Midnight Light, part 2

The following is an excerpt from the free Advent devotional, Darkness & Light; download your free copy today.

December 11

Midnight Light, part 2

by Meridith Matson

Holocaust survivor and Jew Viktor Frankl survived Auschwitz, one of the most brutal concentration camps during World War 2. He was also a neurologist and psychiatrist and took his experience in the camp as a chance to understand human behavior. Frankl is most known for his book Man’s Search for Meaning, originally titled in German: trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager. That is, “…Nevertheless Say ‘Yes’ to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp.”

Frankl observed three stages of most prisoners: shock, apathy, and lastly reactions to dehumanization. Ultimately, the prisoner’s ability to survive depended entirely on their outlook and inner world. If the prisoners had a hope for the future and a reason to hold on in their spirit, they would survive. If all hope was lost, they were destined to die in the camp one way or another.

Frankl writes about one memory in particular:

“We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk[…]

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth—that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”

Reflection: How has love been an instrument of light and salvation for you in times of darkness?

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Midnight Light, part 1

The following is an excerpt from the free Advent devotional Darkness & Light; download your free copy today.

December 10

Midnight Light, part 1

by Meridith Matson

The Jewish holocaust during World War 2 is perhaps one of the darkest times in most recent history. The mass murder of over 6 million Jews and other persecuted demographics left a haunting mark over human history. Humans killing and dehumanizing other humans is truly the darkest darkness that exists. The images and films of those beaten in the streets, taken captive, and forced into concentration camps, and the bare, skeletal ghosts of those who were still alive in these camps at the end of the war are etched on our minds.

This chapter of history leaves a stain of darkness. A time of “midnight” when it seemed the sun may not ever shine again.

Yet, darkness is where the light shines through. In the darkest darkness, sparks of hope still existed. Etched on the wall of a cellar in a concentration camp, these words of an unknown prisoner were found:

“I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining.
And I believe in love,
even when there’s no one there.
And I believe in God,
even when he is silent.”

Reflection: In what ways have you had to wrestle with belief versus reality in your own times of darkness?

Darkness Overcome

The following is an excerpt from the free Advent devotional Darkness & Light. 

December 3

Darkness Overcome

by Meridith Matson

Both darkness and light are themes throughout Scripture. Beginning with the opening of the Bible in Genesis 1 and 2, we watch expectantly as God calls order in an environment of chaos and speaks: “Let there be light” into complete and utter darkness.

Darkness can be chilling, isolating, depressing, and hopeless. Light brings warmth, hope, and causes the unseen to become seen. John says: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). God himself is light, so where God is, there is light, and where God is not, there is darkness.

The prophet Isaiah says this: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” This, of course, foretold the birth of Christ, and that this event would bring light to people walking in deep darkness. Did the people know they were walking in darkness at the time of the prophecy? Did the first-century Jews know they were walking in darkness and realize when the light of Christ’s presence on earth finally dawned?

John also writes:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5. HCSB)

The darkness did not overcome the light, yet darkness had to exist to be overcome. Darkness was not created: in Genesis 1, the earth simply was dark and God spoke into the darkness to create light. John, bringing to mind the language of Genesis 1, also begins with creation, darkness, and light but also puts Christ, the Word, with God in the beginning. Once again, God continues to bring light into darkness, proving the light is more powerful than the darkness.

 

Reflection​​: How have you struggled with darkness during different seasons of your life and how did you work through those seasons? Consider how seasons of darkness make seasons of light brighter.

Darkness & Light

With Advent just around the corner beginning on Sunday, December 2, a few friends and I have a gift for you this season: a free, reflective devotional. Collaboration across oceans, made possible by technology, this is our labor of love to friends and family.

During this busy time of the year, make space for reflection as we ponder once again the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Darkness & Light Advent Devotional 2018

I know…

I know, I know. My blogging isn’t exactly a regular thing for me these days. With moving, starting new jobs, and both pursuing education, my husband and I don’t exactly have much “extra” time on our hands. And when we do… find us on the couch watching This is Us or outside going for a walk or in the kitchen cooking #priorities.

BUT, this is the time of year you all know I blog the most… Advent! Advent is a special time for me personally and an opportunity for us all to slow down, pause, and tell the story once again about a baby born in a manger 2,000 years ago.

Stay tuned for a special FREE reflective Advent devotional, put together by me and a few friends. Take a moment each day during this busy season, and reflect on the one who came to bring light and into our dark, sin-filled world. More to come…

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Lessons from the birds

Yesterday I was thinking about the birds.  They never go hungry and they are all within the loving eye gaze of our Heavenly Father.

Today as I bustled around the house putting things away and cleaning, I heard a rather loud thump outside our bedroom window.  I walked over and upon further examination, just beneath our window, I saw a small, brown bird, fluttering and moving about, trying to get up after flying (crashing) into the window.  The sheer volume of the collision made me wonder if the crash had injured it beyond recovery.

I caught myself by surprise as I verbally spoke to it – “Get up!”

“Get up, you can do it.”

I am not an animal person, but today, I was.

My eyes began to well with tears as I watched it, trying and trying to pull itself up, and after a few more moments of straining, it stopped moving completely, and laid it’s head down.

I couldn’t believe it – a bird died all alone, right in front of my eyes.  (This is coming from someone who only had one dog growing up.  My sisters and I were all devastated when she died – I just can’t handle any kind of suffering.)

Then a few hours later, I remembered… yesterday I was thinking about the birds.  And worry.

Look at the birds in the sky. They do not store food for winter. They don’t plant gardens. They do not sow or reap—and yet, they are always fed because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are even more precious to Him than a beautiful bird. If He looks after them, of course He will look after youWorrying does not do any good; who here can claim to add even an hour to his life by worrying?

Matthew 6:26-27, The Voice

Oh, how I worry.  I worry about anything and everything.  What people think about me, what I will eat, how I will accomplish this or that… some days, it consumes me.

And then there was this bird.  Seen.  Fed by God.  The bird that died in front of me (and its body is still on the roof in front of our window… we should probably do something about that soon).  And how much more than this bird are we, mankind, known, loved, cared for and seen by our Heavenly Father.  Humans made in God’s image, of course he cares so deeply for us.  He sent his only son for us, to die and rise again, so we could be adopted into his family and redeemed.

There is no reason to worry.

Yesterday I was thinking about the birds, but today I am thinking about how loved and cared for we are by our Heavenly Father.

“So why should I worry?  Why do I freak out?  God knows what I need, he knows what I need.” – Jon Foreman

lessons from the birds

reflections on taking chances

I was 23.
April 2008.
Nearly a year of wonderings and wanderings after graduating from college.
I was ready.
Ready to spread my wings and fly,
ready to take a chance.

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In 2007 I graduated with a degree in music.  In my young, naivete I thought I would immediately be hired in full-time music ministry and that church job offers would simply flood in as soon as I walked across the stage with my diploma.

(I was wrong, by the way).

That summer I travelled to India for a two-month long mission trip.  In many ways, that trip changed my life.  My first time overseas, my first time fully immersed in an eastern culture, and the first time I really caught a glimpse of life abroad serving a God who isn’t American.  A God of all nations.

I returned home more sick than I’ve ever been in my life, and still had no job and no direction for my life.

The difficult months that followed shook me to my core: extreme culture shock, depression, meandering and wanderings…  but then in April of 2008, everything changed.  You see, when I returned from India, my team spent several days in Bangkok, Thailand debriefing.  I had a distant feeling in my heart, a feeling that I would return to Thailand one day.

Ten years ago, in April 2008, I interviewed for a Music Teacher position in Bangkok, Thailand.  A few weeks later, I boarded a small airplane with 2 large suitcases (and a very heavy carry on) and moved to the other side of the world.

I didn’t know a single soul.

But that decision – that chance.  It changed my life forever.

The friendships forged during that year forever changed me, the students I taught showed me what compassion looked like with hands and feet, and living in another culture taught me how to be empathetic.

That chapter of my life opened up doors for me to later serve in full-time Worship ministry, and the relationships there inspired me to pursue seminary.  Many of the co-teachers I taught with are still my friends today.

The thing about taking chances is this: when the Holy Spirit of God prompts us to take steps of faith, or “chances” in our human thinking, the greater chance to take is to ignore that prompting and taking the wider, easier path.

I’m so glad I took that chance.

S6300051India, June 2007

S6300243.jpgKolkata, India, July 2007

IMG_1493_7Thailand, October 2008

IMG_5313Our street, Nonthaburi, Bangkok, Thailand