Engaging Conversation….join in!

There will always be a remnant.

Susan and I have to schedule our phone chats because we tend to be so long-winded. We don’t call one another very often, so when we do sit down for a scheduled phone call, our so-called short chats end up lasting two hours! The time always flies, becoming the richest part of my day.

After Christmas and all decorations had been put back up in the attic, Susan texted, “Is this a good time?” I grabbed a notebook, pen and my cup of tea before responding, “Call me. I’m ready!”

“I can’t believe your church even has ten Christmas Eve services!” I exclaimed early in our conversation. “We began this year the weekend before Christmas, so I’m counting the two Saturday services and the three Sunday services then all the services on Tuesday, Christmas Eve. ”I could feel her excitement and sensed her smile coming through the airwaves. But, ten services??? What dedication!

“I don’t have any family to speak of, as you know, so my family are my church, so I had no problem being up there that often. Food for the hungry soul. I had more fun! Each service brought different people and a whole set of needs with it. Good times!” I was so grateful she had a vibrant ministry/purpose at her beloved church.

What was even more amazing was that both of our pastors, living two states away, preached on Anna and Simeon who were there at the Temple performing their assigned rituals, even in the midst of the corrupt money-changers! Described in the Word, as righteous before God, they were committed, dedicated, and consistent in their walk with Jehovah God. They stayed true to Jehovah in obedience and trust in Him.

The time that Anna and Simeon lived was considered the four hundred years of silence. God closed His mouth to the nation Israel because they would not listen to him through the prophets. However, the world was being prepared for carrying the Gospel to the far ends of the earth, as the Romans expanded their Empire by designing state-of-the-art road systems their armies and trade routes could easily navigate, as they brought communities under their rule. God’s omniscient hand was over all that went on those four hundred years, so that when He brought His Son into the world, the world was ready to hear about Him.

Yet, in that long period of silence for the Israelites, there was a remnant of faithful followers whom God allowed to witness the fulfillment of prophecy that He would provide a Savior such as Simeon and Anna. How cool that they never lost hope! In fact, according to Scripture, Simeon served his Jehovah God enthusiastically!

He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come!”

Luke 2:25.

His excitment sounded like Susan! Oh, how glad she was to be serving her Lord through greeting at her church! And her zeal was contagious!

Look at what happened the day Mary and Joseph brought their eight day old son into the temple to be presented before God:

At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.” Luke 2:25-38. NLT

As my friend and I chatted on about Anna and Simeon, we thought of other devout souls at that time. We came up with a short list – Zacharias, Mary and Joseph, and Joseph of Arimethea. We are so sure there were other Jewish people who devoutly stayed true to the teachings of Jehovah, longing for the promised Messiah, or even a sign from God.

As we pondered this story in the Bible, I told Susan I was now calling her “Anna!” She laughed.

What does their testimony say to us today?

In the midst of all the bad news, the corruption in the world; death, anger, unrest, and even misbehavior in some of our churches, God sees a remnant; the faithful, committed, and obedient.

Stay the course, dear reader, to the One who loves you more. This year, continue to seek His Truth found in the Bible; continue to ask questions; stay in fellowship with other Believers who love Him; and tell others of the great things He has done in your life!

Lord Jesus, may my eyes stay on You. May I be one of whom you say is devout, committed to the task set before me, and obedient to Your Word, even in the midst of the corruption going on around me. May I ever be found faithful. Thank you for rescuing my soul from the evil in this world. In Your name, Amen.

Tea and Luke – Nothing Better!

Last month a dear friend sent me a birthday gift that said, “I see you.”  It arrived one morning in a box that my Beloved found on the steps of our beach home, Doves Rest. He brought it upstairs. There inside was another box! A box of Holiday English Teas! An Advent Tea Calendar! Who would have thought? Only Tammy. She and I share a love for books and tea! Be still my heart! A perfect gift for an avid tea sipper!

 Each December morning, I walk into the kitchen, make Beloved’s coffee, heat up the hot water pot, and open a new box containing a new single tea bag. I read the outside of the tiny box with the tiny print and see herbal tea, or white tea; black tea or green tea, including all the special ingredients, such as licorice, cinnamon, orange peel, etc. I pour the hot water into my chosen cup with the new tea bag, grab my Bible and sit in my Lady Recliner and look in Luke to read the chapter of the day.

“Lord, show me what you want me to know from this one chapter,” I whisper to Him as I stir the tea bag around in the cup and arrange myself in the chair. The perfect morning ritual, I cherish the time and the teas!

What has He shown me in these stories of the Life of Jesus?

Among the many truths He has shown me thus far, my heart melted when I opened my Bible up to the eighteenth chapter. He spoke straight to the soul of my being.

“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.”

 Of course the Lord Jesus knew the struggle of this mother’s heart, since the day before, one of her sons told her church was boring; he wasn’t so “into Jesus like you are right now, Mom.” Jesus knew my struggle to let go of my sons, as they live their lives different from the way they were raised at home and in the church in the ways of the Lord. Keep on praying, He told His disciples, as the woman who persevered in getting the unjust judge to hear her request. (Luke 18:3-8).

In the nineteenth chapter, the Lord was “passing through” when He walked into Jericho, but we know He passed through with a purpose in mind. As the crowds walked with Him into town, a short man heard he was walking through and sought him out. The multitude was too tall for him to see Jesus. He scrambled up a nearby tree – a sycamore – and saw the One whom everyone had been talking about. He was good at eavesdropping, for no one talked to him, a tax-collector. He had been hearing how this wandering Teacher had healed the sick and brought hope to the hopeless; He even touched a leper and the leper was made clean! The short man had to see this guy!

I’m sure this curious short man was intending to watch what this Teacher/Healer was going to do from his perch. He had no expectation that this famous Rabbi was going to have anything to do with him.

“Hey! Zaccheus! Come on down from there! I’m going to have supper at your house tonight!” Whoa! Jesus not only spotted the short tax-collector, but called him by name! And was headed to his house for a meal! Zaccheus scrambled down that tree and stood in front of Jesus. He was shaking all over from excitement and embarrassment, as he blurted out, “Master, I’m going to give half my possessions to the poor and pay back what I stole from people up to four times!”

Jesus was thrilled with Zaccheus’ pronouncement for then he said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Zaccheus was a seeker. He climbed up that tree to look for Jesus. He was searching for a way to get back into the good graces of the community – to know the Jehovah God of his ancestors better.

Reading through the book of Luke has brought me as close as His breath over me. Yesterday, talking with one of my single moms and the struggle her daughter was having right now, I knew this mom would be drawn closer to Him if she stayed in the Word, especially now. We talked about that. She agreed. Earlier in the month, a dear church friend expressed genuine joy at how she was learning so much she never knew just by reading one chapter a day.

Several friends have been reading a chapter a day in the book of Luke this month, as it seems to be the easiest Gospel to read this month that we celebrate the birth of the One of whom the book is about! It’s not too late to join us! Just start with this day – this chapter and read forward – to the real reason Jesus came to this earth. We celebrate His birth this month, knowing all along His purpose in coming was to die for our sins.

What do you think the Lord would show you as you read through this Gospel, one chapter at a time? I know this: I have hope that as I persevere in prayer, the Lord will draw my sons closer to Him, creating in them a longing, a seeking and He promises to save those who are lost.

Merry Christmas, dear readers!

Advent Keeping Christmas – Peace

Children were asked to describe peace.

“Peace is calm.”

“Peace is when you can play in your room and your little brother is playing in his and not bothering me.”

“Peace is quiet in the house. No yelling.”

“Peace is the community coming together.”

“Peace is being nice to someone.”

“Peace is space for yourself.”

Our pastor said peace is more than all of those sage responses from children. He proceeded to share various scriptures with us which described peace. But his videos and translations of peace from Greek didn’t resonate. Not until he said,

Peace is Jesus.

Our music director is the most humble person I know. Usually artists and performers come with just a bit of self assurance bordering on pride. We Believers hesitate using the word arrogance when talking about one of our own, but you don’t have to worry with this servant heart. He plays gigs all over our island, toting his guitar and inviting a bass player or violinist or drummer to join him. He doesn’t really seem to care what the instrumental mix is.

When we first started attending this little resort church, which resembles the early Christian church in so many ways, I noticed that he would include whoever expressed any interest in making a joyful sound to come up and join him in the praise and worship part of our service. He included a few small children to play those annoying wood blocks one Sunday. Having put up with that hollow wood tone the little ones mindlessly banged on in my music classroom for twenty-nine years, I gathered up the two wood blocks and brought them home with me. Needless to say, they haven’t been missed.

A few weeks ago, our music director asked me to take over the music for yesterday’s worship, as he and his wife would be out of town. Certainly. Consider it done, I told him. Our other esteemed players; violinist, guitarist and drummer, said they would be there. They had put up with my erratic rhythm-keeping only one other time when Jim was out. It wasn’t smooth, but they were most gracious. This time, I thought, I would practice and work hard to get it all right.

I invited two ladies to sing with us, as singing while playing the keyboard do not come naturally for me. Yes, they said. We rehearse an hour before the service. Thanks for coming. They came, bringing some ideas of their own. Rehearsal was bumpy, to say the least. A time or two, I had to check my inner spirit. As much as I had prayed over the service, the singers, all of it, still, there were going to be some personality challenges, including questioning the one in charge a time or two, with minutes before worship started.

When those questions were raised as to how it all should go, my mind went straight to all the times I had acted the diva with Jim. And I reluctantly thanked the Lord for the kind rebuke. I calmed my spirit and pressed on.

The pastor’s message on peace pierced my heart, especially after our first two worship songs. Oh Father, I whispered down in my soul, please help us to bring you and our beloved intimate congregation a more musical worshipful sound.

“Peace is waking up each new morning and committing the entire day into the hands of the Lord Jesus; totally surrendering and submitting your day’s agenda to Him. That means unclasping each finger off your own plans. Make your list of the many things you have to do. Then lay it on the table, pray over it, giving it to God. He promises to bless you with that peace that does indeed surpass all understanding.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

“And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

As I sat there on the second row next to Beloved I heard the Holy Spirit whisper in my soul, “I’ve got this. Just do what you practiced doing and it will go well. Trust Me.”  And in my heart of hearts, I yielded. Immediately my angst left my heart. I relaxed my hands and the peace that I had read about all these years in the black and white pages of my worn Bible became reality in my soul.

When it came time to sing the closing songs of the worship service, the singers sang, the instrumentalists played and the Holy Spirit’s presence was felt all round. Afterward, I hugged and thanked the ladies with genuine Christ-love and soon after a precious regular attendee walked up and said, “Please play the piano more! It was lovely!” Be still my heart. When we don’t expect it, the Lord showers such encouragement and love. How her words ministered all the way to the soles of my feet!

 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27

Father, may I daily apply what the Pastor said this morning, yielding up my agenda for Yours. And when someone wants to challenge me, as usually happens, may I remember to pray and respond in the way that would bring you honor and glory. Surely, Lord, your peace is real and does surpass all understanding! Thank you! In Your name, Amen

Rejoice! He is with you now!

shopping together

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14

You, Jesus, are IMMANUEL, God with me. At all times. Down the aisles of Kroger, looking for my mother; looking for her particular brand of chocolate cookie; getting the right size cereal box. God with me in the car searching for the right house after my GPS has said, “You’ve reached your destination.” In the dark. God with me when one of my single moms calls as I’m driving in rush hour/Christmas shopping traffic on the other side of town. God with me. Absolutely.

A normal Tuesday with Mom, with some added errands and a phone call, I hoped Jesus wasn’t tired of hearing from this silly sheep, because I called on Him every single time I needed His help and every single time He led and every nearly every single time I whispered, “Thank you, Jesus.”

This promise that Immanuel, meaning God with us, is the foundation for your joy! It is a true, real promise that can be fleshed out through your faith, your trust, your belief in Him who said it and it came true! Rejoice, Beloved, knowing that your Savior will surely never leave nor ever forsake you! Do you rest in that fact? Do you remember to call on Him? Let not Immanuel just be words in a Christmas song sung only on Christmas Eve only to be forgotten when you get home.

“…..He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

After driving around town I managed to pull into a familiar parking lot and park and talk to my single mom safely, undistracted, for as long as she needed. In her struggle to co-parent her troubled teen daughter with her former husband, she admitted to needing to lower her expectations, to consciously be thankful for all the little things she gets to do with her daughter and stop dwelling on the poor behavior. I think there will be less triggers with my daughter and my ex-husband if I choose to back off some when I’m with them, she said. Wise words.  Praying it is practiced.

Breathing prayers for wisdom as we talked, the Lord reminded me of the disciples He called to be His everyday companions for about three years. Were they the cream of the Jewish crop? Had they been schooled in the best rabbinical synagogues of the day? Hardly. They were simple men, schooled in common crafts of fishing, tax collecting, and studying. “Consider Matthew,” I said to my sweet mom. “He was a repulsed tax collector! Can you imagine the treatment he got from the other disciples? And Jesus chose Him! Jesus was, in effect, saying to all twelve of these guys, “look to me for your source of help, and do this. Love one another.” Right. In spite of their former jobs before they were called to follow this……this man who tells them to love one another? What I think I was trying to tell my mom was……in loving your wayward daughter, find ways to love her through her poor choices and behavior and then……be thankful.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,….and be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

And she agreed. She is growing in her trust in the Lord. We were merely edifying one another in  the fact that our joy in the Lord, Immanuel, comes from calling on His name for all help, and giving thanks when it comes. The thankful heart affirms in our heart that He is with us. Immanuel and in His presence is true fullness of joy!

“ In Thy presence is fullness of joy!”Psalm 16:11

This Christmas season, may we all consciously give thanks as we call on Immanuel to help us every step of the way and to be more real to us as we celebrate His birth. May there be meaning! Resounding joy that God became flesh and dwelt among us!

Thank you, God, for sending.

Thank you, Jesus, for coming!

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for reminding!

Christmas Eve candlelighting