No Vacancy

"She can feel He's coming soon.  
There's no place, there's no room.  
A baby changes everything.    
A baby changes everything/" (2008) "A Baby Changes Everything"  Recorded By: Faith Hill  Written By: Craig Michael Wisemanm James Timothy Nichols, Kimberly Kerryann Wiseman

If you are not a regular reader of my jots, then you may not know I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s with a single mom, and as an only child.

My bio-father left our lives while I was a toddler. It was not a good marriage, In fact, the reason they got married was because he raped my 15 year old mom on a date and I was conceived. He had many problems which contributed to the divorce. Before I was three years old, the divorce served as a rescue mission from domestic violence, habitual adultery, and alcoholism. It was not only needed, but it was the end of a long nightmare for my mom.

Although my mom remarried a couple of years later (ending in a four year marriage) I grew up always wondering about my mysterious bio-father.

A poor teenage girl with a baby in the early 60’s in Texas, had no idea what counselling was, or even the availability of solid counseling in her circles. Her ripped out heart only went by her depression and emotion. Twice she tried to kill herself during pregnancy. Gathering all photos of my bio-father, cutting him out with scissors was the norm, she exhausted herself in removing the horrid memories. A pre-court deal was made by my granddad which involved an erasing of my bio-father. This meant no child support, no visitations, no contact as long as we both lived. For the first couple of years, gifts and cards would be delivered to me from his parents, but were returned to them. Keep in mind, in those days of tragedy, these were decisions in the attempt to protect me from the man and his brutality. My first name was changed to what was then my middle name. My middle and last name would be legally changed when she remarried, totally deleting the residual of how I was brought into the world.

Old faded memories from my toddler years produced little moments of scenes from when I was two, which included a tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed man with enormous hands. My bio-father wasn’t spoken of as I was growing up. My questions concerning him were quickly snuffed out, for the most part. No pictures, no stories of him, no name. It was as if I came to this planet on a spaceship and was discovered in a cornfield wearing a cosmic diaper.

By the time I was 15 or so, I learned his name, and my birth name. That just made me more curious. Promising myself I would find him after I turned 18, I began sorting out plans to do some detective work on my own without the aid of my family.

Yet, it was nerve-racking watching for him. By the time I was eleven years old, anytime I was on stage performing in a play, musical, or singing solo work, I would scan the audience to see if any man out there in those chairs resembled my vague snapshots from my toddler brain. By the time I was in 7th-8th grades I took up the martial arts. Throughout my teen years, in hopes my bio-father had secretly been scoping out my events and activities, to the point of attending incognito, enjoying my performances in Karate and kickboxing tournaments, I would again, scan the stands for any man who might be tall, dark with large hands. Because I was a singer/actor, years of performances during the 70’s were spent going to the lobby during pre-shows looking at every tall man which walked to the ticket office window. Peering out the curtains before showtime, even though it was highly frowned upon, was the norm for me. I was always hoping that somehow, some way, he would be interested enough to check out who I was becoming and what I looked like.

My high school career ended on a humid night in May of ’78. I had just turned 18. My graduating class of almost 900 kids was prepped and ready to walk across the stage in royal blue cap and gowns. The ceremony was taking place at Texas Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys played. The stands were filled on the north side of the stadium. Too many in the throng to scan for what might have been my last hope of my bio-father caring enough about me to attend in secret. There were dreams of a surprise introduction.

As it turned out, he never tried throughout my school years. Not once.

Saturdays were very busy days at the Florsheim shoe store where I worked in the Valley View Mall in Dallas. It was my first job right out of high school, while auditioning for various singing and acting gigs. You learn much doing work like that, especially when the goal is to understand how people think. But nothing could compare to the one Saturday in November of ’79, when a kind, and apprehensive elderly couple sheepishly walked up to me in the shoe store and introduced themselves as my grandparents. Talk about being in a daze. I was indeed. As it turned out, an aunt from that side of the family did some detective work to locate me.

They invited me to a dinner. I accepted. Entering into their family room at their house, I found old babyhood pictures of me I had never seen before on their wall, almost like a memorial wall. Honestly, I fought back tears through my shock. The second, or third dinner delivered a question from their side of the table. I was asked if I wanted to meet my bio-father…in person, face to face. Without hesitation, I said yes. He drove over to their house to meet me the same night. 6′-5″ tall, dark eyes, dark hair, olive skin tones, and large hands, just exactly as I had held him in my mind. Still…my mom and her folks were not pleased to say the very least.

Suddenly, there he was, in the flesh. I learned what his voice sounded like. Being an actor, I studied his mannerisms, his speech patterns and accent, his gate as he made his way across the room. Tirelessly, I hunted for anything which identified him as my DNA match. No longer did I have to wonder, dream, or scan an audience. He was there. No longer was he so mysterious, vague, or indescribable. No longer was he over there somewhere.

At Passover, in every Seder dinner, the ancient traditional elements are carefully place on the table. There is so much to be done to prep for such a holiday, including all the texts which are read and lyrics to be song. Like Christmas, or Easter, the feast is for the entire family, and extended family when available. The table can be set for 2 people, 12 people, or 50 people. Of course, the more the merrier. There is one curious tradition which every Jewish family recognizes. The empty chair with a place setting. This is a tradition which reminds those in attendance of “The One To Come”.

Elijah, the Old Testament prophet, was the name they chose long ago to represent the Promised One, the Messiah. To this day, many believe Messiah will be Elijah himself.

Since the days of Genesis, for the Jewish people, God was far to reach. He was over there, over the mountain, over the river, high up on the mountain, etc. Yes, He attended to them in times of trouble, but always having to come from up there, from over there, from the other realms. Although God told them His Spirit would be with the nation, many forgot or disbelieved. Even in their ancient temple, it was believed God resided behind a large, thick drape where the Ark of The Covenant was placed. No one was to enter behind the veil, or death would swiftly come. The ancient scrolls informed them that He can not be seen by the human eye. Only once a year, only the high priest could enter through the drape to perform his sacred duties, but even he had a rope tied to his ankle which had bells on it, just in case he himself fell dead due to seeing God with naked eyes. The other end of the rope rested outside so his body could be recovered. Yet, on Passover, they are always prepared to welcome Elijah, a Messiah-type, to suddenly come to their Seder table. Why? Because Messiah was the Promised One, Who is to come from God’s throne. He is to come in the flesh and fellowship as a member of the clan. So, the chair is empty for those who are still scanning humanity for Messiah.

Christmas cards and songs reflect a great truth about a name given to describe Messiah. It wouldn’t be His personal name like, Fred, or Jim. But rather, a description of an attribute with great and powerful meaning. We first knew about this in an old Hebrew prophecy.

” Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

Prior to a teenage virgin who would give birth to a son, she was told by an angelic visitor the child would be called, by people who would know Him, “Immanuel”. (Matthew 1:22-23) The writer, Matthew, went further by interpreting the old Hebrew name for us when he included, “(which means, ‘God With Us'”) Since Hebrew is written and read from right to left, literally it can read, “With Us Is God”.

King David was correct in Psalm 139. He mentioned the ever present God in his personal ever changing, ever altering life. Wherever David was to go, wherever his destination, he knew God was there. However, He starts out with the words, “Where can I go to escape your spirit…?” No “Immanuel” in David’s life…in the real physical sense. David understood from scripture, and by life’s experiences, God was spirit. He looked forward to a Christmas, which never came in his day.

WITH us IS God” A Baby changes everything.

Because Messiah came to dinner, the chair is filled, no vacancy anymore. No room for any other god, nor demonic spirit, no room for a lucky charm. He FILLS!

Immanuel brought the world its first Christmas. Because of Immanuel, no need to scan for a higher power sold at truck stops, or spirit mediums. Because of Immanuel, there’s no more need to wonder if God cares. Because of Immanuel, hope rises, hearts are lifted, and lives are rebooted, washed and set to glow in darkened times. A baby changes everything.

No more searching to see if God shows up, to see if He cares about you on a personal level. Jesus came to make sure you understood you are not left as an orphan in your Father’s eyes. For 33 years, He was here to overwhelmingly prove it.

Ironically, He would turn the tables on us a bit. He mentioned to concerned followers, when He did leave, He would have a place built and ready for each one of us who trusts in Him, so that He could be with us after this life is over. So, I imagine, He has an empty chair and place setting readied with your name on it,,,if you belong to Him through faith.

Find Christmas renewed in fuel for the race.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” – Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

Ornament Of You

“It was late last night.
I was feeling something wasn’t right.
There was not another soul in sight,
Only you, only you…”
(1972) “I Saw The Light” Written/Recorded By: Todd Rundgren

There it is. It’s that dusty box in the corner of the attic, basement, or the garage. Part of you doesn’t look forward with great anticipation to opening the box. As you do, you say to yourself; “I sure am glad it’s only once a year.”

Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com

Once you’ve carried it all the way to the Christmas tree by the window, you might begin to feel a bit lighter as your imagination of décor runs amuck.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

As you dig through the various ornaments in the box, old memories begin to surface. One old Rudolph ornament from your childhood shines up at you from its resting place. Suddenly you can almost feel those warm footed pajamas with the gritted soft plastic soles. Another ornament rediscovered reminds you of your new little tax deduction with painted letters saying; “Baby’s First Christmas.” Still, another ornament way back in the corner of the box, wrapped in a paper towel, has bitterness attached to it. It might be a reminder of the passing of a loved one, a year of a bankruptcy, or the death of a marriage.

A cheerful smile returns about the time you begin to string the festive colored bulbs around the tree. After a quick trip to the fridge for a cup of cheer, you step back to examine the balance of your light display thus far. A tweak here and a tweak there, and it’s on to the hanging ornaments.

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

Ornaments themselves come in many shapes and sizes, not to mention textures. One of my favorites comes from my childhood. Made of wood, painted in red and gold, are various musical instruments. I mean everything from a piano to a piccolo. I think every parent has saved precious cardboard or paper ornaments, laced with yarn, crafted by little hands from a son or daughter. I know I have a few. At one radio station I worked for, each year the general manager gave the staff the official tree ornament from the White House from that year. Usually it was made of blown glass, or crystal, and the most pricey ornament on the tree.

Then there are the regular colored glass balls cradled in Styrofoam. Sometimes the wire hooks remain attached from the year before. I know I am guilty of such a crime. Hues of red, blue, green, silver, and gold are the norms. while some prefer the solid colors. Either way, the texture of the surface of each glass ball is designed to ricochet the stringed lights, or that wonderful color wheel I adore. In fact, the average glass ball ornament reflects more than just the holiday lights, but any other item it can catch in its reflective shimmering surface.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

When the job is complete, there is a quiet satisfaction which descends in your spirit as you take in the sight. The further away from the display, the more beautiful it seems to become.

As a kid, I loved to kneel down to find my reflection in one of the glass balls. Oh, the funny faces you can make as you observe your expressions on the colored balls, with the festive lights changing the color of your skin. The shock is that you find it’s not how you view yourself in a flat mirror. My cousins and I used to cackle at our holiday reflections.

Christmas cards will often spell out the truth of “giving”, or the “giving season”. Most have heard the biblical concept, spoken by Jesus, concerning the joy of gifting. The joy is greater for the one giving than the one receiving. In today’s crash and grab robberies in our culture, the perpetrators have no clue of this joy. Entitlement is a cursed word.

Actually, the purpose for the event of that first Christmas was to help us understand what we DO NOT deserve. Christmas tree time can be a tad cluttered with thoughts of giving in proportion of what’s received. Will they spend more than you? Will the wrapped gift fall short of expectations? Will you run to Walmart afterward to purchase a gift card to make up for a gift you felt was too small? Yikes! What a mess we’ve made of this celebration. The wonderful gift given, the Savior Of All Sinners, the baby in the manger, speaks loudly from heaven’s gates, “I love you so much, I am giving of Myself to rescue you from your sinful nature birthed in Eden so long ago.” Truly, a gift given we do not deserve. When an honest look in the reflection is had, “entitlement” is far from the view. If one feels like the gift is unnecessary, that one will never receive the gift of redemption. Being rescued from oneself can only be accomplished by One Who is holy, without spot, without a condition of the fall.

As you peer into the glass ball ornament, don’t expect to see yourself in what you have come to recognize in the vanity mirror. What you can expect are distortions, coloring of shades not seen on your picture ID.

Yes, the decorated tree is beautiful, and rightly so, but in a private moment of biblical truth, glance closely at the reflective ball. In that moment, allow it to be a reminder of our distorted views, or misshaped slants, our condition of falling short through the prism of God’s righteousness exhibited in Jesus. Bittersweet is the true story of Christmas.

Any time of the year, find out how God truly views you in fuel for the race.

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15 (NAS)