Monthly Archives: December 2017

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS 2017 #5

“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…”

5 golden promises.

“So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”~Num 22:27

“Do not be afraid…since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard…”~Dan 10:12

“In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.”~Ps 4:8

“Your faith has given you life, go in peace.”~Lk 7:50

“The grace of Our Lord Yeshua The Messiah be with all of his Holy Ones. Amen.”~Rev 22:21

“On the 5th Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, 5 gold rings.”

Gold rings often symbolize a covenant. A vow to be kept between two parties. A promise. Many believe the five golden rings in this song are the 4 written gospels and the existence of the Jewish people. Old Testament covenant blended with the New Testament covenant.

Just a song. A children’s song. A song sung in the backseats of cars. A song knocked off so many times in so many ways. And yet – perhaps – it is so much more.

12 Days to ponder the true Gift of Christmas. 12 Days to honor the True Love who sent the Gift. 12 Days to remember to whom all honor should be given.

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow…”

[google images]

TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS 2017 #4

“One the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…”

There should be a warning posted everywhere in our home when visitors come “calling” from out of state that reads: BEWARE – THESE PEOPLE (whether you love them or not) MAY CARRY HAZARDOUS GERMS THAT YOU ARE NOT USED TO ENCOUNTERING ON AN EVERYDAY BASIS!!!!

The first outcropping of said germ was the #1 daughter. She lost her voice after the first night of fun and games. The second was the hubby who started sniffling on day two and was out for the count on day four. By the evening of day four, my nose was constantly running, but otherwise felt fine. So after dropping off #2 daughter and her hubby at the railroad depot in Raleigh this morning (day 5), Hubby and I crashed off to sleep the afternoon away. (I truly know Hubby is sick when he climbs back into bed after the day has started). However, thanks to essential oils, plenty of zinc and sleep, I think our home front is on the rebound.

“On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: four calling birds…”

Calling birds or Colly birds – if you are singing the old English version of the song – are wonderful gifts. However, which ever birds come “calling” – I just need to remember to wash my hands a lot more often. Strange birds bring strange visiting companions without even knowing it. After all, being with beloved strange birds is definitely worth a little effort behind the scenes and even a little sickness.

“Everything whatsoever you desire that people should do for you, do likewise for them, for this is the Law and The Prophets.”~Matt 7:12

One of the many interpretations of the 12 Days of Christmas song is that the four “calling birds” refers to the 4 disciples of the gospels. Disciples that continually “call out” the love of Yeshua Christus into a needy world. I have to admit, I am partial to that one.

Birds bring beauty into our world with their plumage, their songs, and their playful antics that keep us entertained during the day (if you are lucky enough to be retired or a child and have time to watch them). It is of little wonder that for the first 4 days of Christmas, “True Love” gifted birds to the one He loves the most.

Birds continually call out God’s song of Grace and Love – continually show His beauty in this world and in each other. And while birds of this world sometimes carry unwanted visitors, the birds of our “True Love” never do. They carry only the good things He knows we need the most.

So on this fourth Day of Christmas, I will continue to welcome His “calling birds” into my home. I will continue to welcome those strange “calling” visitors of our world into our home as well – how could I not? It is the commandment above all others. Most of all, I will carry His greatest “calling bird” in my heart and home “…all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the House of the LORD forever.”

“Lord Jehovah will shepherd me and I shall lack nothing.
He will make me lie upon lush pastures and he will lead me by restful waters.
He brings back my soul, and leads me in the paths of truth because of your Name.
Even if I shall walk in the valleys of the shadows of death, I will not be afraid of evil, because you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me,
You have prepared tables in front of me opposite my enemies; you have anointed my head with oil and my cup overflows as if it were alive*.
Your kindness and your mercies pursue me all the days of my life, that I may dwell in the house of Lord Jehovah to the length of days.”~Ps 23

[google images]

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS 2017 #3

“On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…”

Children.

Today was full of giggling, running, fussy children. It was also full of blustery, wintry winds that chilled us every time a door opened. Unfortunately, it was also full of coughing, sniffling, feverish sleep-inducing internal ‘colds’ that seem to multiply so quickly this time of year among family members who like to hug on each other. It was also our last full day of being with our #2 daughter and hubby for this trip.

Why is it that 5 days seems like a long visit until those 5 days actually occur? Like a puff of smoke from the fire pit. There for a moment – gone the next. Don’t get me wrong; I love their visits. Love watching their faces along side their siblings and juxtaposing their childish faces in my head. Love listening to their conversations and laughter as they interact. Love getting to know them as the strong, independent adults they have become. Love opening up my treasure chest of memories and stuffing a few new ones deep inside it.

It’s just that a puff of smoke dissipates way too fast. As too their visits. Too short – too far apart for this mama’s wish. And yet – –

“On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three french hens…”

And yet – – I am starting to understand that is all just part of the life journey. There are times when we are taking lots of pictures, playing games that make us laugh or cry, singing songs with a karaoke machine or with a movie character, cuddling side-by-side on a crowded couch. And then –

And then – there are other times – when I open the treasure chest of memories and ponder the blessings of life, one-by-one, two-by-two, three-by-three, four-by-four, hundreds-by-hundreds. And it all began with one special child.

A child who grew up to remind us how important that ‘child-like’ quality is to the human treasure chest of the world.

“Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”~Matt 18:2-4

“…and put the child among them…”

I love this part of this promise. So many layers of metaphoric speak in these six simple words. Keep our “child-self” in whatever stage of life we are in because He has put it among us. When He places children on our life path, treasure them. Open our eyes to observe the nature of the “child” He wants us to be.

Welcome the child of the manger and the three silly french hens into our hearts – every day and in every way.

“O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.

I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!

I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.

I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.

I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.”~Ps 63:1-8 friends-zoom

[Greg Olsen artwork/google image]

TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS 2017 #2

“On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me…”

A lot of steps.

Life is full of a lot of steps. Some steps lead us in the direction of all those beautiful goals that we set for ourselves. Some steps lead us backwards, so we can gain more confidence in what we know. Sometimes we find ourselves running in place until we figure out where it is we want to go. And sometimes – our steps circle around and around and around in one gigantic loop of dizziness.

“ ‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.”

I’m not sure what led me to Acts today – specifically Acts 2. But –
that first step led me to another step. A step into my devotional book – Day 361. Light dawns, and I begin to figure out where the Holy Spirit was pointing me. I never, ever completely figure it out. I’m not that smart or ambitious enough to take all the steps that I need to take. If I’m lucky I manage to take a step or two forward – 10 backwards – 100 running in place – and about a 100 billion, trillion running in circles.

When it comes to watching me, I think G-D probably sighs a lot. His Son probably rolls His eyes. The Holy Spirit wants to give me a Gibbs’ slap. And then – I make that breakthrough. I link a few things together, and suddenly they are all dancing in joy just for me.

“On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me – two turtle doves…”

There are always pluralities in life. Good and evil. Light and darkness. Truth and lies. Spiritual and physical. In the Hebrew language they add “-im” to a word to represent plurals. “Elohim” – G-D. “Chayim” – life. “Shamayim” – heaven. “Yerushalayim” – Jerusalem. “Mayim” – the river of living waters.

There is more than just one face of G-D. More than one facet of life. More than one heaven. More than one Jerusalem. More the one river. More than one turtle dove.

We get this crazy picture in our heads and think we have it all figured out. We think we “know” what it looks like; how it acts; what it should be; what it will be. At least – that is what I do.

A baby was born in a manger was more than just a baby in a manger. He was a plurality. A king – a servant. A beginning – an end. A first – a last. A death – a new life. Bread – water. Grace – judgement.

Pluralities. Two turtle doves given by my true love.

Lots and lots of Steps.

“Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above.
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”~Act 2:17-210511-1011-1802-2221_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas_Song-Two_Turtle_Doves_clipart_image  [google image]

TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS 2017 #1

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…”

My eyes are tired tonight. Early mornings. Late nights. Food, food, food. Chocolate and more chocolate. Forcing my eyes to stay open for just a little longer, so I don’t miss a moment of this blessed holyday.

The MI son and family started it all off four days ago. Their escape from the cold and snow of the north. My latching on to each of them for one more hug – one more moment – one more ear full of deeper voices, more grown-up stories, and wishing so much that they – and my son – were still little enough to cuddle close to my heart. Our two days together passed way too fast.

“Every good and perfect gift descends from above, from The Father of lights with whom there is no change nor a shadow of variation.”~Jm 1:17

Second daughter and hubby made their way to NC on Christmas Day. Eating Grandma Mickey’s shrimp and trail bologna. Cookies. Then the more formal food as we sit down to stuff our faces again. Swapping white elephants as we bartered with the Grands, stole from one to another; and finally carrying home a pair of hand-made, Peruvian dinosaurs to hang on our window garlands.

“Grandma, can I have your dinosaur?” Grandson whispers as we leave, and my heart melts a little more.

Yet – more than the gifts, it is the laughter – the smiles in the eyes of those I love – which sings its song in my heart tonight and stifles another yawn. Whether it is the laughter over “Say Anything” or “Timeline” board game; the Grands bouncing as the explain/ show all their new toys; or the grown-up versions of my baby girls and their spouses sharing conversations that flow over my head; the holyday is made more holy by just their presence and I soak it in even if I don’t say much.

“For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.”~Is 54:10

In 12 more days, Christmas 2017 will be in the annuals of time. Pictures will be stored on the computer, posted to various social media sites, and “normal” returns to the land of humankind. My grown-up kids will travel to their far-away homes. Grands will return to their various schools – in MI and NC. But my heart – – –

My heart will be full of the blessings we were able to share in each other’s presence for a few days. I cry easily when they appear on my doorstep and when I wave goodbye. It is then I wonder that if I feel such powerful emotions – how much more deeply does My Father feel over all the coming and goings of His children?

It is His blessing in our lives to glimpse just a portion of His love on Christmas. A Father who sent His Son to a far away land. A Father who sent His Son to be raised by others. A Father who loved so much that He sent His Son to remind us of just how much He loves us.

In this the love of God is known to us: for God sent his only Son to the world so that it shall live by him.’~1 Jn 4:9

As I finish up here, I am yawning a few more times. My sentences have been reversing themselves as i type – which happens often when I am exhausted. And as I make my way back towards my comfy bed, I lay my hand on the door, where my “child” is already sleep and whisper a prayer of thanks once again.

Holydays bring their own blessings when we pray. They slow us down. They open our ears and eyes. New songs expand our hearts. The invisible becomes almost opaque. A slender,silver tie to our first family. So as the music begins, I will sing myself to sleep…

“On the first day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me: a partridge in a pear tree….”

[google images]

ADVENT 2017: LOVE #2

“Why is it easier to make Christmas cookies than to make our hearts ready for Christ?”~Ann Voskamp
 
Even being retired, I find I still set myself up to be way too busy before Christmas. Decorating. Christmas crafts. Present seeking. Writing Christmas cards (cards that I started right after Thanksgiving and still am not finished – mostly because I am such a procrastinator) Stockings to finish. Stories to read. Traditions to uphold.
 
And yet – – –
 
These are not the things that prepare my heart to love. In fact – they are the furthest thing from it. These traditions. These crazy things we love to do in this life – have nothing to do with the tiny baby we claim to honor with them. They are things. Things that have nothing to do with the tiny baby that was born in a stinky, dirty stable.
 
It is in our nature to want to be the “wise kings” in life. We want to ride in on our camels or donkeys or fancy horses and chariots. Our embroidered robes flashing our importance. Our jeweled crowns reflecting our wisdom’s rich rewards.
 
And yet – – –
 
I think I am yearning to be something more this year. More than a flask’s aroma of earthly wisdom. A chest filled with rich foods or embroidered cloth. A writ of fancy words. A tree covered in beautiful lights and delicate memories. Or – well crafted stables with perfectly molded people.
 
This year – I just want to be a shepherdess. His shepherdess. A shepherdess out in His field. A shepherdess watching over His sheep. A shepherdess who hopes deep in my heart that I might find that one lost sheep who always seems to wonder off on the darkest, stormiest of nights. A shepherdess alone in His field with His sheep singing His songs.
 
This year – I want to be a shepherdess. A shepherd girl who has ears to hear and eyes to see the impossible. Angels singing songs. Angels bringing messages. Messages that prepare a heart for love. Love beyond all understanding.
 
I want to be that kind of shepherdess. One who brings my dirty, smelly self from long days and nights willingly spent in the field that my Father created. Fields that I – mostly – muddied up by my own vain, foolish attempts to change them or where I lost lambs that He had given to my keeping.
 
That’s who I want to be. A shepherdess whose heart is full of love.
 
Shepherds brought nothing but their hearts to that small, stinking stable. Shepherds believed beyond the power of reason. Shepherds who couldn’t leave their flocks, so they drove them to that same stable where they will bring their pure lambs for the Passover festival. Shepherds who had prepared their hearts long before the angels came.
 
A place where they saw a perfect Lamb.  A Lamb to be judged. A Lamb to be separated out. A Lamb to be sacrificed.
 
That is who I am striving to be as I walk in my Father’s field of life this night A shepherdess in the field of the Lamb who shed His blood for His Father’s people – for His Father’s world. A simple shepherdess who is preparing her heart.
 
“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.” Voltaire [google images]shepherdess

ADVENT 2017: LOVE #1

”Cause I alluz been with you, children. An’ whenever you sing, I’m goin’ to be with you still. An’ you know how I can say such a mackulous thing?…Why, ’cause we in Jesus…”~Odessa Williams

This is the week that I pull out my favorite Christmas stories. The ones my mom and dad read to me. The ones that were read to me in school or Sunday School. The ones I read to my children. The ones I read to my students. The ones that my NC Grands missed out on last night, because they were way too busy to read books.

Sad grandma.

Regardless, Grandma, pulled those stories out today and took some time to just read to myself. Like always, nothing puts me in the Christmas mood like these special stories. One of my favorites is The Manger Is Empty by Walter Wangerin, Jr. This is the same author who wrote the “Ragman” , a story that has been portrayed in many churches over the years.

This particular Christmas story revolves around the 7 year old Mary, daughter of an African-American preacher, and one of his elderly parishioners who is in the hospital, Odessa Williams. No spoiler alert – you will have to read it yourself.

Full of laughter, smiles, memories, and lots of tears. I finally tore myself away from those enchanted lands on the premise of getting something done (which didn’t happen). Instead, I napped in front of the fire between my two dogs on ‘their’ couch with Shadow Spooky Sparkle cat stretched out on the rug right in front of hearth. Sweet dreams of Christmas stories dancing in my head – prayers of gratitude in my heart.

“Babies, babies, we be in the hand of Jesus, us in his hand, and ain’ no one goin’ to snatch us out. Jesus, he don’ never let one of us go. Never. Not ever – -“~Odessa Williams

Before the Grands left today, they shook their packages one last time, argued over the beanie babies, re-arranged the village people and peeked in the creche. “Grandma, where is baby Jesus?” the Granddaughter pulled at my hand to make sure I saw the empty creche. I laughed and explained that Grandma Mickey always kept the Baby Jesus out of the creche until Christmas Eve. We did the same thing when our kidlets were little.

Old traditions die hard.

However, after re-reading Wangerin’s short little book, I think the seven year old Mary in The Manger Is Empty had a much, much better explanation.

“Jesus, he doesn’t have to be in the manger, does he? He goes back and forth, doesn’t he? I mean, he came from heaven, and he was borned right here, but then he went back to heaven again, and because he came and went, he’s coming and going all the time – – right?”~Mary

He’s coming and going all the time. He grabs us by the hand and “…don’t let one of us go. Never. Not ever.”

“For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.”~Is 41:13

[Greg Olsen artwork/personal photo]

ADVENT 2017 – PEACE #6

Four random thoughts of Light on this 4th night of Hanukkah.

Thursday or Friday is usual my “run errands” type of day. If I go on Thursday, I can hit our local grocery that gives senior discounts. Fridays are just – maybe – a get-out-of-the-house day. In any case, today was the latter.

Walking around some of my favorite out-of-the-way shops. Small town Christmas window shopping. Picking up a few random things in preparation for our kids coming to visit next week and the week after (not everyone can make it at the same time). Praying for random people along the way that looked harried – or sad – or hurting – or worn out – or the smiling person whose smile doesn’t quite reach their eyes.

It was the surprise Light that caught me as a car pulled in front of me at the grocery store. In NC – we don’t have a license plate on the front of our cars. The sports – college – military – God Bless America – plates are typical replacements. But today – I saw one I hadn’t seen before. It was black. The writing dulled to almost blending in with the background – a tarnished gold. All it said was Psalm 82.

“But you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.
Arise, O God, judge the earth: for you shall inherit all nations.”~Ps 82:7-8

One of the shorter, bodacious Psalms. Powerful salt for Christmas Peace.

The second Light of the day was a meme in an e-mail from a friend: “Be a Maccabee”. Be a person that holds to a line drawn in the sand, based on God’s Truth. Be a fighter with your sword molded of faith. Be a person not of this world, but of the eternal world that brings His peace.

The third Light came when I was on FB. One of my friends posted a quote from R.A. Torrey. The quote was a good one, but it was the picture that really caught me. It was of a family. A family kneeling in prayer in church. Since I go to a contemporary church, we don’t have kneeling rail in front of the church – let a lone a kneeling pad in the pews – wait a minute – we don’t have pews – we have chairs.

“The reason why many fail in battle is because they wait until the hour of battle…fight them on your knees before temptation comes, and you will always have victory.” R.A. Torrey

How long has it been since I humbled myself before the altar of God? Something I used to do quite often. My Peace in the battle of dealing with my earthly father’s illness. My Light in the darkness when he died 9 years later. My redemptive peace when I found my way home to my heavenly Father.

The 4th Hanukkah Light that lit in my mind tonight was the peaceful joy of my decorated house. Sitting quietly. Listening to choral Christmas music. Grandma’s nativity. Mom’s nativity. My nativity. A reminder that the Lights of Hanukkah are just part of the Star that pointed to the coming of the Messiah 2000+ years ago. They continue to point the way for His return.

Be bodacious salt. Be a Maccabee. Be prepared in humble prayer. Be a Light in His menorah that points the way to His Son who brings peace and grace when we enter the stable. [R.A. Torrey image/personal]

ADVENT 2017 – PEACE #3

When the calendar ends…

Dreams end and a day begins. I wish I could tell you what I was dreaming about when I walked out of my dream and opened my blurry eyes to a new day.

Dreams are like that though. So real one second, and swirling wisps of nothingness the next. Bits and snatches that rise up, appearing at the edge of the mind only to evaporate as if they never existed in the first place.

When the calendar ends…

Today, the Jewish calendar marks the 24th of Kislev – the beginning of Chankuh/Hanukkah. The miracle of the oil. The miracle of light. The miracle of a small remnant of righteous Jews who refused to bow to the apostasy that was overtaking their culture – country – faith. A small group that drew a line in the sand – a line of truth – based on their belief in G-d.

They stood apart. A lone. Armed in the faith of their convictions. The sword of G-d in their hand.

For them, the calendar didn’t end that day. The remnant succeed beyond all expectations. They defeated the reigning super power, regained the temple, and lit the temple menorah with pure, blessed oil One day’s worth that lasted for 8. A new festival instituted. Light of the first covenant re-lit. A light at the end of the tunnel that burned brighter as if the tunnel was falling away.

It was the 25th of Kislev 165 BC.

“And Yeshua spoke again with them and he said: “I AM THE LIVING GOD, The Light of the world. Whoever follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall find the light of life.”~Jn 8:12

Today at sundown, the 25th of Kislev 5778 began. Rabbi Yeshua celebrated this festival of Light even though He knew He was the Light that would change the world. For those who followed Him, one calendar ended and a new one began.

When the calendar ends…

There will come a time when the calendar ends again. An eternal calendar will begin where darkness has no power, and the Light never ends. A tunnel that is no longer dark but full of Light. Now that will definitely be a miracle of Light  – Light of a new kind, and one to celebrate in peace. [google images]

ADVENT 2017 – HOPE #3

It has been one of those nights when all I’ve done is find one podcast after another (and should I  mention that I really don’t like to listen to them at all .  I am a visual learner who does much better watching body cues and facial expression while I listen). Podcasts that popped up in various ways and yet – all related – tied together by theme and content. And now, they are all tumbling around in my head as I am watching seasonal, up-lifting movies, praying off and on, working on a Christmas stocking, and enjoying the colorful lights that decorate my house.

I am blessed. Blessed beyond time. Blessed with unending HOPE.

And yet – I yearn for more.  Yearn to understand more.  Yearn to peek over the balcony in my own world. I can see my cover picture on FB. It is entitled, “Heaven’s balcony” by Ron DiCianni. When I first saw it, it struck me that this has always been the way I pictured angels and my loved ones as they look down from heaven at the rest of us – – – a time of peeking over the rails of clouds into the murky world below.

Can you imagine what Heaven’s balcony looked like when Zechariah was in the temple? At the annunciation to a young girl? At the moment when John leapt in Elizabeth’s belly? On the night of Yeshua’s birth?

Can you imagine them seeing the HOPE that shown in the eyes of a weary couple – in a place – a place they had never envisioned as the perfect spot to birth a babe – let alone – their baby?

“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”~Lk 2:6-7

HOPE.

Whether it is a balcony full of angels blowing golden trumpets – – – a choir of heavenly voices – – – a multitude of candles forming a humongous star – – – on that blessed night, there was HOPE. A gathering of notes. An accumulation of lights. A stairway of prayers from heaven to earth. “…a kingdom come…”

HOPE.

“And the word of our God stands for eternities. And this is that word by which you have been evangelized.”~1 Pt 1:25

This is not at all what I was going to write about tonight. As it often is the case, the pictures change in my head, and the words change with them. We celebrate the memory of HOPE during this season, but the great news is – HOPE remains in this murky world. Scary as it seems at times. Frightful as the world turns upside down. Humbling as the knees fold.

But for those “poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungering/thirsting, merciful, pure of heart, peacemakers, persecuted” – – – HOPE remains in this world and I yearn – yearn for even more HOPE.

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”~Rm 8:24-25 [google images/Ron DiCianni art]heaven's balcony