The greeting "Happy Hanukkah" shouts and rejoices across Facebook, across text messages, across nations. It is a time of celebrating a great victory. The book of Maccabees thrills us with the courage and boldness of a team of Jews who mustered supernatural strength and courage to overcome the bloody, violent siege of Antiochus Epiphanese and his armies. They had captured the Holy Temple and violated it by sacrificing swine on the altar and destroying all the holy things. "Happy Hanukkah" is a victory cry of faith overcoming fear and of righteousness ovecoming evil! But it is so much more. The deeper meaning is one that must be embraced by every believer in Yeshua in our own time.
Now it gets personal! In the Hanukkah account, the Temple was restored and then re-dedicated to God. So, how does that remarkable, ancient story from Jewish history have anything to do with me? Paul explains it this way: "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God?" (1 Cor. 6:19) Now I am a living temple of the Holy Spirit. Is there anything in me that is defiled? Are there any traces of pig's blood, anything that is detestable to the LORD hiding in the recesses of my heart?
I get moved every year by the beauty of a song written by Marty Goetz:
Make my life a temple, Lord, at this season start to pull down every idol I have raised up in my heart.
Take my defiled altar, come and cleanse and come repair, so every time I falter, I can run to meet you there.
Make of my mortal body a house worthy of Your Name, rid me of what's ungodly and every hidden thing of shame.
And with every candle on the menorah that illuminates the night, comes my prayer that you'd kindle in me Messiah, a desire for your fire, for your light!
Take my supply of oil, not enough to burn long, I fear. But oh! How I pray I may one day say, "a great miracle happened here!"
On this Hanukkah, on this feast of dedication, I dedicate myself to You
My Yeshua, I dedicate myself to You.
You can enjoy this beautiful song on the youtube link below.
It is in this cleansing and restoring of our own hearts that brings the victory cry:
Contented Breath of Peacefulness
The first book I really read and studied about the disease we call Dementia was titled "Contented Dementia." It is a book by Oliver James. As I have stated on blogs before, the method taught in this book very closely resembles the teachings of Jesus.
I can now testify that I have a spouse who is truly content, despite his waning ability to use words and his fading memory. He smiles a lot, even bursts into big belly laughs, as I act funny and silly right along with him and endeavor to humble myself before him.
How did we get there? I see people in the different Dementia support groups who are frazzled, angry, impatient, hopeless. They have certainly not found contentment. Why? Ann Voskamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts, writes "Could it be - no one receives the peace of God without giving thanks to God? Is thankfulness really but the deep, contented breath of peacefulness? Is this why God asks us to give thanks even when things look a failure? When there doesn't seem much to give thanks for? Paul 'took pleasure in infirmities in reproaches, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake' (2 Cor. 12:10), and he knew that which didn't look like anything good might yield good, all in the hands of a good God."
This lesson most certainly isn't limited to Dementia, is it? Are God's people not going through great infirmities, reproaches, persecutions and distresses of all kinds right now? The birth pains are intensifying, squeezing, testing the faith of the Believers. How do we find contentment in this world that has turned utterly upside down, where good is called evil and evil called good?
Thankfulness - the "deep, contented breath of peacefulness." It doesn't come naturally to us humans. It must be practiced daily, like learning to play the piano or learning a new language. It is said that one must be immersed in the new language in order to master it. If one is trying to learn French, they need to go live with a French family where they have to speak that language all day long. Perhaps that's why I'm making progress in helping John to find "contented dementia." I'm learning to live and speak thankfulness. And this week I got to experience it from a "master." She is a long-time friend who used to be in the bible study I led at a retirement home where my aging parents were. She is about to reach her 101st year on this earth!
I sat next to her tiny, bony frame on the little sofa in her apartment living room. Yes - she still lives in her own apartment all by herself! She is the picture of contentment. And the thing that overwhelmed and delighted me is that our conversation was all about her funeral plans! "You will sing Because He Lives and then a man in my church with a booming bass voice will sing We're Marching to Zion and then you will read the 23rd Psalm." She spoke it with the exuberance and joy of a young woman planning her wedding! As I drove home I pondered that thought. "She is planning her wedding," I said out loud to the Lord. She is filled with contentment and thankfulness, because she is focused on her Heavenly Bridegroom who has prepared a place for her! Despite her total loss of vision, her ears straining to hear, her memory fading away, and her very meager finances, she is thankful.
Ann Voskamp again: "Even when I am sometimes impatient or unwilling, when I face conflict and heartache, I've begun to accept that even the impossible is a possible opportunity to thank God, to experience the goodness and grace of the Giver of all! There is always more grace. And it's always more than I expect. "
Kelly Ferrari Mills