a way that gives insight and understanding to Your goodness and grace. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we allow Your story to fill our hearts and minds this Christmas. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. – 2 Corinthians 1:3

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Out of the Desert

Give thanks to Him who led His people through the wilderness. His faithful love endures forever. – (Psalm 136:16, NLT)

He led His people through the desert. His faithful love will last forever. – (Psalm 136:16, ERV)

 

Being a teacher towards the end of the school year can be tough. Middle school seems to be particularly brutal once all of the state testing has concluded. Students have endured all that they feel they are capable of learning, and many begin to check out. The final six-week stretch has felt especially long this year, as certain classes had clusters of kids together that fed off of one another, making the task of teaching all the more a challenge. That being said, God sustained me with His strength and grace, and surrounded me with stellar colleagues who were in the very same fight. Daily, we were able to encourage and support each other, and today, we have reached the end. There have been students that have stayed strong throughout the duration of the year, and have brought light and laughter to our days. Even the difficult students, when on their own, have provided glimpses of good that can be recognized today as we gather for our final few hours to celebrate and send them off to high school. May we ever give God thanks for His faithfulness in the wilderness, and His love that lasts forever.

 

In the wilderness,Out of the Desert

God’s faithful to be;

Present and loving,

He stays close to me.

Through the hardest times,

Strength and love He gives;

Endurance to fight,

Proof that our God lives.

Ever He’s faithful,

He loves for all time;

No matter what comes,

Hope in Him is mine.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You lead us through the dry and difficult seasons. Thank You that even in the desert, You make Your love, faithfulness and presence known. Thank You for the people that You place in our lives to walk beside us. Forgive us for losing faith in the fight when we become overwhelmed with what we see in front of us. Thank You that Your faithfulness is not dependent on our faith. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would not lose heart, but rather press forward in faith; always. Show us how to love those around us in a way that encourages and strengthens in their spaces of wilderness and lack. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we receive Your faithful love and go forth and give as we have been given. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Father, I thank You that You have heard me. – John 11:41

The Author and Finisher of Our Faith

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – He could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. – (Hebrews 12:2, MSG)

Now stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith. He endured the cross and ignored the shame of that death because He was focused on the joy that was set before Him; and now He is seated beside God on the throne, a place of honor. – (Hebrews 12:2, VOICE)

 

Jesus chose to endure all the scorn and shame of the cross because He knew what it would do for us, and where He would ultimately end up. All that we face, Jesus has already endured. If we look to Him, our road map is clearly displayed before us as to how we are meant to navigate our race. Though we may not know what the entire course looks like, we know the One who does. If we keep our eyes on Him, He will lead us and guide us every step of the way. More than that, we know that in the end, the ultimate prize awaits. Just as in most road races there is a finisher medal for all who complete the race, in life, there is the promised place in heaven with Him forever for those who remain faithful. May we keep our eyes on Jesus, who is faithful to show us the way as He equips and encourages us as we each run the race set before us.

 

Let us fix our eyes,The Author and Finisher of Our Faith

On Jesus above;

Who’s been where we are,

And looks on in love.

He already ran,

This race that we run;

Endured the trials,

Though He is God’s Son.

He willingly chose,

To go through the pain;

So we could rise up,

Stand firm in His Name.

From His holy throne,

He ever contends;

As we keep running,

And find strength in Him.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You sent Your Son to make the way for us to be restored into right relationship with You. Thank You Jesus, that You endured the cross and all the scorn and shame on our behalf so that we could have the hope of spending all of eternity with You. Forgive us for losing focus or faith in the fight, and teach us to trust You with all that we are. Help us to fix our eyes on You in all things and at all times. Show us how to love others with endurance and joy, so that they may see the hope that is held in You. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we keep our eyes on You, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. – Psalm 145:8

Reminders Anew

They will hand Him over to the foreigners, who will laugh at Him and beat Him with whips, and then they will kill Him on a cross. But on the third day after His death, He will be raised to life again. – (Matthew 20:19, ERV)

 

As Easter approaches, we are reminded anew of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He willingly bore the agony of the cross on our behalf, so that we could be raised to new life in Him. This season is a reminder of the awakening that occurred as life was breathed into His body in the tomb. Though there are dark days, when the sun returns and the flowers bloom, we see the hope of the longer, sweeter days of summer on the horizon. In the same way, on the third day, after much darkness and despair, those closest to Jesus went to visit His body, only to discover that He was alive again! Our hope is held in the One who defeated death so that we could find life in Him forever. May we always remember that the darkness is but for a season, and His light dwells within us, holding the hope of all that is yet to come.

 

When darkness and death,Embracing Grace

Seem to dominate;

Remember to seek,

Him who can relate.

For Jesus, He knows,

The weight of our pain;

As we seek His help,

He makes His grace plain.

We’re granted His hope,

His love and His peace;

Life everlasting,

Grace that will not cease.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You willingly endured the scorn and shame of the cross, and overcame the grave to give us new life in You. Thank You that even when darkness and death seem to surround us, there is always light and life in You. Forgive us for making You too small, as You are the Overcoming King. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would rely on You in all things and at all times. Show us how to love others in such a way, that we offer hope, light and life where they fear there is none. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we recognize and celebrate the power held in Your presence as You alone bring hope and new life. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; …my hope is in You all day long. – Psalm 25:4-5

A Tribe that is True

Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble. – (Proverbs 17:17, MSG)

A true friend loves regardless of the situation, and a real brother exists to share the tough times. – (Proverbs 17:17, VOICE)

 

Somehow, I am blessed with friends who have become family and family that I truly consider friends. For the past few days, my boys and I had the pleasure of spending sweet time together with my sister and her family. It was a joy to see the cousins carry on as if no time had passed since the last time we gathered, and for me, time face-to-face with my sister and brother-in-law is always a gift to my heart. Today, some of my most dearly treasured tribe of friends will gather for our first annual “Friendsgiving”. The very idea of gathering all together in gratitude fills my heart to overflowing. Each one of us has endured some serious storms over the past year, yet with our circle surrounding whomever was in the throes of the storm, each of us was able to endure and come through stronger, knowing that we were supported and loved. May we all continue through this sacred season surrounding our people with love and support, and giving thanks for the blessings that the Lord has brought our way.

 

May we be the friends,tribe

Who love through the storm;

A place of safety,

Where hearts become warm.

No matter what comes,

May we remain true;

In love and friendship,

Help each other through.

Let’s be family,

In good times and bad;

Through all circumstance,

Reason to be glad.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the beautiful blessings of friends and family that You give. Thank You that You use the relationships around us to show us more of Yourself. Thank You that so often, Your heart is made tangible through the encouraging words of the people You place in our lives. Forgive us for not loving the way You call us to love. Teach us to be the kind of friends and family that You have created us to be. Show us how to love and stick together, no matter what comes our way. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we love regardless of circumstances, just as You love us. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Because of the tender mercy of our God, …the rising sun will come to us from heaven. – Luke 1:78

Turn to Trust

But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. – (Psalm 56:3, NLT)

When struck by fear, I let go, depending securely upon You alone. – (Psalm 56:3, VOICE)

When I get really afraid I come to You in trust. – (Psalm 56:3, MSG)

 

I so appreciate that these were the honest words prayed by the heart of David, who was a mighty warrior. As one who had fought lions, giants, armies, elements, exhaustion and having to endure the anguish of alone, he identified and admitted his fear, and recognized and ran to the One in whom he knew he could trust. God was faithful to be present and protect David, despite the times of trial that he endured. The very same God who was worthy of such trust for David, remains present, approachable and available for each of us today. If fear attempts to find footing, we have One to whom we can run. May we depend securely upon the Lord alone, for He is the One in whom we can place all of our trust.

 

When fear tries creep in,Compassion in Confrontations

May we turn to trust;

For our God alone,

Is faithful and just.

As we choose let go,

Give God all our fear;

He makes His heart known,

Through His drawing near.

To come still closer,

The Lord welcomes us;

To release each fear,

And trust in Jesus.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that when we are afraid, we can come to You and trust You to be present and faithful to remain with us. Thank You that You never leave us nor forsake us. Forgive us for choosing to remain frozen in our fears, rather than running to You and laying them at Your feet. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would bring You our every fear, and trust You to lead us and guide us through the spaces that seem far beyond what we are equipped to handle. Show us how to love well, every person that we encounter, so that they might gain glimpses of You through how we love. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we trust You when we are afraid, knowing that You are faithful; always. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Listen… be wise, and keep your heart on the right path. – Proverbs 23:19

Worship Anyway

Job got to his feet, ripped his robe, shaved his head, then fell to the ground and worshiped. – (Job 1:20, MSG)

When Job heard this, he got up, tore his clothes, and shaved his head to show his sadness. Then he fell to the ground to bow down before God. – (Job 1:20, ERV)

Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. – (Job 1:20, NLT)

 

A few days ago, I passed the one-month mark with my back injury. Typically, I am extraordinarily active, and I participate in high impact workouts at least six days per week. In order for my compression fracture to heal, I was instructed to do no high impact activities. This has left me with few options, and the lack of adrenaline and endorphins released from merely walking, seem to be taking its toll. I am weary, restless, and fighting the darkness that tries to pull me down. The only thing that has kept me somewhat sane in this state of waiting, is an abundance of walking, encouraging friends, and the turning up of my worship music and singing along with all that I am.

This morning, as I read about Job and all of the horrible loss that he endured, as well as how he responded, I am again reminded of what matters most, and how to best combat the fear and frustration. Worship does wonders. As we remove our focus from ourselves and our own situations, and instead fix our eyes and hearts on Him who deserves all of our attention, something shifts and the unbearable becomes bearable. Our burdens are no longer ours alone, and we see Him who is seated on the throne. God who is worthy of all of our worship, is the only One who can see us through our storms. May we mourn what need be mourned, then, despite our sorrow, set our hearts to worship the One who will carry us until our strength is renewed. Let every heart lift praise to our Prince of Peace.

 

When all’s going wrong,photo (3)

The struggle is new;

There’s one place to turn,

Where Love sees us through.

The Lord is our strength,

No matter our state;

As we choose worship,

His love lifts the weight.

He helps bear burdens,

Too heavy for us;

Shines light in darkness,

Grants peace through Jesus.

Despite the struggle,

God is always good;

Let us choose worship,

His grace understood.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are always good and worthy of our worship. Thank You that despite what we have going on in or around us, You are with us and willing to remain present. Forgive us for allowing our circumstances to dictate our view of You, rather than allow You to shape our view of what is going on in and around us. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would seek You and worship You in all things and at all times. Show us how to worship You in spite of what we see, and lead us to love others in such a way, that they too may see how kind and loving You are to all who seek You. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we mourn what need be mourned, but recognize in all things, that You deserve our worship. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

For the Lord your God will bless you, …and your joy will be complete. – Deuteronomy 16:15

Ragnar Reminders

This is a different sort of post, as today is no ordinary day. Today, I will embark on a journey of epic proportions. Eleven friends and I will be running a 200-mile relay from the Canadian border to Whidbey Island. This endeavor begins at 6:30am, and will likely not conclude until late tomorrow afternoon. Our team is separated into two vans, containing six runners each, and van 1 is already nearing the start line for the prerace meeting. As a part of van 2, we get to have a bit more leisurely start, yet our second legs run, will be run in the wee hours of the night, prior to dawn’s early light. Van 2 has fewer opportunities for sleep, so perhaps that is why there is a bit of kindness as to when and where our first leg begins. The next 30+ hours will be a test of perseverance, stamina, and mental toughness. However, they are also hours of support, kindness, encouragement, and the best bonding in a shared experience that a person could ever imagine. Ragnar is a race that reminds me what life is like, and how it is meant to be run.

 

…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – (Hebrews 12:1b-2)

 

We are meant to persevere and run the course that is marked before us. Our eyes are meant to be fixed on the path that Christ has prepared for us, not on the distractions and detours that could hinder us as we run. For the joy set before Him, He endured; so we too, ought to endure, trusting that there is so much more yet to come. In this race, the reward at the end is well worth the struggle. There is a huge celebration at the end, with medals, a meal, photos, and the reuniting of the two vans, to run the final quarter mile of the race, together. The joy found in our fleeting race ending, will be but a glimpse of the glory that we will find if we choose to faithfully follow our Heavenly Father for all of our days. Jesus is seated on His throne, and has prepared a place, just for us. He is always available, and ever present. May we rise up and run our own race, just as Christ has called us to run, and may we persevere, trusting in He who is faithful to see us through to the finish line.

 

Let us each rise up,Ragnar Team 2014

be ready to run;

whatever the race,

we’re called by the Son.

Ever persevere,

with eyes fixed on God;

for He is our strength,

our hope to applaud.

With joy, He endured,

for all of our sake;

so that we could run,

with swiftness, our race.

Endure the struggles,

for though there is pain;

the future glory,

is all that remains.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You so much for life and health and the ability to run the race that You have set before us, whatever that looks like for us, individually. Thank You that You strengthen us and keep us, so that we may persevere, trusting in Your faithfulness to see us through. Thank You that no matter the pain we endure in the here and now, our hope remains in our future glory with You forever. Forgive us for fixing our eyes on the temporary things around us, and help us to focus our hope in You. Lead us to love others as You so generously and graciously love each of us. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be exalted O God, as we run our race with perseverance, giving You the glory for every good thing that happens along the way. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. – 2 Corinthians 1:3

Because He Loved

Valentine’s Day is an interesting holiday, especially among middle schoolers the day prior. While some students were over-the-moon with excitement, others were nearly manic, as they mourned their mate-less state. Most, however, took it upon themselves as an opportunity to binge on copious quantities of confections, and were bouncing off the walls. The pivotal point that so many get hung up on, is what exactly is love, and how do we celebrate it?

 

If our priorities are kept in place, and we opt to spend the day focusing on loving God and loving people well, then it can be a day worth celebrating, rather than one to view with disdain. One of the most powerful examples of Jesus’ love for us is how He endured all things for our sake, so that we could come to know Him.

 

In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked Him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but He can’t save Himself!” – (Mark 15:31)

 

Though Jesus could have saved himself, He endured this suffering because of His love for us. He could have chosen not to take the pain and humiliation; He could have killed those who mocked Him – but He suffered through it all because He loved even His enemies… Jesus died on that cross for us, and the penalty for our sins was paid by His death. – (NIV footnotes for Mark 15:31)

 

Because He loved, we too may love.

 

What beautiful love,Good Gifts

would lay down His life;

choose to sacrifice,

despite all our strife?

He came not because,

we deserved His grace;

but because He loves,

the whole human race.

The sinners and saints,

man, woman and child;

He came for us all,

to be reconciled.

Let us each embrace,

this glorious gift;

go forth and love well,

encourage and lift.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the incredible gift of Your Son.  Jesus, thank You that You came to set us free from the chains of our sin, and made the way for us to be restored to a right relationship with You. Thank You that You endured endless suffering on our behalf, because You loved. Forgive us for not choosing to love You and others as we are called to love, or for focusing inward instead of out. Teach us to trust You more, so that as we reach out in faith, we will recognize the remarkable ways in which You provide return to refill our hearts again. Lead us to love well, so that many may come into a lasting relationship with You. Be exalted O God, as we bring the blessings of Your love to a world in need. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine upon us. – Psalm 67:1

Tether Our Hearts

Today, my reading plan had me reading both Exodus 6-8, and Luke 23. Though there were many individual verses that I could have highlighted, the thing that stood out to me the most, was the way in which both Moses and Jesus chose to remain faithful to their calling in captivity. Moses, was appealing to Pharaoh for the people of Israel to be set free to go into the desert to worship, and Jesus was being held after His arrest, as He was bruised, beaten and tried six times before various courts – none of which could find Him guilty, in obedience to be the sacrifice for all of our sins.

 

In both portions of scripture, God had called each to a specific task. For Moses, he was being asked to lead a nation out of captivity when the ruler of the nation paid no regard to his requests. Jesus, was being asked to bear the weight of the world on His shoulders, as He knew the pain He was called to endure. Neither story seemed to go smoothly. Both bore the burden before them, and endured enormous adversity to ultimately arrive in the place to which they had been called. This can be a bit overwhelming, yet completely encouraging, as we know that in all things, God is faithful to those who trust in Him. Though we may not see what He is doing in the midst of adversity, we can trust that He has a plan and a purpose for everything that we endure, and that He will utilize each trial and triumph for our ultimate good. May we hold fast to our hope in Christ alone, as He is faithful to walk beside us, be it in trial or triumph.

 

When life surrounds you,Tether Our Hearts

forced captivity;

choose trust in the Lord,

to keep your heart free.

For only in Christ,

is true freedom known;

set free from our sin,

where His grace is shown.

Though often unseen,

His purpose is clear;

to love each of us,

as we choose draw near.

Let us seek the Lord,

no matter what comes;

hold fast to the truth,

Christ, the faithful One.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You have given us great examples of those who have endured tremendous trials by depending on You. Thank You that no matter what comes our way, Your presence is promised, and Your hope is secure. Thank You that You are faithful to remain with us, even when we are unaware of Your presence. Forgive us for our fears and faltering faith when the fight becomes too much, and teach us to tether our hearts and minds to You alone. Give us Your eyes to see things through an eternal perspective, so that we may remember that all that is in the here and now is only temporary, yet that which is yet to come, is forever. Lead us to love intentionally, just as You so purposefully and completely love each of us. May many come into a saving relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we hold fast to You, in all things and at all times. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23:6