Recovering Church Lady (Guest Post): Inspiring Women Series

Guest Post by Susie Klein @ Recovering Church Lady

What Made Them Bow Before A Toddler?
I quickly reached for a pen from my purse when I heard that question posed to the church congregation. There was something jarring about it that resonated with me, and being a lover of words, this little sentence was a great one that I knew I would be exploring further.
The stories of the nativity tend to have a fable-like feeling to them don’t they? We hear them so often and many of us first heard them in a children’s version. Sadly, that simplistic fairy-tale like quality stays with the Biblical stories of shepherds, angels and kings long into our adult lives. It is so easy to forget that these were all real live people who were not that different from us. They must have had a few questions, don’t you think?
Since hearing those words, “What made them bow before a toddler?” I have been turning it over and over in my mind and heart and my only answer is that the famous shepherds and the royal wise men must have had some kind of major encounter that caused them to bow before a baby, a toddler who looked like any other in the world.
We know that an angel appeared to the shepherds while they were doing what they always did; watching sheep, sleeping, sitting around a campfire talking and laughing. Am I the only one who has become so used to hearing that “an angel appeared” that it actually sounds normal? But it was most definitely not normal! Those poor sheep chasers were freaked out! An angel APPEARED from out of nowhere, from out of the darkness and he or she had to say, “Don’t be afraid, I’m bringing you some good news!” (Luke 2:8-18)
Then when the shepherds had finally begun to breath again, SUDDENLY there was a huge ARMY of angels praising and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Would you agree with me that these words were probably shouted or declared with loud voices rather than simply spoken in quiet tones? This was a once in a lifetime supernatural encounter for the shepherds. It shook them up and caused them to look at one another, once the darkness of the night returned and the angels disappeared, and say, “Let’s go see this thing!”
The Bible says that the wise men, the appointed advisors to kings, saw something unusual in the stars and because of their training, they recognized that this star was not an ordinary one. These spiritual sky-watchers recognized the sign of a baby king spoken of through generations of handed down stories. The wise men, the intellectuals of their time, dropped their current studies and pursuits to “follow the star.”  This was no simple act of jumping on a plane and checking out an interesting rumor. What did their families and colleagues think of this? (Matthew 2:1-23)
These respected men must have felt a stirring in their hearts. Did they look at one another just like the shepherds did and say, “Let’s go see this thing!”?
Even Joseph did not take the miracle of Jesus at face value. He too experienced an angelic encounter to help him understand and agree to stay beside Mary through the coming months and years. He was a normal man getting ready to marry a normal woman. In some ways, his sacrifice and obedience is greater than any of the other characters in this amazing story of Christmas! But he had an encounter. A supernatural encounter in the night with an angel telling him what to expect and what he must do. (Matthew 1:18-25)
All of these individuals were living their lives just like you and me. Until an unexpected and unexplainable encounter changed them forever. Do you think that those shepherds, wise men and Joseph were ever the same again? A supernatural encounter turned their worlds upside down (or right side up).
What made them bow before a toddler?
A personal encounter.
Something extraordinary happened to them and in them. Each one came face to face with a reality that was more real than anything they had ever known. A personal encounter with the supernatural will move you from a spectator to a participant.
Every year as the Christmas season approaches I wonder what my own personal encounter will be that year. It seems that I always have a particular ‘moment’ where the deep reality of what God did hits me close and sweet. That moment comes in many different shapes and forms; I never know where it will be or who may bring it. It could be in written words on a page, lyrics of a song or simply sitting in front of a lighted tree in my living room. 
I pray that your own personal encounter with the supernatural side of Christmas is a rich, surprising and delightful one this year!
Susie Klein

Susie Klein is a 50-something California woman who embraces freedom in life and has been married to the love of her life for 33 years, raised two sons and is currently enjoying being a mother-in-law because now she is not the only “girl” in the family at last! After over 25 years in vocational ministry she is now going after her dream of being a writer.

Please be sure and stop by Susie’s Blog – You will be blessed and Inspired with her down to earth faith and wonderful humor! I know I am! 
Thank you, Susie

The Three Trees: A Fable about Gratitude

Gandown, Tribec and Stenwed

If you do not believe in tall tales, do not read further, for this, dear friend, is one.
The three trees stood together, rooted down, secure in the life they shared at the small town’s only park. Each had seen a good number of years, although they expected a good many more. There was no reason they should expect otherwise. Each had come to be planted at the wish of a human who wanted to give honor to a loved one. Each one came to stand in time by one another, planted in their own season, although chosen to stand as a reminder of the life of another whom they did not know. Each one of the trees started small but had grown and they did vary in size. Each had a heart of its own, which took hold in the place it was, rooted, firm and beautiful. Each was cared for and given enough nourishment and attention to grow, reaching the fullest possible height, stature and breadth it was meant to be. Yet, within each heart of each tree, there was a remnant of the heart of the one who had been memorialized. 

The first tree was called Gandown, and he himself was most stout. He enjoyed many things about his life at the park, especially the laughing children…from a distance. But Gandown also fancied himself more than others. He especially was ungrateful for the details of his existence. Often, he would ponder the many things that he believed would make his life better and more satisfying as a stout tree. He believed he should live among the many, stout trees further away, in the deep wood. He did not feel grateful for the place he stood within the park. Sometimes he was annoyed with the company he was placed in, and felt trapped by their presence. But what was a tree to do? He could not uproot himself from the place he had been planted. For this is the lesson, all trees must come to understand. They each must grow, exactly where the Planter plants them. For it is not for trees to decide. These things are quite out of their limbs reach, and a bit lofty to grasp. 

The tallest of the three trees was Stenwed. A more beautiful evergreen, one would be hard-pressed to find. Tall, beautiful and perfectly shaped; she longed to enjoy the breezes that caused her to bend and sway. Instead she felt distracted from joy by the subtle discontentment which gnawed at her branches. Stenwed was always longing for more, never satisfied and was blind to the beauty which surrounded the three trees. The desire for perfection had clouded her ability to ever enjoy that which was available in the present moment. 

Between Gandown and Stenwed, stood little Tribec. Tribec was small and sometimes overlooked in conversation. Standing between the two larger trees, he learned to be an excellent listener. Tribec observed all that went on in the tiny park. He never missed a detail. He quietly listened, observed and enjoyed the sights as he took in the various interactions between the people and animals, that took place in the public park. He felt content and grateful, even though he was overlooked and sometimes only “tolerated” by the other trees. He loved when the birds used him for shelter and he always tried to spread and stretch his branches to accommodate them. Especially when Gandown and Stenwed would complain about “those pesky freeloading critters”. Tribec loved his Planter. He knew that He was loved and cared for by the gentle steward who tended him day by day,  month after month, year after year. The Planter always spoke gentle, soothing words of encouragement to Tribec. Tribec looked forward to the times when the Planter would visit, as these were special times of refreshment for him. He would feel sad for Gandown and Stenwed because they just did not seem to appreciate their own Planters. He hated when they grumbled and complained.  He would focus extra hard on a child laughing on the swing during these times, so as not to hear all the bad things. He would offer a word of encouragement but more often than not, they would not hear him. They had stopped hearing anything wise many years before, as they only listened to one another. 

One year the three trees observed their three Planters talking at the entrance of the park.
The trees murmered among themselves and wondered what was being spoken. They watched as the three Planters shook hands, and all but one of them remained. Tribec’s Planter went back to his car, and returned with a shovel and an axe. The Planter then walked toward the three trees. He then stood before each one and seemed to be in deep thought, as if he was listening to another voice that only he could hear. Gandown and Stenwed felt fearful. Tribec was calm and inwardly smiling. He felt no fear because He knew his Planter. He watched the Planter with complete trust and expectancy. He knew the Planter was trustworthy. He was, however, curious, as the Planter seemed most interested in the other trees and was thoughtfully stroking his chin as he circled Gandown and Stenwed. Finally, the Planter knelt before Tribec. He tended to him as he always did, pulling up a weed here and there, dragging his fingers in the dirt surrounding Tribec’s base, speaking gently and reassuringly to the littlest tree. Tribec felt sad, but understood. The Planter had prepared him for what was to come next. Then the Planter stood, and after saying something about “a shame”, took the axe to the trunk of Gandown and then Stenwed. All that remained of them were two stumps. Tribec stood alone, now, unsure of what would be next. The next thing the Planter did surprised the little tree most of all. He took from his car a basket, and sat beside the littlest tree in the park, reclined himself and dined. As Tribec was enjoying the presence of the Planter, a child approached them and asked about the cut trees. The Planter explained about a terrible tree disease that had come upon the trees, and how they needed to be cut down so that the littlest tree, still remaining would not also be infected. The child, satisfied with this answer, smiled and ran off to join the others on the playground. Tribec, still stands and enjoys the pleasure of his time with the Planter, who regularly picnics at his side. 

The moral of the story is beware of the deadliest diseases of Discontent, Dissatisfaction and Ingratitude.

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Matthew 7:19

*This is a completely fictitious story and no part of it represents anyone, tree or person in any way, at all, with all due respect. Thank you.

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