Category Archive: Blessings

Glory to God in the Highest

Music has always touched my spirit. When I was a child, my mother, a soprano soloist and voice teacher, taught each of us children harmonies. My oldest brother, Melvyn, learned bass; Arnold, tenor; me, alto; and Mom sang soprano. We sang our way across the country several times.

Dad enjoyed listening. And wherever I was in the world, I knew that at Christmas Mom would be soloing on Handel’s “Messiah”; and at Easter she would sing “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth.”

At times Arnold and I sang duets together as children. As adults, we periodically sang in trios or quartets. Music has always been a significant part of our lives. To this day, I may listen and learn through a sermon, but be emotionally touched by a song. Tears came to my eyes Sunday morning as we sang about Jesus’ coming to earth.

So you can imagine my delight as Don and I attended two musical events Saturday–the first, “Expectations,” written by Trent Smith, worship pastor at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, our former church. It tells a contemporary version of a young woman and man, Mary and Joe, to whom an angel appeared and gave the good news that through Mary, a virgin, a Child would be born of the Holy Spirit, who would save His people from their sins. What a promise! And what a message to take in as an unmarried, righteous young woman. Would others scoff at her pregnancy and story of an angel’s visit? In faith she responded. “‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.'” Then the angel left her.” (Luke 1:38)

Then at Mount Hermon, we enjoyed a Christmas concert by the Foto Sisters. These three lovely 20-something women are incredibly gifted. Along with lovely singing voices, they play the piano, viola, violin, and cello. More important, they are committed to Jesus Christ, who came in the flesh …. born of Mary, a Hebrew woman. That’s significant: Jewish heredity is tracked through the woman, giving Jesus both his humanity and title to the messianic throne as a descendant of King David. And He was conceived by God through the Holy Spirit, giving Him a sinless, holy nature — fully God, fully man.

I hope you’re enjoying the sounds of the season, and especially those that speak of the Messiah. Don and I were recently in a restaurant whose background Christmas music included some songs that were clearly Christian. We were thrilled to hear God’s truth being quietly broadcast in this venue.

So, to encourage you this Christmas season, I’ve attached a link to a youtube video of the Foto sisters singing “The Shepherd Knows Your Name”. May it touch your spirit and heart as you focus on what Jesus did for us by becoming a tiny baby, growing up to die and then come back to life, conquering death and granting us the incredible privilege of knowing God through Christ.

May your spirit be blessed this Christmas, knowing the Shepherd knows your name.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-symantec-ext_onb&hsimp=yhs-ext_onb&hspart=symantec&p=foto+sisters+the+shepherd+knows+your+name+song#id=1&vid=d7bd97c59261672236c1f2324a8a42cf&action=click

Thanks Giving

My third-grade kids were seated around a table in the school gym. I asked questions about keeping promises. Several related incidents in which someone had kept a promise.

Then Erica spoke up. “I promised to be Tracy’s best friend forever, but now she’s not my friend any more.” Erica had confronted Tracy about some behavior and Tracy told her she’s no longer her friend. Matthew, who can be disruptive at times and has a very short attention span, turned to her. “I’m sorry that happened to you.”

I was amazed and thankful for his sensitivity and kindness.

I found a poem on the back cover of a book about my heritage: Jacob’s Journey, edited by Barbara and Timothy Dyck. The poem’s author is not named so I assume it is unknown. But it touched me as we think of all who have gone before and prepared the way for the lives, freedoms, and the hope with which we live. I am copying it here.

“Lord, we keep forgetting all those who lived before us,

We keep forgetting those who lived and worked in our communities.

We keep forgetting those who prayed and sang hymns in our churches before we were born.

We keep forgetting what our parents have done for us.

We commit the sin, Lord, of assuming that everything begins with us.

We drink from wells we did not find,

We eat food from farmland we did not develop.

We enjoy freedoms which we have not earned.

We worship in churches which we did not build.

We live in communities we did not establish.

This day, make us grateful for our heritage. Amen.”

SONY DSC

So, as we enter a week when we focus on giving thanks, I am grateful for third graders who have a tender heart toward others, for the children with whom I have the privilege of sharing God’s love and mine.

I am grateful for my forbears, who fought for freedom, who left a country where they could not worship as they chose to establish roots in a place where they could, and I can, worship the God of our fathers.

I am grateful for my husband and family, whose love has challenged, encouraged and sustained me through the years.

I am thankful for you, my readers, who respond and give feedback to my ramblings.

I am eternally grateful for the love of Jesus Christ, which gives me hope, forgiveness, salvation, peace, love, joy … and who will continue his good work in me until he returns or takes me Home.

” …being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:6 NIV

For what are you most thankful?

Home — not a Place, but a Presence

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.

Jude 1:24, NLT

We were talking about my friend’s house, which she enjoyed with her husband for quite a few years. Now he has passed into glory and she is thinking through her next steps. “Remember,” she said, “Home is not a place, but a Presence.”

“Presence” — defined as the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. Another definition is “a person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen.” Scripture adds to this one of the names of God–“Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us”.

What a promise! God, creator of heaven and earth, is with us! Psalm 139:7-10 state that

I can never get away from your presence!

If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.

If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,

even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.

I looked up some synonyms for presence at thesaurus.com:

Whereas a few antonyms for presence reflect negativity, anxiety, “apart-ness”: aspects of life when we are not living in God’s presence.

Afraid

Presence of God

The Scriptures often speak of God’s presence in human history. His presence may bring fear to man’s heart, as when Adam and Eve sinned and hid from God in the Garden of Eden.

But God’s presence also provides comfort in times of trouble or anxiety (Joshua 1:5; Psalm 42:5). So if we are actively living in the presence of God, we will know the assurance of his companionship, his promise never to leave us, to guide us, to grant us his wisdom.

The presence of God finds its greatest expression in Immanuel, God with us.

God himself came to save. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, entered a teeming humanity to give his life as a ransom for us.

In his grace, God buys us back in the most unimaginable way possible: God in Christ became a man, walked among humanity, and died for his people.

J Ryan Lister (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is professor of theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.

And one day those who have trusted Christ’s atoning work on the Cross will be fully in His presence in heaven, rejoicing and worshiping him for all eternity. As that precious song says, “I can only imagine …”

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine…

-Mercy Me

Delight in the Lord with me as we walk this journey, knowing that His presence is the source of our strength, our peace, and our comfort; and that we are at Home there, both now and for all eternity.

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11

Sunshiny Sunday

It’s a lazy, sunshiny Sunday. After attending church this morning and enjoying a nap in the afternoon, I’m sitting with my feet up on our recliner couch, looking at the beauty of this day God knew about before the foundations of the earth were laid.

Warmth permeates. Sun shines. Clouds billow.

So I thought today I would share some of my favorite photos of churches, starting with this beauty in the Lexington/Concord area of our nation’s history.

Lexington/Concord

The Fall leaves, a mix of red, green and gold, gave a bright surround to the white steepled church.

And from the gallery below, left to right …

Top Left: One of the original Christian churches on Kauai, set beside the ocean, containing original hymnals, pews and pulpit. Don and I could almost feel the history housed in this building.

Top Center: Springtime blossoms blanket a cement table and benches outside the soda fountain at Mount Hermon in California’s Santa Cruz mountains. I love to retreat here to worship, learn and develop my craft at a marvelous Christian Writers’ Conference.

Top Right: This little, sagging pine green church greeted Don and me as we drove around the island of Maui. What voices has this church heard raised in praise to God over the years? And, since it was being rebuilt the last time we visited the island, what joy will once again raise its rafters in the future?

Lower Left: A replica of a slave church on a plantation in the Southern United States. Hearing about the faith of many of the slaves and enjoying some deep, heart-felt spirituals that gave strength under often horrific circumstances, was very meaningful to us.

Lower Right: To the beautiful words and melody of “The Holy City,” our tour bus entered Jerusalem a few years ago. Seeing the golden dome of the Temple while hearing “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, lift up your gates and sing … Hosannah in the highest, Hosannah to your King” was heart-stirring. Knowing our King walked these streets, carried his cross up the Via Dolorosa, died on Calvary and rose from the grave three days later raised chills as we entered the city where Jesus will one day return. And he will take all who confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead, to join him in glory.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Romans 10:9-10 NIV

May you be blessed this week in the love of Jesus Christ.

Rainbows and Turtles

Rainfall was intermittent as we drove down the Hana Highway in Maui (if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes). At times it pelted down, the raindrops driven horizontal by heavy winds.

And then I looked up. All across the sky was a beautiful rainbow with radiant shades of green, blue, violet, red, orange and yellow. The symbol of God’s promise that He would never again destroy the world with a flood.

Sometimes I forget God’s good promises. I try to work things out on my own, to ‘power through’ on tasks without asking for His presence in all I do. And yet, He has given us great and precious promises:

  • Forgiveness of sins and a relationship with God (Romans 3:23-24, John 3:16)
  • Never to leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6, I Kings 8:57)
  • Abundant life in Jesus (John 10:10, NIV)
  • Eternal life for those who confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10, I John 5:11-12)

And there are so many more promises. Don and I experienced some “abundant life” incidents on our recent anniversary trip.

We stood on the cliff in a bracing breeze, watching a few brave surfers in the waves. Below us a group of people appeared to be looking at us, or at least in our direction. We couldn’t see what they saw because of the cliff. What could they be looking at?

Getting into the car, we drove down the road, parked, and walked to the area where people stood. The beach was covered with large black rocks. I looked again–not rocks, but huge green sea turtles! I gasped at the unexpected, wonderful sight. What a delightful surprise!

Another day we were to meet Rodney, who was going to show us some grass woven handbags. We had walked by his kiosk several times when no one was manning the booth. This particular day we were to meet Rodney at noon in front of the Hula Grill, where he was supposedly setting up a display table. Nothing there. We walked down to the kiosk–no one there–so returned to wait by the Hula Grill. Then my phone rang.

“This is Rodney. I think I see you. Turn around.” Don and I turned from where we were standing and saw a man on a cell phone, about twelve feet away, facing the other way. “You turn around,” I said into the phone. “I think I’m behind you.” As Rodney turned and we looked at each other, we both began to chuckle as we realized we were indeed talking to each other–in stereo now, on phone and in person! Another fun moment.

We came back home to California and yesterday, as we drove to church, saw another double rainbow across the sky. And I thought “isn’t this like life. Sometimes it’s really hard, where heavy winds and rain attack and drench us; and then we have God-moments where, through God’s creative beauty in nature, fun surprises, the love of a partner, or re-connection with an old friend, we feel the grace and goodness and love of God.”

So I’ve seen about four rainbows in the past week, more than I’ve seen in a very long time, especially with California’s drought over the past few years.

Question: What lovely surprises have you experienced that reminded you of God’s creative, amazing love? I’d love to hear about your turtles and rainbows!