Christmas In Triage

It was Christmas time again, Cliff was alone as usual. That’s not to say that he was lonely, he had a big family, and they always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. That’s because Cliff wanted all the people who worked with him to have Christmas.

Cliff was a Security Guard for the largest hospital in the city , and someone had to work on Christmas. For the last fifteen years, Cliff had volunteered. He had seen some peaceful nights, and some crazy ones. He never really knew what to suspect.

This one had been quiet, so far. Then about nine, they wheeled Jim into the ER. He had been hit on the head, and was a little woozy. It was nothing serious. There was no mystery as to how it had happened, his wife Ellie had hit him.

No, she wasn’t mad at him, she just thought he had been a burglar. For some reason, he wasn’t in his recliner when she came down to wake him to go to bed. That’s because he was in the kitchen eating the cake his diabetic doctor said he couldn’t have.

Ellie thought she had heard someone sneaking around. She just didn’t know it was Jim. When he crept out of the kitchen with the lights off, she clobbered him. Then she saw Jim, panicked, and insisted they go to check and see if the candlestick was as deadly as she had always heard it was.

Jim wasn’t too argumentative, he was just trying to hide the smell of chocolate on his breath. The problem started because Jim and Ellie were klutzes, and always had been. She fell on the ice in the parking lot and sprained her ankle.

Cliff saw all this when making his rounds and offered to help Jim get her inside. The nurses got them into triage, but all the doctors were busy. Cliff had made his rounds, so he didn’t have anything to do for at least an hour.

So he decided to keep the couple company. He asked them about their Christmas. “Oh it was good. We talked to John and Cindy on the iPad, that’s our son and his wife. They couldn’t make it this year. Alvin our youngest is away at college.”Jim explained.

Ellie elaborated. “He was coming home, but his car broke down in Phoenix. Jim told him to just stay till he could get it fixed, and come in for New Years. It was a quiet Christmas this year, but it was peaceful.”

Cliff did his best to act like he believed them, but he knew better. He didn’t believe remembering seeing any two people wish they had some holiday hustle and bustle to complain about. He thought about how often his brother Mike fussed at putting up the Christmas lights, until Harriet bought that LED projector thing for the house.

Mike was miserable not having something to get ready for Christmas. So miserable, Cliff still believed his running over it out of the garage was no accident. The next year, Mike never complained. He never did ask Harriet if that was her plan all along.

Cliff excused himself, and tried to think of someway to salvage the old couple’s Christmas. This wasn’t a tv special, he couldn’t get John, Cindy, or Alvin a plane ticket. What could he do? Then, he thought of Mike, and of his rounds.”

Cliff remembered the kids in the pediatric ward, and Mr Anderson in traction. Then there was Marie at the nurses station. She hated the overnight shift. It dawned on him that Jim and Ellie weren’t the only ones miserable at Christmas.

Cliff had a crazy idea. He wasn’t sure if it would work, but there was only a few hours of Christmas left, so what could he lose. He made his way back to Jim and Ellie. Then he went into his story.

“Look, I know this is asking a lot, but there are a lot of miserable, lonely people in this hospital. Everyone is too busy to do anything about it, and I’ve got a little time on my hands, but I can’t do it by myself.”

“Now I sing a little, if we could just entertain them, even a few minutes, it would give them a better Christmas. Now what do you say? The doctors are swamped, you may be waiting hours, why not spend it spreading a little Christmas.”

Jim looked at Ellie. “We’d love too, but what about her foot?” Cliff pointed to a wheelchair. “We’ve got the Christmas express right here.” Ellie smiled, and that was all it took.

Jim asked. “Can you get me some paper cups and cotton? Maybe some tongue depressors?” Cliff didn’t ask why, he just did. That started a beautiful, special, multi hour journey.

Jim put on a makeshift magic show up and down the halls. Cliff and Ellie did duets, and took turns soloing a list of Christmas songs. Jim played the harmonica Alvin had mailed ahead in the Christmas presents.

Then he told jokes that even made Marie and Mr. Anderson stop arguing with each other for a while. The tongue depressors made great juggling utensils, Jim was pretty talented. Cliff told a Christmas story his Dad used to tell him, and Ellie read Luke Two as the finale of each performance, as softly and as beautifully as Cliff had ever heard.

What was supposed to last until triage gave away to an exam, went on til about one am, an hour passed the end of Cliff’s shift. He text Rosita he’d be late. An after the last group had found the Christmas they had given up on this year, he returned Jim and Ellie to the ER.

The doctors patched them up quickly, as Jim and Ellie sat quietly, happily exhausted. They had went from a quiet, miserable night, to a hectic, wonderful, and complicated Christmas. It wasn’t lost on Cliff that Mary and Joseph must have felt the same way after Jesus was born on another unexpectedly eventful night. After all, that was supposed to be tax day, not Christmas.

Cliff saw them to their car, and then got in his truck. He passed not only the white, green, and red lights of Christmas, but several blue ones too. He remembered thinking, ‘What had happened, and how he hoped no one was hurt.’

Rosita barely let him get through the door before she hugged him, tears streaming down her face. “Rosita honey, what’s wrong? I text you I’d be late. Are you okay?”

“I’m better. Cliff honey, I don’t know what kept you at the hospital, but it had to be a miracle. There was an accident down the street, a bad one. Thankfully they said everyone’s going to be okay, but it was about the time you normally would be getting home. Mike called from the precinct to make sure you were okay. He said the way it had happened, you would have probably been hit head on. You could have died.”

Cliff just held her. All he thought he was doing was making an old couple happy on Christmas. He didn’t know in helping them, he’d live to see another year. Then he wondered, ‘Ellie thought she had heard a burglar. Jim had thought she had heard him. Now Cliff wondered if she had heard one of God’s Angels to take care of all three of them?’

He was glad they’d insisted on giving him their number. It was too late tonight, but he’d call them in the morning. The three of them thought they were bringing gifts to lonely people. Now they knew, like the wisemen before them, they received so much more than what what they had offered.

25 Devotions – Day Eleven

The Native: Before His Coming

(An excerpt from our new book The Native)

Matthew 1:22-23

22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by
the prophet, saying,

23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

We are a few months away from Christmas, a little over three months.  My mind went back to Mary, roughly a little over three months from seeing His face.  It’s been talked about before. We know that she was talked about. Mary was the subject of gossip, whispers flooded the neighborhood.

She had a few that believed her, Joseph, Elisabeth, and Zacharias.  We don’t know of many beyond that.  She knew she wasn’t crazy.  Mary knew that the gift that she carried was from God.  Jesus’ stirrings from the inside reassured her that this was very real.

I’m sure there had been hard times, unpleasant conversations, harsh rejection.  Yet, in the midst of it, Mary knew that she was fulfilling God’s purpose.  It wasn’t about the pain that she had, was feeling, or would endure.  It was about seeing His face.

Some might say that is was a lot to ask of Mary.  People might wonder why she was selected.  The greatest Bible Teachers I know will tell you the most important reason, she was willing.  God can work with willingness, He can do more with it than talent.

Willingness to take risk caused Him to create the world.  Willingness to spare man caused Him to give Noah the plans for an ark.  Willingness to suffer excruciating, temporary pain for an Eternal rescue mission, was the pathway to the Cross.

Mary’s son would spend thirty three and a half years preparing to rescue you and I.  At times, it was very hard.  He was the subject of much more than unpleasant conversations.  He was blasphemed, mocked, whispered, and shouted against. More rejected Him than accepted Him.  It was the most expensive price ever paid by anyone in history.

Still, He felt the stirrings on the inside of His soul.  The love, and the promise He had made to Eve, Noah, Abraham, and Isaac.  As cataclysmic as the price was, He had made a decision, He was willing to pay the cost.

Christ died for you and I, not because it was easy, but because He was willing.  He loved us enough to suffer untold pain, so we could experience unimagined joy.  I’m not sure how far we are from seeing His face, I believe it could be any moment.  I will tell you this, He knows that you’re facing battles until that day.

The Lord understands that you may be the subject of unpleasant conversation.  Perhaps you are gossiped, and whispered against.  He knows you’ve witnessed, and been rejected.  God knows how that feels.  The world will tell you the cost is too high, but don’t listen.

Listen instead to the stirrings in your soul, Christ is there.  One day soon, the pain will be behind us, the battles all ended.  Any moment, like Mary, we will hear Christ’s cry, and it will be worth a trillion times more than anything we’ve suffered.  On that day, The Native Of Bethlehem, will welcome the natives of Heaven to their brand new home!

25 Devotions – Day Ten

The Native Jesus And Napoleon

The man known as the Emperor of the French, was actually not born there. Napoleon Bonaparte was, instead born on the island of Corsica. An yet, no other name is more connected to the the country of France than a child descended from Italian nobility. Corsica, only became part of France a year before his birth. What a difference a year, and a child make.

My mind goes to a more important birth, that occurred years before. When a child of Heaven was born in a very human stable. The Savior Of The World, born in the world, but not of it. Yet, every citizen of Earth, who longs to be a resident of Heaven, looks to The Native for salvation.

He became a Native of a land foreign to His nature, so that we could experience a change in our own. I’ve written about it before, but no matter how many times I do, the excitement holds. Christ, knowing the cost of Calvary, embraced the journey.

Nine months, plus thirty three and a half years. It would be filled with peril, pain, and purpose. To Him, all that paled in comparison, to filling Heaven with souls who have experienced redemption.

Christ gave His heart to man, even before He gave His body. Before He walked to Gethsemane, His heart embraced us, knowing it also meant accepting the burden of the cross. The Lord promised from the second the fall occurred, that He would rescue us, and Calvary fulfilled that vow.

It was something that made men like Napoleon stand in awe. Christ triumphed out of love, and in so doing, accomplished what he could never do. Below are words reported to be said by the Corsican General about The Lord Jesus.

“In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the Empire of Christ.

 

All who sincerely believe in Him experience that remarkable supernatural love towards Him. This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of man’s creative powers.

 

Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame; time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit to its range. This it is which strikes me most; I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the divinity of Jesus Christ.”

Keep Singing

People who know me, know I can’t sing, it’s very true. However I keep on singing, no matter how bad it is.  That’s my message to you today. No matter how bad your circumstances, or how heavy your load, keep on singing. In just a little while, the trouble will be over, and we’ll be at home.  That’s the song that came to mind this morning too by the way.

Soon this life will all be over
And our pilgrimage will end
Soon we’ll take our heavenly journey
And be at home again with friends

Heaven’s gates are standing open
Waiting for our entrance there
Some sweet day we’re going over
And all the beauties there to share
That’s why I’m saying

Just a little while to stay here
Just a little while to wait
Just a little while to labor
In the path that’s always straight

Oh, just a little more of sorrow
In this low and sinful state
Then we’ll enter heaven’s portals
Sweeping through those pearly gates

Just a little while to stay here
Just a little while to wait, oh
Just a little while to labor
In the path that’s always straight

TCSC Ep 8 – Not So Wicked Stepfather

They would certainly be watching any vehicle that drove into the prison that day. So I was worried about what would happen after Monty left visiting the prison infirmary. My clever stamp collector had a plan for this.

“It’s the one car they won’t suspect. I’ll ride in with him, and he can drop me off when he leaves for a prescheduled luncheon engagement he made. They’ll know I’m coming, but they won’t see me. What’s safer than being with the warden?”

I felt better, but would have preferred for myself and my gun to have been with him. Instead I was bored to tears looking for a thief who stole by a way of forty page contracts. It was necessary, but slow paced work. It was like cleaning a bathroom, it was horrible, but it had to be done.

That’s why I took the call I guess, boredom. It was Sven. “Hello, not much time. What have you let that husband of yours get into? He’s got to stop, it’s endangering his Mother, Brendan, himself, and you for that matter. I’m doing everything I can, but warn him. If he doesn’t stop, I’ll do what I don’t want to do to keep this family alive, most of them!”

He didn’t hear my anger, having hung up as soon as he was through. I often wondered how much my Cinderella Stamp Collector had in common with the stamp’s name sake. What a family! Of course he loved them. Then thought of my siblings and our holidays. Every family is crazy, but I wouldn’t spend a day without them in my life.

The more pressing question was this. Do I share Sven’s threat? Monty wouldn’t stop, I wouldn’t want him too. The only thing it would do is cause him to worry about me. The debate didn’t last long though Monty called while I was arguing with myself.

“Hello Lottie, I’m here with Sven. He has something to say to you.” The next voice had a very different tone than before. “I’m sorry I worried you Charlotte. What I said didn’t mean what it sounded like. I just needed you to think it did.”

Monty came back on the phone. “I’ve figured out a few things old girl. Sven is not a bad guy, as wicked Stepfathers go. He just wants everyone to think he is. By the way, it wasn’t for effect that I said that. Sven married my Mother about twenty years ago. We owe them an anniversary present, turns out it’s next week.”

“Monty what’s that I hear in the background?” I hoped I had been wrong, but I wasn’t. I knew by his sigh. “Sorry Honey, got to go. Getting shot at again, love you!”

25 Devotions – Day Nine

The Native: The Villages Of Jonah, Jesus, and Zeus

2 Kings 14:25-26

25 He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his
servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which [was] of Gath-hepher.

26 For the LORD saw the affliction of Israel, [that it was] very bitter: for [there was] not any shut
up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel.

The Legend Of Aetos Dios

Periphas was a legendary king of Attica who was a just king, and a dutiful priest of Apollo. Zeus however became indignant because Periphas was revered and honoured as if he were Zeus himself, so Zeus wanted to destroy Periphas and his entire household. But Apollo interceded, and instead Zeus transformed Periphas into an eagle, making him king of all birds and guard of his sacred septre.

To borrow from a famous title, this is really a tale of three cities. Gath-hepher, Nazareth, and Sepphoris.  I’m sure that most of you are familiar with one of those three, but a lesser amount will have heard of the first one I mentioned.  My guess is that most of you haven’t heard of the third one, and until recently I hadn’t either.  While each holds wonder, their connection to each other, make it even more so.

Gath-hepher wasn’t a prominent place. One writer describes it as inconsiderable, meaning small or of little significance. It’s name meant either wine press of the well, the pit, or the digging. It was near Sepphoris, a town that would one day be renamed Diocaesarea in honor of Hadrian Caesar and Zeus. At the time of Christ, the village of Gath-hepher’s most famous citizen was an ancient memory.

That citizen was Jonah.  In his day, he was sent by God to Nineveh.  According to Scholars, the founder of Nineveh was the Nimrod of Genesis chapter 10.  A city whose Assyrian name ironically connected to the fictional son of Zeus, Hercules.  A true Prophet of Jehovah was sent to a city built upon a false idol.

They were spared because of repentance. Unfortunately, years later, they would backslide into idolatry. This would bring their destruction. Any city, or person, whose foundation remains tied to idols will buckle under the weight of lifting up anything other than The Creator.

Our God supports us, and not the other way around. The problem with idols is that they’re not real. You may build them statues and temples, but in the end, you only have things that you must support. God’s Tabernacle and Temple saw a Heavenly cloud fill it, and not a stone statue.

Your familiar with what happened next, when Jonah arrived, judgement gave way to mercy.  We all know the story, you saw the whale in your mind’s eye as soon as you read the name.  The one thing that I never connected with the book of Jonah, was the importance of the place of his origin, and the history of the city he was sent to reach.

In fact, Gath-Hepher isn’t mentioned in the book of Jonah.  Had it not been for the prophecy referred to in 2 Kings, we wouldn’t have known it.  God purposely referred to the fulfillment of a prophecy that we didn’t even get to witness in Scripture.  He wanted us to know that Jonah was from Gath-hepher.

Jonah repented in the whale’s belly, but he didn’t linger there. He hit Nineveh, following God’s command, also with a message of Repentance. Was he perfect? No, but he was actively seeking God. Was Nineveh perfect?  No, but they actively sought God.  Repentance doesn’t only mean remorse, it means change.

I should mention that Jonah’s home isn’t only within miles of Sepphoris, but it’s also within two miles of another city, the city of Nazareth. Note the contrast. Gath-hepher is a village between a city that, like Ninevah, was given to idolatry, and The City Of The Christ!

Christ wasn’t born in Nazareth, He moved there.  The Perfect One wanted to be near a people that were covered in sins, drenched in disappointment, and in severe need of redemption.  It’s no wonder then that among The Old Testament Prophets that Jesus connects Himself with, He refers to Jonah.

Intentionally, not ironically, He who is perfect identified with a servant famous for failure and redemption. This was the type of man He came to reach. Jonah was not a perfect man, but a man capable of Repentance. Much like the sparrow that Christ made a place for, He redeemed Jonah.

Ironically, they say that Jonah was buried in a mountain near Sepphoris, which in the Greek, means bird.  It’s this town that they would rename for a very mortal emperor, and a very flawed idol.  A bird in the hand of Christ is cared for, loved, and redeemed.  Hadrian built a temple to Jupiter/Zeus on the site of the Temple in Jerusalem. In the legend, Zeus transformed a man into a bird out of jealousy.

Psalms 84:3

Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, [even] thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.

Luke 12:6-8

6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?

7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

8 Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:

The kings and idols of this world come seeking servants, while Christ comes serving.  Each will transform, but only one will wash away our iniquities, wrap us in His love, and free our souls.  God sent His Prophet with a Message of hope, of peace, and of transformation.  He will take us the way we are, and make us better than we could ever imagine.

Sin will transform also, but it will only serve to plunge us deeper into slavery.  Much like a bird it may allow you to fly from a perch, but only for as long as the length of the string tied to it’s foot. Any success, any soaring accomplished in this life, will be limited and corrupted.

The Greek word Sepphoris finds it’s parallel in the Hebrew word Zipporah.  You may remember her as the wife of Moses.  After the Exodus, Reuel, whose name means friend of God, brings her to Moses in the wilderness.  Earlier in Scripture, she initially had a problem with circumcision, but she is reunited with her husband.

Colossians 2:11-13

11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with [him] through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

According to Colossians 2:11-14, Circumcision in the Old Testament is tied to  Baptism in the New Testament. Like Zipporah, we were estranged from God’s Love. Thanks to sin, we were lifeless, hopeless, and in fear of the judgement.  However, God sent His Prophet, His friend, to reunite us with The Lord. Each transforms, but only the transformation of Christ frees us. Now, instead of being a stranger, we are part of the family of God.

Because of Him, we are no longer on the outside looking in, He causes us to rest in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus. The transformation of Christ is life giving, whereas sin brings death.  Our redemption is the sole purpose He came in flesh.  He valued us more than life itself.  More than the pain of carrying our sins on a rugged Cross as His blood covered both it and them.

In the end, we return to the three cities.  Gath-hepher, the winepress of the pit, Nazareth, the home of The Builder, and Sepphoris, the bird.  Between the pit and the insignificant sparrow stood two.  One abused us, used us up, and left us for dead.  Sin, parading as the best this world has to offer, promised much, but instead, it took all we had to give.  Then, the gentle hand of The Nazarene picked us up. He gave His life for ours, and three days later, Christ walked out of the pit.  His blood produced life in you and I.  Now, we soar, not at the whim of our captors, but in honor of our Christ.