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

May We Marvel Like the Magi

Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time! They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, His mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped Him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh. In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left that territory without being seen, and returned to their own country. – (Matthew 2:9-12, MSG)

 

As I continue on my journey to dig deeper into the stories of those who first were mentioned in the Christmas story, this morning I did some searching about the Magi. What I had already learned, is that the wise men who visited bearing gifts, did not actually visit Mary, Joseph and Jesus as He lay in the manger. It was likely a year or two later. As mentioned, the wise men entered their home, not an animal shelter of sorts with Jesus in a manger. My new discovery however, is that according to what I found, the Magi were a priesthood of the Medes, known for their exceptional religious knowledge, and some proved to be experts at interpretation of dreams. This was the very same group of wise men and advisors to whom Daniel had been appointed Chief of the Magi, several generations prior. The gifts that these priestly people brought had prophetic and powerful meaning in religious realms. Gold spoke of His kingship, frankincense was a spice used in priestly duties, and myrrh was an embalming ointment anticipating His death. The wise men followed a star, knowing of the significance of Who they would find if they followed where it led. Based on the gifts that they had prepared to take, I imagine that they had already been given some dreams and insight about what had been foretold long before. It is awe-inspiring to envision what the moment must have been like for the Magi. A lifetime of studying and seeking, and then suddenly these wise men found themselves standing before the Savior of the world.  May we each have Magi-like moments this Christmas, where we recognize in awe and wonder, His powerful presence, because He chose to come and be God with us.

 

A star of wonder, May We Live Like the Magi

Led wise men afar;

Check in with a king,

Then follow the star.

The Magi arrived,

In Bethlehem town;

The way clearly shown,

As the star shined down.

With awe and wonder,

The wise men took knee;

They gave Him their gifts,

All praise unto Thee.

May we too behold,

A similar awe;

At the Gift given,

What the wise men saw.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You willingly show us more and more of Who You are and all that You have done, as we seek You and ask for Your insight. Thank You for the faithfulness and obedience of the Magi, and a bit more of the story behind them. Forgive us for taking everything at face value, or for becoming numb to the depth and life that come from beholding the truth and the treasure that is found in the story of Jesus’ arrival. Teach us to seek to see it through fresh eyes, so that we never lose our awe and wonder at the glory of the Gift that You gave. Show us how to love those around us in a way that points hearts to You, the ultimate Giver of all. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we stand in awe of all that You have done for us, and the very reason we celebrate this season. Amen.

 

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

 

He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. – Job 8:21

(link to Magi research)

Hope in Discouragement

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again – my Savior and my God! – (Psalm 42:5, NLT)

Why am I so sad? Why am I so upset? I tell myself, “Wait for God’s help! You will again praise Him, your God, the One who will save you.” – (Psalm 42:5, ERV)

Why are you so down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God – soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God. – (Psalm 42:5, MSG)

 

It is difficult to take in the recent events in our nation, and not feel sad and discouraged. Yet, even in the darkness of such ugliness, good has been burning bright in incredible ways. When the need for blood donations was presented to the people of Las Vegas and the surrounding areas, generous hearts lined up in droves. Help is being provided in a place where it is typically lacking, as it is needed most. Additionally, there have been numerous stories of individuals placing themselves in harm’s way to help those in need in the midst of this tragic event. When I see the good that rose up in people who helped because they knew that they could not just standby and do nothing – I am encouraged and remember that God is our hope and our reason to praise. He moves hearts to act with love and compassion, and despite the darkness that is in the world, God is always good. May we ever place our hope in the Lord, as He is the One who saves and is worthy of all of our praise.

 

When I’m discouraged, Hope in Discouragement

And my heart is sad;

Help me hope again,

Lord, make my heart glad.

Glad for Your goodness,

For Your light and grace;

Praise for salvation,

Our hope in this place.

Lord, help us to see,

Where to fix our eyes;

As we look to You,

All hope’s realized.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that despite the darkness that befalls us and our nation, You are always good. Thank You that You demonstrate Your goodness and faithfulness through the grace and love of people. Father, please be with the first responders, the officers, the medical teams and all those impacted by what took place in Las Vegas. Your healing hands are needed more than ever. Forgive us for turning a blind eye to that which overwhelms us. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would ask of You what we are meant to do – be it to give, pray, or go do more. Show us how to love those around us in a way that provides comfort and care. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, especially in the places where Your light seems to be lacking. Amen.

 

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

 

For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. – 1 Peter 2:19

Fathering Well

Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master. – (Ephesians 6:4, MSG)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. – (Ephesians 6:4, NLT)

 

I know that this is a tough topic for so many. Fathers are placed in our lives to fill such a significant role, yet without the grace and help of God, there is little chance of them measuring up to the expectation presented in the title alone. That being said, some of the best fathers that I know, did not have the most stellar examples in their own lives. God’s grace covered them as they grew, and He provided men of integrity to walk beside them and show them what it is to love well as a dad. There is no one who always gets it right, except our Heavenly Father, but the men who seek to lead their kids by the hand and show them by example, correcting and redirecting with love, are setting the standard for our future generations of fathers. May we celebrate the fathers we know, and encourage them as they help their kids grow.

 

Thank You, dear Father, Be strong and courageous

Despite what we’ve had;

You shall always be,

Our Heavenly Dad.

Thanks too for the men,

Who take by the hand;

Each child to love,

And shows them Your plan.

Not by being harsh,

Instead, they choose lead;

Lovingly guiding,

Direct to succeed.

Instruct with wisdom,

Discipline with grace;

Do all things in love,

So they seek Your face.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are our ultimate Father. Thank You for the fathers that You have placed in our lives to teach us, grow us, and bless us. Forgive us for not recognizing and encouraging the fathers that are all around us, seeking to do things according to Your will. Teach us to have Your eyes to see and Your heart to bless and encourage our brothers who are seeking after You. Show us how to love well, all the people whom You place in our path. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we thank You for being the best Father of all, and praise You for the gift of fantastic fathers that You place in our lives and the lives of our children. 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

Rediscovering Dreams

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him. – (Psalm 62:5, NLT)

Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along His path. – (Psalm 37:34a, NLT)

We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. – (Psalm 33:20, NLT)

 

For the past few months, there is a part of me that has been stirring and not able to settle at rest. Though I would pray, and look for answers, I could not figure out what I was meant to do next. A little over a week ago, I had an exchange with someone that at first, felt offensive. Perhaps it was, but really, it matters not, as God used it to propel my heart in a direction that I would never have explored, if not for that brief conversation. What was discovered as a result of the consequential agitation, was a dream that had all but died. Possibility presented itself before me, and I am now pursuing something that I never thought obtainable. Whether it comes to fruition or not, the excitement of imagining and hoping is enough to remind me that God has more than what I see. He is reminding me that He has wired me with gifts and talents, dreams and desires, that He longs to honor just as much as I hold hope to use them for His glory. May we rise up and remember that God has handcrafted each of us with gifts and talents, plans and purpose, and what we see now is not all that there is. Let us hold fast to the hope we have in Him, and be willing to take steps of faith forward as He leads.

 

Be not discouraged,Rediscovering Dreams

By all that you see;

Often there’s movement,

Waiting within reach.

For what seems unkind,

Horrible, unfair;

Could be the movement,

That leads us from there.

Remember to hope,

Not in what is seen;

But rather in God,

Who as we trust, leads.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are our hope who leads us where we are meant to go. Thank You that despite what we see, You have so much more for each of us. Thank You that You take the seemingly horrible things and use them to propel us in the direction that You intend for us to move. Thank You that You have good things for Your children. Forgive us for our lack of hope and for allowing our dreams to die or lie dormant. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would seek You and pursue the path You place before us to utilize the very things that You have created within us to share with those around us. Show us how to love well, everyone whom we encounter. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we place our hope in You and travel along the path You place before us. Amen.

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

The joy of the Lord is your strength. – Nehemiah 8:10

Called to be Family

When Jesus saw His mother standing there beside the disciple He loved, He said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. – (John 19:26-27, NLT)

 

As Jesus was hanging on the cross, weighed down by the weight of the world’s sin, He still took notice of the growing grief on the faces of those He dearly loved. A further example of how Jesus loved people, even as He hung in agony, is revealed to us in this short exchange between Jesus, His mother, and John. Knowing that both Mary and John would need comfort and care from another who had shared in the entire experience of the life and death of Jesus, He presented them to each other in new familial roles so that they could help one another in Jesus’ absence. Clearly Christ’s words were taken to heart, as John took Mary into his home from that day forward. Jesus is all about relationship. He cares about our heart and wants our grieving hearts to be comforted. The people around us are not in place by mistake. He sets the lonely in families, and loves us to life when our light has grown dim. May we ever fix our eyes on Christ, and allow Him to move in us and through us in ways that bring comfort and care to all in need, as we look to the hope that is held forever in Him.Called to be Family 1

 

Jesus sees our hearts,

And knows all our needs;

Surrounds the lonely,

And hungry, He feeds.

Wherever we are,

He sees and He knows;

His heart is to love,Called to be Family 2

So our faith might grow.

Even in anguish,

Christ spoke how to be;

Support each other,

We’re now family.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that family is not only those related by blood, but rather they are those whom You surround us with to be our safety and support. Thank You that Jesus showed us how important it is to be in ongoing relationship with one another, as it was one of the last things He pointed out before He drew His last breath on the cross. Forgive us for withdrawing or not investing ourselves into those that You have placed in our lives to be family – whether they are related by blood or not. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would love those around us as You have loved us. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we embrace and invest in those around us, just as we are called to do. 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

Let It Be Yes

Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying – I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. – (Matthew 26:74, NLT)

 

Peter, who had been one of the three who was closest to Jesus, ultimately betrayed Him in His darkest hour. This must have been particularly painful, as Peter was the only disciple who was mentioned as having followed where Jesus was taken after His arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. Rather than extending support or testifying on His behalf, Peter stood outside at a distance – watching and waiting to see what would happen. In his wait, he was asked three times if he was associated with Jesus. Three times, he denied even knowing Him. After Peter’s third denial, the weight of his words overwhelmed him, and he ran off weeping bitterly at his own weakness in the face of adversity. However, the beauty of Peter’s story is that he does not live the remainder of his life as a broken and remorseful man, but rather Jesus forgives and redeems him, and he goes on to become the rock on which the church is built. Peter’s failure later became the way in which he was restored, as Jesus asked him three times, “Peter, do you love me?” Each time Peter responded with a resounding “Yes“, and Jesus followed his “yes” with the call to go out into all the earth and share the good news. Peter went from mess to minister, through the power presented in the forgiveness Jesus provided. May we each seek the redeeming power that Jesus provides as we are willing to say “yes” to Him as He forgives our every sin and shortcoming.

 

Oh Lord as we come,Beside Still Waters

Broken in our sin;

I stand in such awe,

As we’re forgiven.

Your grace overwhelms,

Restores and renews;

Gives rise and purpose,

To all who come choose.

Lord take all our sin,

And wash it away;

Show us how to rise,

To walk well, Your way.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are the God who forgives, heals and restores us and raises us up so that we can do mighty things for You. Thank You that our past does not determine our future. Thank You that You can bring beauty from ashes, and testimonies from trials. Forgive us for wallowing in our own failures, rather than seeking Your forgiveness and redemption. Teach us to trust You more, as Your hand is what moves us in mighty ways. Show us how to love as You love us, so that many may come to know and understand the power of Your forgiveness and grace. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we seek You for forgiveness, and rely on You to be our strength and guide wherever we are meant to go. Amen.

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

As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. – James 5:11

Our Constant in Continual Change

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. – (Hebrews 13:8, NLT)

 

In this day and age where so much changes at a pace that is impossible to track, the place where peace is found is in Christ. His love is constant, and His faithfulness does not waiver. The promises of God that were presented in the beginning, hold true and remain our hope from now unto eternity. Regardless of the rapid rate at which our surroundings switch, our Savior is constant, and we can steady our hearts and our hope in Him. May we trust in the Lord with all of our heart, and lean on Him for understanding. For no matter what comes, His love and presence remain consistent and true for all time.

 

No matter what comes,The Reason for Reverence

Or how things do change;

Jesus is constant,

And His love remains.

What was yesterday,

Holds true still today;

Will be tomorrow,

His faithfulness stays.

So fear not, dear ones,

The Lord’s ever near;

Though life’s uncertain,

In God, there’s no fear.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are the same yesterday, today and forever. Thank You that we need not fear when everything around us changes before our eyes, as long as we place our hope in You. Thank You that You hold us in the palm of Your hands, and steady us when we feel weary. Forgive us for our fear of change that continues around us. Show us Your presence in the new that surrounds. Teach us to trust You, even when we cannot see how change could possibly be a good thing. Lead us to love those around us well, so that we may provide consistency in an ever-changing world. Help us to be Your light before all those whom we encounter. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we cling to You to be our constant in this ever-changing world. Amen.

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

For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. – 1 Peter 2:19

Trust in His Timing

As soon as I pray, You answer me; You encourage me by giving me strength. – (Psalm 138:3, NLT)

 

God is faithful to meet us when we pray, however, His answers do not always look the way that we hope they might. Sometimes, the Lord answers only with encouragement and strength to keep pressing on for another day, and then the next morning, will do the same again. We are a fast food, instant-gratification society, so waiting for answers from the Lord is difficult. Answers sought online can be “googled” and discovered in mere moments, but those presented before the Lord can take days, weeks, months or even years. His answers come in a gentle whisper, not in a bright pop-up screen. Our hearts must be intently focused on hearing His, or we may miss what He has been speaking all along. Beyond the hearing, often there is an additional step required of us – the actual doing. I cannot think of a single example of my own asking something of the Lord that did not require some sort of step of faith on my part as well. May we pray in faith, trusting that He hears and answers, ready to act in obedience as He encourages us and gives us His strength.

 

Let’s pray to the Lord,Healed Hands Reach Out

In faith, may we seek;

The Lord for answers,

His love is complete.

The Lord is faithful,

And goes to great length;

He hears our heart’s cry,

Builds up and grants strength.

It may take some time,

To hear the Lord’s heart;

To see the answers,

We’ve sought from the start.

Be patient in prayer,

And trust in His time;

The Lord’s always good,

With the best in mind.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You hear our prayers and that You answer us. Thank You that though You don’t answer in our timeframe, You encourage us and give us strength as we wait. Thank You that Your timing is perfect, and we can ALWAYS trust that You have the very best for us in mind. Forgive us for our lack of patience and persistence. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would wait patiently on You for the answers we seek, and trust You and Your perfect timing in all things. Show us what steps we are meant to take to walk forward toward the answers You have for us. Lead us to love those around us in a way that helps them see Your goodness and grace. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we seek You and trust Your timing for answers. Amen.

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

May God Almighty grant you mercy. – Genesis 43:14

Pray Because He Hears

I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I live. – (Psalm 116:1-2, NLT)

I love the Lord for hearing me, for listening to my prayers. Yes, He paid attention to me, so I will always call to Him whenever I need help. – (Psalm 116:1-2, ERV)

 

God is faithful to hear our prayers. Over and over again, I can tell of the times that He has met me in my moments of need, and given the strength, courage, wisdom, resources or care that I needed most to move forward from my place of deficit. He listens to our every call, and comes close, so that we are made aware of His nearness. Though He may not always answer the way we anticipate, He is always faithful, and forever true. Because His love and faithfulness will not end, neither will my prayers. May we seek the Lord in all things and at all times, for He is faithful to listen to our every petition presented before Him.

 

From our place of need,Refreshment Through Repentance

The Lord hears our cry;

We need never ask,

For His word won’t lie.

Each prayer that we lift,

The heart of God hears;

As close as our breath,

He is ever near.

Our help and our hope,

Most merciful God;

He loves us to life,

Despite all our flaws.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You hear our every prayer – for mercy, for help and for hope. Thank You that You listen and love us to life. Forgive me for the times that I neglect to present my petitions before You. Teach me to trust You more, as You alone are the One who is my help and my hope in all things and at all times. Show me how to love others in such a way, that I may be Your hands, heart and voice to convey mercy and faithfulness that points straight to You. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we love You with all that we are, and lift our prayers before You. Amen.

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

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; …write them on the tablet of your heart. – Proverbs 3:3