12 Days to Celebrate

Every year, I ask the Lord for something insightful–something I may not have seen before about this special time of the year. This year, He gave me several blessings!

I came across these words for “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I’m not certain of their origin, but some claim that, as was so often the case, the words were cryptic and used to teach biblical truths during a time of persecution. If true, how special and meaningfully crafted were these words!

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A partridge is a small bird, quite defenseless; however, like many small birds, they will fight to the death against much larger foul to protect their young.  I’m so glad that I have no foe bigger or more powerful than our God! The pear tree brings forth fruit.  Think of all the “fruit” our Lord has produced because of His great sacrifice on the tree!

Two turtle doves, perfectly matched, work together not only to build their nest but to care for their young. How beautifully the Old Testament and New Testament complement each other, giving us security and nourishment!

Hens produce one of the most valued ingredients in baking: eggs! While most bread recipes, a staple food, do not take eggs, cookie or dessert recipes are limited without these oval gems! Faith, hope, and love are some of the main ingredients in our lives, and because of them, we are able to have a sweet walk with the Lord and others.

The “calling” birds were originally the Colly bird, which is a black, nondescript songbird. And is there any better symbol of what the Gospels do? They tell the story of our dear Savior, and, in the process, the Gospel goes forth calling out the Good News that Jesus saves. Often, the most effective messenger for our Lord is the quiet, still, small voice which goes forth without much pomp or glamour!

The Pentateuch: five books which contain our history from the Creation account to the completion of Israel’s wilderness wandering. They are foundational, and like five golden rings, they link together to tell us about our rich heritage as well as our promised future!

Geese a-laying–once again we see the beginning of life. What better image for creation?

Swimming swans–From Isaiah 11;1,2 “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;”and piety (derived from the following verses), the gifts of a Spirit-filled life are portrayed by the power and graceful swan. And is there a more beautiful image than a swan gracefully swimming through water? As born-again believers, we go forward, showing forth a beautiful testimony when we “put on” these gifts from the Holy Spirit which become available to us at our spiritual birth.

Maids a-milking conjure up images of hardworking women.  The idea of a fruitful life–one which is truly blessed when we practice each of the beatitudes–is portrayed as working maidens. Ladies, if we parallel the Trinity with the home, the only Person left to represent Mother is the Holy Spirit. Just like that daily milking that would begin the day of a milkmaid, we must drink from the Word every day if we wish to grow these nine fruits!

Leaping lords! Walking lords? Running lords? No, leaping! This image shouts of joy, and truly the commandments of God bring joy to our lives. I often quote Proverbs 13:15b, “… the way of transgressors is hard.” But these lords are leaping because of the first half of the verse: “Good understanding giveth favor.” Although life can be hard, living “by the Book” not only gives us strength for the day by puts a hop in our step!

Ladies dancing–Another picture of grace. When ladies dance together, as in a ballet or 18th-century minuet, the effect is beautiful. As one, they move, not drawing attention to the individual but to the collective motion. Think of nine ladies–love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, all working together to bring praise and glory to God. And where is this dance being performed? In your heart, dear friend!

Drummer–the percussion section of any band or orchestra gives a pulse to the music. Pulse means life. What is our life–our true, spiritual life? Is it not our beliefs? Here they are summed up for us in the Apostles’ Creed:

  1. I believe in God the Father almighty;
  2. and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord,
  3. Who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
  4. Who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried,
  5. on the third day rose again from the dead,
  6. ascended into heaven,
    sits at the right hand of the Father,
  7. whence he will come to judge the living and the dead;
  8. and in the Holy Spirit,
  9. the holy Church, the communion of saints
  10. the remission of sins,
  11. the resurrection of the flesh,
  12. and life everlasting.

Who is the One who gives us all these gifts? Our True Love! So… Whether a tool to teach children their catechisms or a reminder of the blessings of our great Christian heritage, I hope when you hear this tune, it will be a blessing! Merry, meaningful Christmas!

 

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Drop Dead!

Postcard with text "Greetings from the Sunny South." Five African American people in interesting dress--fancy suit, hats, umbrella, frilly dress. One has a fiddle and a dog. Text: "Cake Walkers. Way down south in Dixie."For a short while, we had these words on our mirror in the bathroom: Drop Dead. The idea was that we would start the day with this thought in mind. It was a good reminder; however, I remember the time when a young girl, who came for dinner with her unsaved family, came out from the bathroom, wide-eyed and saying, “You have bad words on your mirror!” To her, the idea of telling someone to drop dead was a threat!

As a church, we have been memorizing verses from Romans 6. (By the way, are you memorizing Bible verses? Is it me or does it get harder as you age? Anyway, that is my “New Year’s Resolution” for 2018! I’m not sure how I’m going to implement it, but I MUST be memorizing more scripture.) Whether it’s a piece of music, a famous speech, or a Bible verse, memorizing allows you to see it differently. As you memorize, you are meditating on the words and phrases in a different way than if you just read it.

Here is December’s verse for our church:

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. Romans 6: 13

As I was working on it, I noticed something. We are urged to yield ourselves to God.  That’s easy to understand, but then Paul adds this phrase: “as those that are alive from the dead.”

OK, Jesus died and rose from the dead. We are to be like Him? Is that what Paul is saying. Of course, that is certainly part of it. But as I “meditated” on this portion of the verse, I dug a little deeper! As born-again believers, we are not only dead, but we are resurrected.  When we

  • Are saved
  • Ask Jesus to be our Savior
  • Trust Christ for salvation
  • Believe and receive Jesus as our Savior

However you want to phrase it when that happens, we die to the power of sin! We die to living our lives for ourselves. We die to our wants, our plans, our path, and we allow God to do the leading.  He directs our paths, guides our plans, and often changes our wants. We are dead BUT alive!

Later in chapter 12:1,2, Paul puts a little more meat on the bones:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

A living sacrifice—we are alive, but we really can’t live for God until we die. That hurts! Death can be painful, and what I’ve found is this:

The tighter we hold on to our wants, our plans, our life,

the deeper God needs to cut to “kill” this world from our hearts!

What are you loving more than God? Can you be honest about this? Is it your traditions? Family? Church denomination? Entertainment? Way of worship? Money? Security? The way you do life?

Look at this verse:

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Revelation 12:11

Wow! What a challenge (and a good one to memorize)! As the Lord’s Return draws closer, will we need to follow their example more: they loved not their lives unto the death?

It’s all quite a challenge, but then, true believers understand that the Christian life is not a cakewalk. (FYI and total rabbit trail. Check out the link if you want to know where that phrase cakewalk originated!)

Will you drop dead today AND allow God to resurrect you so that you can yield your members as instruments of righteousness unto God? That’s a tall order. Thankfully, our loving God also supplies the grace to make it possible!

 

 

Are You Doing It?

 Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.  Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. Psalm 34

As I read two different devotions today, they were remarkably opposite of one another. The verses above were part of the daily devotional called “Days of Praise” which I’ve sometimes quoted. Today’s reading was called “Godly Pursuit.” As I read the verses above, I did a personal check on each one:

  • Do I “keep my tongue from evil?’ OUCH!
  • Do I keep my “lips from speaking guile (deceit)?” YIKES!
  • Do I walk away from evil, or do I allow it to come right into my living room on that flat screen?
  • Do I do good, going out of my way to do it?
  • Am I seeking peace, or am I stirring things up, even in my home, because I want things to go my way?
  • Am I pursuing (fervently running after it, chasing it, hunting for it as though my life depended on it) peace—dying to self to allow the peace of God to rule my life?

Henry M. Morris III goes on in the devotional to say,

“So many today appear to desire the approval of the world’s philosophy or its adherents, attempting to compromise the clear messages of the Word of God with the views and lifestyles of the wicked.”

The opposite path was sadly expressed in Jeremiah 44:16-19:

“As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee. But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine. And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?”

How sad! But the question for us is, “Will we only be faithful to God when things are going well—when we are prospering?”

God gives us so many promises but that doesn’t mean that the Christian life will be problem free and full of prosperity. Why?

Because rough waters make the best teachers!

Are you discouraged—tired of watching your godless neighbors prosper in all they do? The psalmist sums the whole picture up nicely for us in Psalm 73 (might be good to read the whole psalm!)

Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end (v 17).

So, if you’ve fallen off the “Godly Pursuit Trail” today, take heart! You’re not alone. Seek the Lord’s help and even the help of others to get back on the horse and ride! You will never regret making wise choices.

 

Why not me?

ID-100180787Last night, my husband had a really bad headache.  He does get migraines, but this was different–just a bad headache.  It started at supper and he took a pill. Later, after picking up kids in the church van, leading Wednesday night prayer meeting and taking kids home, we were watching some TV when I looked over to see him holding his head. The pain was worse, so I got him another pill. I decided to sleep in the guest room and went there after kissing him good night, leaving him there all curled up in a pathetic ball with the covers over his eyes.

It’s now 4:19 AM and my brain is in overdrive. What if he… I should go and check on him, but I don’t want to awaken him, but what if he’s…

Such a morbid thought, but isn’t it possible? Why not me? The hurricanes just snuffed out lives–someone’s husband or father–why not me?

What would I do? More morbid thoughts, but it may be true, or will be true, someday. I hope it’s not today. He’s only 59.

An amazing statement came into my life recently and I can’t give credit, but this morning, in the wee hours of the day, sitting at his desk, they have new meaning:

God doesn’t give us grace for our imaginations.

I can’t even imagine what I would do. Tom and I may be weird, but we play these things through our minds every once and a while.  He, like most men, always says that he’ll die first and he’s probably right.

I think these thoughts are haunting me because –

  • We just remembered 9/11 this week. Sixteen years ago.  That doesn’t seem possible, but I’m sure anyone who lost a loved one on that day feels something different about the day.
  • 9/12 is the anniversary of my own father’s death. It’s always a hard day, mainly because I don’t want to ignore it but I’m never sure what to say, especially to my mom. I write the date on a piano student’s practice notepad and think, what’s today’s date? Oh yeah, the twelfth–the day my dad died, but I don’t say anything.
  • We went to a funeral this past Saturday. It was an untimely death even though his grandmother was 74. Less than a year ago she was healthy. Then the dreaded news came–cancer. Her husband is quite a bit older than she was and he probably never thought he would be facing that day. As I came to him during the viewing, he asked ME how I was doing! And then, after I asked him how he was doing, he said, “Good.  What are you going to do?  It’s how it is, and you just have to accept it.” WOW!

So, I’m heading back to bed. I may slip into our bedroom and just listen. I’m sure he’s OK…

… but if he’s not, I know only one thing, but it’s a really, really, BIG thing:

God’s grace will be sufficient for the day, no matter what it brings. He’s already taught me that. We carry burdens and heartaches. We have scars from past wounds. We’re made of tough stuff, although the bottom line is that God created us from dirt and when under pressure, it crumbles. But …

God’s grace will be sufficient.

I’m thankful that I can’t speak from experience on this one, but don’t we believe that faith is the substance of things hoped for, THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN (Hebrews 11:1)? Can you believe this wonderful, precious promise and the One who promised it for whatever you are facing today? Will you let the strong arms of Jesus carry you through?

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, 
Stand in his strength alone; 
The arm of flesh will fail you, 
Ye dare not trust your own.

Bart Millard

 

 

 

Seriously? A Big Bang?

partial-solar-eclipse-cloudsAfter watching the 80% partial solar eclipse in our area, I stand in total amazement at the awesomeness of our almighty Creator. His amazing exactness continues to overwhelm me! For example:

  • First of all, the earth is the exact distance from the sun to keep us from being cooked or freezing.
  • The moon is the exact distance from us or just the right size—take your pick—so that it covers the sun perfectly in a solar eclipse.
  • The moon’s axis rotation matches its orbital path around us so that we always see the same side of the moon. (It would be like one person circling another person while always facing him.)

It’s beyond my imagination to understand how anyone could believe that a Big Bang could be that smart?

What an awesome God we serve! He certainly displayed His Majesty today!

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1

“What’s Your Problem?”

ID-100122418We may have heard this phrase or even used it in a harsh, accusing way, but I’m asking it with a heart of concern. What is your problem? You may say, “I don’t have a problem.” Good for you! Or, you may say, “Where do you want me to start?” Then others might smile and say, “Nothing. I’m good,” with a smile that tries to cover a breaking heart but doesn’t quite get to the eyes. You know what I mean.

I’ve recently discovered something: God’s grace. How does that really work? I’m learning that it only works when we do several things:

  1. Speak the truth in our hearts.  He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart (Psalm 15:2).”
  2. Turn our cares completely over to God. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5: 7).”
  3. Stop trying to salve the hurt with other things. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12: 9).”

How do you deal with hurt? So often we turn to other things for our comfort and don’t even realize we’re doing it! Like…

  • Hobbies – We get busy with a craft or exercise at the gym or parties
  • Home – Ladies, we clean fiercely, or cook extravagantly, or spend lots of time redecorating or rearranging furniture
  • Work – We throw ourselves into our work, spending long hours away from home, especially if the problem is at home
  • Internet – We fiercely display all our pent up anger, hurt, disappointment, frustrations, or whatever on a social media page. We vent.

All of these things, except the last one, are not bad things.  They may even take away the pain for a while, but in the end, we’re right where we started: dealing with a situation that we cannot change.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

 

This poem has long been a favorite of mine, so much so that I put it to music way back in high school! Its simple truths continue to circle back into my life.

When we turn to other sources of relief, we are like a child with a splinter.  We squirm and cry and dramatize, making it more difficult, if not impossible, for the “splinter-remover” to do his or her job! Is that why God had David write Psalm 23? “He MAKETH me to LIE DOWN… He LEADETH beside…”

He knows what is best. We can’t fix it. We can only rest in His grace, allowing it to soothe when nothing else will soothe. Only He can calm the soul. Only God and His grace give peace.  Is it a “once and done” thing? No, my friend. When the problem continues, so does the possibility for angst and the need to once again sit at the Master’s feel and sense His sufficient grace!

Moth in the Window

mothinthwindow-layout_300It was just a moth stuck in the bathroom window this morning! I’m not one of those crazy (I take that back—they’re not crazy!) kind-hearted people who take insects outside instead of squashing them, but this guy was so frantic… and big, I didn’t want to make a mess!

So, I released the screen to let him out only to find that he was between the top and bottom windows. Now, I’m holding the screen out the window and trying to move the windows so he can find his freedom. I just about gave up, but, hooray! he was able to brave it and fly around the wooden frame and out to his world.

Lesson # One: He was so close to freedom but wouldn’t make the leap away from light to clear the window. His instinct told him that if he just headed towards the light, he would be fine, but his instinct manual didn’t include any instruction about glass! When am I afraid to go “Beyond Common Sense” and do something extraordinary for God? What is it that I’m trusting to be the right way, but it’s not? Hmmm?

Lesson # Two: His way was the wrong way. Proverbs 14:12 tells us that “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Yikes! That’s pretty serious! Believing in anything but the Blood of Jesus Christ is the wrong way to heaven. It’s really frightening to think that “good” people will be in hell but look at Nicodemus. He was a really good guy, but if he had kept on his “right” path of good works, he wouldn’t be enjoying God’s presence right now!

Lesson # Three: Patience! I was ready to give up on the poor stupid thing! After all, if he couldn’t figure it out, it wasn’t my fault. How many times do I become impatient, perhaps giving up on someone when a change of heart is right around the corner?

Finding God’s message in the mundane—He has so many lessons for us! What a wonderful heavenly Father we have!

Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. Psalm 143:10