Thursday, December 13, 2018

Spread the Merry - An Advent Challenge


My mind, as is most of yours, is FOCUSED on the coming of Christmas.


That's what ADVENT is all about...THE COMING.

THE COMING OF THE CHRIST.

My Messiah.

I long to CELEBRATE ADVENT WITH INTENTION!!!

I'm trying to stay focused on the meaning of it all...and not the commercialism of it.

(Daily word-focus for Advent)

Sadly, the two get mixed up in my brain most days.

I start out pretty good...

Each morning I read several ADVENT devotional-helps I have sitting around.

I reflect...
...I do!!!!

Then...the day begins, and
....the craziness of the season swallows me.

There are gifts to buy...to PAY FOR...to bring home...and, to wrap.

My hands have been busy creating: crafts...food...decorations...baby elf hats (who could resist???? Right?)...


I'm skillfully, and busily, working at an atmosphere of PEACE-on-EARTH within my home...

Now isn't that contradictory????????


Early in the season, I ran across an Oswald Chambers devotional.
It wasn't about Christmas at all.
But, it referenced the night the angels descended as a choir,
to the shepherds watching their sheep in a field,
and burst into glorious song
about the babe in the manger.
GOD'S SON!


The words of Oswald Chambers stopped me.
They've become the theme of my ADVENT-SOUL-PREPARATION.
Mr. Chambers' writings referred to the heart of hilarity the angels had over God's plan for mankind.
There was so much glee, the Lord had to stay their mouths from spilling over in fulness.
Mankind couldn't grasp it with our finite minds.

This author hinted that ever-so-often God lifts the veil and we humans are able to catch glimpses of this PURE JOY.

The JOY of angels.


That's where my reflection has been each morning.
I've asked the Lord to show me...
...to lift the veil from my eyes...
and, to let me giggle with the glee of the angels over GOD'S-ADVENT-PLAN.

Little-by-little
He's doing so.
I've been recording it all on our ministry FACEBOOK page (& my own personal one, as well).
Look for this hashtag: #themerryofChristmas

In fact, part of their laughter has to be over how the meaning of the season has simply gotten lost in our intention of celebrating Jesus well...
All our hustle and chaos must simply make the angels chuckle....


But, here's a random thought on which I have only just begun to reflect...
Let's stop and ponder, 
and catch,
the glee, the giggles, the hilarity, and the WONDER
of the angels...
and WHY GOD'S-CHRISTMAS-PLAN IS ALL worth smiling over...

THE GIVER of THE GREATEST GIFT became THE GIFT before THE BEGINNING OF TIME, that I might GIVE THE GREATEST GIFT to someone else, and THIS GIFT by the GIVER could be passed on INTO ETERNITY. 


Let's GIVE THE GIVER'S GIFT to someone else....
...and SPREAD THE MERRY!


Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Thrill of HOPE

I was driving home from Durango yesterday, running errands, and getting a little start on Christmas.

I am a late starter this year. Normally, I've done all my shopping, and gift preparations, by Thanksgiving.

I tend to be an over-achiever; but, not this year.

I flipped on a Christmas-music-playing radio station to do a little sing-a-long, while nobody could hear the flat and sharp notes that proceed from my mouth, no matter how hard I try...

From Jingle Bells to I'll Be Home for Christmas, the crooning put me in a nostalgic mood.

I sat up a little straighter, and paid a little more attention, when O Holy Night sounded in the speakers.


I heard the words a little differently this year.

Perhaps because I'm winding down my study on HOPE.

It's been a whole year of study.

And those of you who are loyal to read each week have probably grown weary of my ramblings.

But pay attention, one last time - these words - chills ran up and down my spine:


"The thrill of HOPE, the weary world rejoices...
For yonder breaks a new and GLORIOUS day.
Fall on your knees..."


Christmas.

Jesus.

The Word-Made-Flesh.

The Light of the World, in whom there was no darkness.

The Good Shepherd.

Creator of the Universe.

THE THRILL OF HOPE!!!!

Yes, the world should rejoice...and, we should fall on our knees.

That would be an appropriate response to God, The Thrill of Hope.


We have a Savior.

A bridge into eternity.

A HEAVENLY HOPE.

A JOYOUS TOMORROW.

Many of us need to be reminded of that during the holiday season.


What a way to close out a year of hope-learning.

And as I do, I'd like to just leave you with a few Haiku to reflect on over the Holy-day Season.

These are just a few written by women from the retreat in Cyprus, who summarized HOPE for me as we wound down our lovely time together. What a nice way to reflect on Jesus, review the past year, and
PONDER our THRILL OF HOPE!

I’m looking forward
Jesus Christ, He is my HOPE
Singing, joyfully


Knowing and resting
Anchored in hope is my soul
Wait with confidence


God works in our lives
We were called for a purpose
Remember His love


Hope in God secure
His promises will endure
Praise and worship sure


Dark clouds chasing me
Trying to outrun the storm
Safe harbor, Set anchor


Waiting on the Lord
Is painful and difficult
Joy is the outcome


Gentle tears fall down
Praises fill our hearts with hope
The name of Jesus


God unchangeable
Gives us a sanctuary
In the midst of storms




Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Word for this Christmas: The Name Matters


That morning I stood absolutely OVERCOME with emotion.

It's happened before when the realization of who I am, where I am, and what I'm doing seem to hit with an overwhelming velocity.

Me...a very common, not extremely gifted, fairly simple-minded woman, with a few ordinary life-stories (I do have a "BUT GOD," to my benefit)...

Standing...in places I would never have seen myself - not in my WILDEST imagination.

SPEAKING (seriously, I stumble over my words on a GOOD DAY)...to a group of women about the ONE who has been in the business of changing my life since the beginning of time. 

I was in JERUSALEM (me)! 

(overlooking the city from Mt. Scopus)

(the old city)

(the market in the Muslim Quarter of the old city)

(overlooking Jerusalem from the Prayer Tower at King of Kings Community Church)

Jerusalem (!), the place, where in all actuality, the story of my life as I know it today BEGAN just over 2000 years ago.

...and I, I was the one honored to GET to talk about HIM, the Son of God, Savior, Life-changer...


I had asked the Lord, and sought for weeks, what He would say, in this Age-of-Today, to the women from this particular congregation.

As is not-so-uncommon, I sensed only bits and pieces of the message over the course of those weeks, until just a few days prior to the event. Then, the Spirit of the Lord opened my eyes to a simple quote that was like putting all the pieces of the puzzle together in a flash. So...as far as what I knew I was to speak, there wasn't a question.

HOWEVER, I hadn't done my research on this particular congregation.


It's comprised of a lot of internationals, along with many Messianic followers.

So, what was the problem...after all, these were women who all loved Jesus (from many backgrounds, yes, and diverse in age)?

What I didn't realize is that there is an entirely different "culture," and "language," that surrounds the worship-preferences of Messianic Jews.


So, in the course of my sharing the very message the Lord placed on my heart for these gals, I used some terminology that failed to impart their faith in ways consistent with their Jewish heritage. In fact, the words I used carried negative historical baggage. 

I was clueless.

Until after-the-fact. 

When I finally inquired (a little-too-late) of the pastor's wife why something seemed a bit "off," she (very graciously) apologized for not making me more culturally aware before the speaking session began.

She assumed my cross-cultural background bore understanding I had not acquired.

I assumed I was among people-of-like-mind and could speak my common-to-me spiritual language freely.

We both assumed wrong.


As it was, a couple of older women in attendance, insulted, began to walk out. 

This sweet pastor's wife, as she put it, "Talked them down from the ledge." 

They stayed. 

They relaxed. 

They ended up enjoying the day. 

In fact, I had the privilege of washing, massaging, and painting the toe nails, on the feet of one of those women.


So what has been my take away after pondering the last few weeks?
(By the way, click on this link if you want to see an abbreviated dictionary of correct Messianic Terminology.)

This week, in heart-preparation for the Christmas season, I began studying the Gospel of John.


John writes his stories-of-life-with-Jesus for a specific audience and for a specific reason (each of the Gospel writers do). 

Here's what I noticed right from the get-go.

John begins with The Name.

You see, one of my faux pas was to use the name "Jesus." 

A very precious name to me.

Yet not to these gals.

The name Jesus hits raw nerves...Through the centuries, our Jewish friends have suffered persecution in "the name of Jesus." Consequently, using this name brings to mind hatred and anti-semitism. The preferred name is the one Jesus used as He walked on earth: Yeshua (salvation).

While Jesus is the most BEAUTIFUL NAME (link to song here) that crosses my lips, John-the-Beloved doesn't just start right out with this Name-above-all-Names, nor does he call Him Yeshua.


He begins with this name: WORD.

John knew his audience...and he knew this was the name they needed to hear.

At the beginning of this Christmas season, we all need to be reminded of the same.


What I discovered in Jerusalem that day: A NAME MATTERS!!!
(Shakespeare was wrong.)

So, John wants us all to remember that before He was Jesus, or Yeshua, He was the WORD (Logos).


It didn't matter what the angel had told Joseph and Mary to name the babe.

What matters most is that all of us who read John's stories (from the day his hand penned them to today) would KNOW THIS TRUTH:

The WORD (who was with God in the beginning and was God) wrapped Himself in flesh to become the DIVINE EXPRESSION of THE I AM!



That's what matters more than the name Jesus, or Yeshua...
...and, that's when it resonated with me.

We can only know Jesus/Yeshua (Salvation) when we truly believe and receive He was first, and is always, the WORD-Made-Flesh.


This gives us the right to be children of the God-Most-High (cf. John 1:12).

So, this Christmas season may we filter every thought about the Christ-child through this one truth:
That babe born in the manger was born-to-be GOD'S DIVINE EXPRESSION, so you and I could know Him by whatever Name matters most to us.

Let's Remember that
His Name Matters.

He was the WORD.
Incarnate!

For, this is the WHY of a 
Name: 
...that which is used
to cover
EVERYTHING
from
thoughts
to feelings
aroused in the mind and heart;
that which, when mentioned,
brings to mind
the excellence,
the character,
the command,
the nature,
the pleasure,
of the
One-So-Called.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Cheering Stones Bring HOPE & THANKSGIVING!


The very stones in the walls cry out...
Habakkuk 2:11


I'm back home again after two weeks away where I had the privilege of talking about God's WORDS OF HOPE to women from all over the Middle East (believe me, it was no easy task honing down a years worth of blogs into just a few messages).


(In Limmasol, Cyprus)

(at King of Kings Community Church, Jerusalem)

One day prior to the retreat in Cyprus, our team of volunteers did a little bit of sight-seeing, visiting historical sites (Limmasol & Kolossi) near where Paul and Barnabas might have traveled as they walked from Salamis (now Famagusta) to Paphos, oh-so-many-years-ago. There in the amphitheater, we broke out in song: "It's Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise, pour out our praise...to You Only..."


(Kollosi, Cyprus)

Two days prior to the retreat in Jerusalem, we visited the ruins of Magdala and Capernaum, then sang a multitude of praise songs (& danced) our way across the Sea of Galilee (in a boat of course...), where Jesus walked on water and calmed a chaotic storm.


(Magdala, Israel)


(on the Sea of Galilee)

We were privileged to take in some of the Holy sites of the Old City of Jerusalem, visit the Garden tomb outside of the city, stand on the Mount of Olives, walk through what remains of the Garden of Gethsemane, and pray at the Western Wall...and in many of those places, our little group, AGAIN, could not help but worship our Lord through song.

(at the Southern Steps)

(Old City)


(Garden Tomb)

(Western Wall)

For me, these times were moving experiences. Truly, indescribable.

"Seeing" brought color, texture, smell, and life to the gospels in a fresh new wave.

For some, touring in other groups around us, perhaps not-so-much.

I overheard a conversation (okay, I may have been eavesdropping) of one young American woman, who was completely over her sight-seeing. In her words, she was "so done" looking at piles of rocks that archeologists had uncovered; amazed that they were still sifting through dirt looking for treasures-of-knowlege regarding the past.

I take in those things, sitting with them, pondering...

As I pondered, I was reminded of some words of Jesus...and, went back to look them up. The story begins in Luke 19, as Jesus made His way down the Mount of Olives, into the Kidron Valley, heading into Jerusalem, riding on a colt. We know this as the Palm-Sunday-Story. Let's pick the story up in verse 36 and end at verse 40:

As He rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of Him.  When He reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of His followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen. 
“Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
    Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”
But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke Your followers for saying things like that!”
He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”
The religious leaders were spitting mad.

Jesus was anathema to them.

They vehemently disliked Him.

He was a popular teacher, with great crowds of followers...but, when His followers began to praise Him as the Messiah, they were of one-adament-mind to SILENCE the notion.

So, they whined to Jesus: "Tell them to stop!"

But Jesus...Those words He spoke?

"Even if you silence my followers, the stones will cheer for me..."


"Even if, over time, My praise get drowned out, the ROCKS will cry out...they will tell my story!"

I think what I've realized as I've been mentally processing this trip is that I have seen with my own-little-brown-eyes the TRUTH of this sound-bite straight from Jesus' mouth.

What is just a "pile of stones" to one is "evidence of God's reality" to me!


These stones, uncovered, are a testimony to the Reliability of Scripture.

The proof of this reliability points to the life, death, resurrection and CREDIBILITY of Jesus-as-Messiah.

What is TRASH to one is TRUTH to another: veracity...certainty...undeniable fact!

THE ROCKS (all over Israel) ARE TELLING THE STORY OF JESUS - GIVING HIM PRAISE - DECLARING HIS GLORY!

And, when the stones cheer the AUTHENTICITY of the ANOINTED ONE, they also cry out the fact that we have a God, who is our HOPE for every tomorrow...a HOPE that is an anchor of the soul.








Have a Blessed and HOPE-FILLED Thanksgiving.

Don't make those rocks cry out on your behalf!!!


O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms. 
(Ps 95:1-2)