Category Archives: Testimonies & Personal Stories

Stones of Remembrance 4 – Abraham’s 3rd Altar

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Stones of Remembrance 4 – Abraham’s 3rd Altar
Read Genesis 12 thru 21, and whatever else comes up   

Let’s talk about it…

Here are some things we might want to research: 

What is the last known address for Abram (13:18)? Who came to celebrate victory with Abram there (14:18)? Who did God say He is in 15:1?  What promise did God make in this place in 15:5?  Fill in the blanks of this sentence from 15:6: “Abram ________ in _____ ________ and ________ accounted it to him for ___________” (See Romans 4:4).  This is also the place of the split animal covenant/promise between God and Abram.  Draw little symbols on the map of all that we learn.

Where was Hagar from?  How and when might Sarai have acquired her (12:10)?  Where did she run away to (16:7)? Who appeared to her there?  Draw Hagar’s location on the map, also draw the well and label it with its name (16:14).  Draw an angel there also. What did God/Angel tell her to do in 16:9?

Where was Abraham when the three men visited (18:1)?  What did Abraham do for them (18:6-8)?  What message did they deliver to Abraham (vs 10)?  Who were the three men (18:17,20-22 & 19:1)?  Draw them eating under the trees at Hebron on the map.  What did the angels come to do? Where was Sodom (Gen. 13:10-11; 14:3,10)? This website gives an estimated population of around 40,000 to 65,000 for the townships of Sodom and Gomorrah at that time. In this video (beginning around the 3:33 minute mark) the Bible teacher says archeaology has discovered between 1.5 and 5 million bodies in graves in the Sodom and Gomorrah area. Taking such numbers into account, do you remember how many righteous men needed to be in the city for God to spare the city (Gen. 18:23-32)? That’s a LOT (no pun intended) of depravity.

Three men visited Abraham in 18:2, and then in verse 16 the men rose to go to Sodom, but it seems that one of the three was the LORD and He stayed behind to have a special conversation with Abraham. How many arrived in Sodom, and where did they find Lot (19:1)?  What did Lot compel them to do (19:2-3)?  Remember who the inhabitants of Sodom were (Gen. 10:6-20)?  What did the people of Sodom want to do to the men (19:5)? Might this be related to what happened with the sons of God and the daughters of men in Noah’s day? And, what Ham did to his father (Gen. 9:22,24) after the ark landed. (Sexual perversion).

The two men escorted Lot, his wife and two of his daughters out of the city (19:16) and then who brought down the fire and brimstone (verse 24)? Why do you think Lot’s wife looked back (see Gen.19:14)? Where did God tell Lot to flee to? Why, would you imagine Lot was afraid to go to the mountains – that some evil would overtake him and he would die there? Could it be that he knew about the pagan worship practices that took place in the high places?

***We’ll actually study, in a later posting to these stone-pile-studies, about the Moabites (who were the descendants of Lot through his firstborn daughter). They hired Balaam to seek an oracle in the high places (Numbers 22 & 25); also the Ammonites (which were the descendants of Lot by his younger daughter) who were the people who sacrificed their children to Molech (Leviticus 18:3,21-25). Sadly, Bible history tells us that Solomon took wives of both the Moabites and Ammonites and followed in their wicked ways (1 Kings 11:5,7), and he burned incense in the high places to their gods. Canaan, of course was the land of, and the people of Ham, Noah’s perverted son. The Canaanites were giants in the eyes of the spies when they and Joshua and Caleb peeked into the Promised Land for the first time.

So since Lot was afraid to go to the mountains, what city did the LORD allow Lot to flee to (19:22-23)? What happened to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24)?

Did Lot remain in Zoar (vs 30)?  Why not? Make a little note on the map where Moab and the place of the Ammonites was, and note from whom those two people groups descended from.

Where did Abraham move to (20:1)?  What happened there?  Abraham told the TRUTH and Abimelech FORGAVE and welcomed them to stay.  He also paid Sarah’s fine for bringing a curse on them (20:11-16).  This is where Isaac was conceived and born.  What did Abraham do when Isaac was eight days old? What did Abraham do when Isaac was weaned?  What did Sarah see Ishmael do (21:9)?  Where did Hagar run to (vs 14)?  Is this the same place she ran to before (Gen. 16:13-14)?  What name did she give to GOD? Is this the well that’s in dispute in 21:25,31 the same well God showed to Hagar when she ran away twice?

Where did Ishmael dwell and what did he become (vs 20-21; 25:18)? What prophesy was spoken over his life (16:11-12; 17:20; 21:18-21; 25:12-18)? Where have we heard of the Pishon River before (Gen.2:11)? Mark the Wilderness of Beersheba and the Wilderness of Paran on the map. Draw a well in the wilderness of Beersheba with Hagar and Ishmael beside it, and then of Ishmael shooting an arrow in the Wilderness of Paran. What did Abraham plant in Beersheba? And beside what landmark did Abraham and Abimelech sware an oath?

Personal application

Have you ever been led by fear, as Lot was, running from one bad decision to another? Has your choice of where to live ever seemed like paradise at first, but then turned out to be the worst place imaginable to raise a family, a real nightmare on Elm Street? And what about Abraham, the newcomer to the Promised Land, and obviously surrounded by some scary folks. He also was led by fear at times and it caused him to feel like he had no choice but to tell a lie. Have you ever been surrounded by scary people who made you feel scared to tell the truth about who you really were? Ever been caught in a lie, but forgiven of it by someone you least suspected would ever forgive you?  Has anyone ever paid a fine or a debt that you owed? Is there someone you need to forgive. Or someone you might need to confess the truth to and ask forgiveness?  How has forgiveness changed your life? Do you know a single mother raising a son/child? Maybe you are that single mother – do you have a testimony of how God has been the God-who-sees your circumstances and been a comfort and help to you? Write your testimony down so that you can reflect on it later and not forget what God has done for you, and share it with the people around you. You could be an encouragement to others you didn’t even know were going through the same things you are. You are also welcome to share it in the comments section below.

Project  (an altar that I can build)

Forgiveness jar:  Make a jar where, before I go to bed at night, I can place little notes upon which I’ve written and expressed forgiveness for every little offense that came up that day.  Rather than be tempted to gossip about the offender, or harbor anger or bitterness toward the offender, let me choose to be intentional to speak blessings to the situation, apply God’s promises to it, and place those offenses in the forgiveness jar.  When the jar is full, empty it out in the fire pit and start all over with an empty jar.

My grandmother always had home-baked cookies in her freezer so she could set out a spread of coffee, tea, and at least something sweet for drop-by visits.  It was a marvel to me though, how she could throw together a meal at a moment’s notice, with several sides, when anyone stopped by.  Her house was always neat and tidy, and herself presentable by, at the latest, midmorning.  Food was love in her house and her table welcoming.  She wasn’t lazy about preparing meals, or stingy about sharing.  I want so much to make my table an altar of showbread for God and the people I love; a place where people are gathered around and the Lord is present with us.


 “So a book of remembrance was written before Him.” Malachi 3:16b 

Unless I Wash You

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Unless I Wash You

“”What I am doing you do not understand now,

but you will know after this.”

John 13:7

Have you ever been to a foot-washing ceremony? If yes, how did it make you feel? Were you uncomfortable taking your shoes off and exposing your stinky feet to someone you looked up to, like maybe a leader in the church, or the leader at a ministry where you volunteered? Sounds like I might have some personal experience, doesn’t it? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, you’d be right.

I worked as a counselor of sorts in the lending closet of a crisis pregnancy center for a time, and at one of our monthly meetings (where we would communicate information between the board, the directors, and the staff, and also have devotions and prayer), both of our directors rose up from their seats and began filling little tubs for each of the staff members. Our directors had just returned from a director’s retreat and explained to us how they had felt the Lord leading them to wash our feet. Oh no, I thought to myself, no, no, no! Que the panic attack of the century! Of all the hot summer days to be wearing my cheapo, made-in-China, dime store tennis shoes, and without socks. My feet are going to wreak! There’s no way I’m taking these shoes off my feet in this crowded room, much less let someone else take them off for me with their sniffer right down there at toe level. Oh heck no. Nope. Not happening.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I didn’t mean any disrespect, and surely didn’t want to put a damper on the spiritual experience at all, but I was squirming and sweating profusely, and was not in my right mind. I was scared to death that my racing thoughts would soon start spilling out all over my face. Thank God I was seated at the end of the chairs (a benefit of always sitting in the back of the room); this gave me a decent amount of time to try and figure out a game plan, an excuse, maybe, for running out early.

I didn’t run, however, and I’m not sure why not, except I was hoping someone else in the room would raise an objection, a genius excuse, and then I could chime in with my support, and the two of us would get out of it together. But no such luck. Each person seemed completely uninhibited, (of stinking course, gawd, why am I the only basket case in the room, ever), and each appeared to appreciate the experience. Lord have mercy.

When it got around to me, the last person, I tried everything in the book to get out of it, discretely, but the director wasn’t having any of it. She absolutely, positively would not take “No thank you” for an answer. So I begged her if I could then just please take my shoes off my own self and hurry and plunge my feet into the sudsy water while she was still a good distance away? Maybe she could hold her breath and we could spritz some air freshener in the room? And maybe I could wrap my shoes up in a grocery sack and toss them out the back door while everyone was distracted, please! OMG, I was so humiliated and embarrassed.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”

Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” John 13:3-10

You know what? My feet did not come out of the tub the same way as they went in. When they came out they were clean. They were stink free. The sweat and the dirt had been washed away. My heart-failure was over. I could finally relax and be humbled by the kind ministry taking place. Our director washed my feet, and also prayed for me while doing so, and spoke words of prophesy over me. I felt strength enter my body. I felt blessed.

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The Practice of Hospitality

Foot washing was first introduced in Genesis 18:4 by Abraham and 19:2 by Lot, and then in Genesis 24:32 by Laban, and Genesis 43:24 by Joseph. It is seen again in the strange story of the Levite and his concubine and the old man in Gibeah – Judges 19:21. Levitical priests were required to wash their hands and feet before entering the tabernacle (God’s house) Ex. 30:18-21.

It was once a common custom and courtesy in the ancient Near East to wash the feet of guests (as noted in my Spirit Filled Life Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, NKJV, footnote for Judges 19:21). Most people of Bible days wore sandals, and all that walking around that they did in those days must have made their feet very dirty. Not only would it have been a welcome refreshment to get the sweat and dirt off their feet before sitting down to a meal, but it surely also helped keep the houses from being tracked into, and the bedding from getting soiled.

A note in my NKJV study Bible for Mark 6:11 says that Jews, returning home from a journey also used to knock the heathen dust off their sandals the moment they reentered Jewish territory.

This is probably the custom Jesus drew upon to instruct His disciples to knock the dust off their sandals as a testimony against any town or home who would not receive them or hear them when they preached the good news to them (Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5). Paul and Barnabas actually did this in Acts 13:51.

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The Hebrew word for ground or earth is adamah (Strongs #127). The Bible says “the Lord God formed the man (Adam) of dust (adamah) from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7), but after the sinful fall of mankind God said, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). But, in case we should think it was only Adam whom God considers dust, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).

In the New Testament there is the story of a sinful woman with an alabaster flask who “stood at [Jesus’] feet behind Him weeping; and washed His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil” Luke 7:36-47.

Jesus compared her actions to a foot washing, and He forgave her sins. And He forgave her sins!  (wait a minute….EPIPHANY!!!!)

What if a foot washing is something like a baptism – a mini cleansing of the sole from earthly heathen soil, which we are bound to get on us simply by being in the world?

Of course we are cleansed of our sins (past, present, and future) by our Savior’s blood when we are born again and baptized, so we are essentially cleansed and do not need any other “baptism.” But…we ARE imperfect humans, and in this world we will have troubles (John 16:33); we’ll slip up from time to time – lose our temper, tell a white lie, borrow something and forget to return it, show partiality to someone, disobey God, etc. We may think these are insignificant, or secret sins, but God sees them. He smells our stinky feet, and whether we realize it or not, we are tracking heathen dust into our homes, into our friends’ homes, and into HIS house! But I have good news. When we’ve gotten some inevitable earthly dust on us James 5:16 tells us to confess our sins to one another, and pray Jesus to … well … wash our feet of them (1 John 1:7-9 & John 13:10).

Jesus, after explaining to His disciples who He was in relation to God the Father said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you” John 13:14-15.

I have often wondered, since foot washing has really gone by the wayside in many modern churches, as far as a frequent practice, did Jesus mean His actions to be figurative? Did He simply mean for us His followers to humble ourselves and be willing to serve others in the lowliest of ways? Or did He really intend that we literally wash each other’s feet – to symbolize God’s forgiveness and the washing away of our little daily sins? To be honest, something tugs at me in my heart that Jesus intended the basin & towel to be more than a lost and forgotten ritual, but the saved person’s sort of confessional?  Plus, instead of falling into the bad habit of tearing down our brothers and sisters, pointing out all their little sins and flaws, we could have mercy to forgive them, love them, and get down to toe level with the Lord’s basin and towel.

The practice did continue in the New Testament church. It is on the list of the virtues of a godly woman in 1 Timothy 5:9-10: “She [is] the wife of one man, well reported for good works, brings up children, lodges strangers, washes the saints’ feet, relieves the afflicted, and diligently follows every good work.”

Could it be that the lowly chore was delegated to the women? According to Rabbinical Literature, Jewish wives were once expected to wash their husband’s feet, as well as prepare their drink and bed (Yer.Ket. v.30a, jewishencyclopedia.com); otherwise servants were expected to wash the feet of guests.

What’s kind of ironic about women being relegated to this chore is that we girls LOVE to have our feet washed, don’t we? In today’s modern world we don’t make foot washing a part of our hospitality practices any more, but we do still observe the ritual in a way – we just go to a special (non spiritual) place to have it done and we pay for it. We call it a pedicure, and it is definitely a treat! Wouldn’t it be neat if there were Christian pedicure places, where we could go and it would be safe, and we could confess our sins, and we could leave with a whole new lease on life? Maybe the next time I get a pedicure I will put my headphones on, close my eyes, and spend the time in quiet meditation, discretely giving my sins to God.

“Confess your sins one to another” it says in James 5:16 (see also 1 John 1:8-9).

Say… what am I thinking? You and I can do this right now. What have you been struggling with this week? This month? This year? Have you been tracking sins into your house, into God’s house?

May I wash your feet?

8 Unless I Wash

How about if you think of all the little shortcomings, and sins that have entangled you this week. What is it that is weighing heavy on your heart? What is it that is making you feel guilty way down in your gut, and holding you back from running the race our Lord has marked out for you? Go ahead, take a moment and write your thoughts down?

When you have finished calling to mind each and every ugly little thing that is nagging in your spirit, will you please then come sit in this seat, slip your shoes off, and slide your feet into this tub of hot, soapy water I have prepared for you. I’m going to dunk a soft cloth into the water and run it over the tops and bottoms of your feet, and then squeeze the water over them. As I do, I want you to imagine the Lord’s forgiveness washing over your shortcomings as you give each one of them to Him. You name them, I’ll wash that dust off with this holy water, and we’ll just go for as long as we need to until we’ve covered everything on your list. You are precious dear one. The Lord loves you. And He forgives you!

Now lift your feet out of the water and let me dry them with a soft, fluffy towel. Don’t you feel wonderful getting that off your chest?

Let’s now pour this dirty water out on a flower bed, or under a big oak tree in your yard. All this water is sure going make the flowers and trees grow and blossom, and as you watch them getting bigger and stronger I want you to know that YOU are becoming a tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord. God’s beauty for ashes!

“How beautiful…are the feet of them that bring good news” Romans 10:15 (Isaiah 52:7).

Pray these verses with me: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the POOR; He has sent me to heal the BROKEN-HEARTED, to proclaim liberty to the CAPTIVES, and the opening of prison to those who are BOUND; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who MOURN, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isa 61:1-3

Go, be free, my friend, and sin no more. But if you find your feet dusty again, my door is always open. You come right back here and sit, and we’ll chat, and we’ll give those cares to God and let Him wash them all away again. Where two or more are gathered in His name, there He is among us.

“I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you” John 13:15.

Ways to Celebrate Grandparents Day

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Ways to Celebrate Grandparents Day

I’m a little late posting this for THIS year, or maybe I’m just waaaay early for next year?  Ha.  But, here are some ways I thought would be nice to celebrate Grandparent’s Day.  But, in all honesty, please don’t save them up for that one special day a year. If you have grandparents living close, do some of these with them as soon and as often as you can.  Time passes so quickly.  Memories fade.  The breath of life evaporates before we know it.  Don’t let it get away from you.  Our elders are a special treasure!

“Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.”  – Psalms 71:9

 

Family Tree

If your family doesn’t already have one, let the kids start a family pedigree chart with their grandparent.  Let them do as much of the investigative work as they can to fill it in.  First let them fill in their name in the center bottom space, and then just above it let them fill in the names of their dad and mom.  Above those spaces are spaces for grandparents on the paternal and maternal sides.  Spend a day or at least an afternoon with grandparents collecting information: names, birthplaces, careers, military, where family died and are buried.  Ask for obituaries, photographs, family Bible notes, newspaper clippings and stories.  It’s actually a lot of fun seeing where your family came from, not just ethnicity, but travels, both foreign and domestic.  It’s also a great way to learn history.  It means so much more and is so much more interesting when you find out you had actual family living in those times and places and events.

Blank fan tree

If you would like the electronic file for this chart so that you can print one for your personal use, please send your request to mrshlovesjesus@gmail.com, and write “Pedigree Poster” in the subject line.

This is a Pedigree chart I created as a Christmas gift to my family last year.  I took the digital file of the pedigree chart above to my local print shop (also Staples, Copy Max, Walgreens, and even Walmart can print them) and had it printed on poster-size paper.  I printed mine in color on plain paper, but they can also be printed on photo paper, and then framed in poster size frames.

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“Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.”  – Proverbs 17:6

 

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Beside the pedigree poster hanging on my wall I have a decorative tree with photos of hubby & me, our parents, and our grandparents, three generations.

 

Video Interview

On one of our visits to my husband’s folks’ house, we were blessed to have his uncle stop by for a visit.  He was in town to speak at a local high school about his experiences as a soldier in WWII (Europe).  He was often asked to speak at schools about his personal experiences, because he was such a gifted story-teller.  He wrote a book as well, which we treasure having a copy of.  We of course were very interested to hear his stories and so asked if he would share some with us, which he happily did.  We all sat around in the living room listening intently as he told of being on the boat and being soooo sea sick and all the other men being soooo very sea sick also, and then being dropped on the battlefield, and of his experiences as a Forward Observer, which was very dangerous.  I could kick myself a thousand times that we didn’t get video of that visit (which is why I make the suggestion to you now).  It is just so moving to hear a personal relative tell of historical events from their own personal experience, and see their facial expressions, and watch their body language.  It is just so much more captivating than a book in history class.  So I encourage you, if you have a grandparent, ask them to tell you a story about some important time in their life and video tape it.

“Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.”  – Leviticus 19:32

 

video1Something our family DOES have, and I can tell you is an enormous treasure, is a compilation of my husband’s folks old home movies that they took on an old 8mm recorder.  They had the movies transferred to VHS when that was the most  modern thing, and gave us a copy.  But as hubby and I were watching these silent movies, we realized that much of those people and places were unknown to us.  So the next time his parents visited us we asked them to sit down and watch it with us and tell us where all those places were and who the people are.  I set up a cassette recorder to record their narration.  Many years later I took the old silent VHS and the narration on the cassettes and put them together on DVD.   Then I made several copies and gave them as Christmas gifts for our family.  It was the very next Christmas after grandpa had died and you can’t image what a treasure it was to the whole video3family to get to hear grandpa’s voice again, and laugh at his sense of humor, especially since the family had no idea we’d ever gotten that sound tract.

Also, if  you have been to a funeral recently, most funeral homes ask the family to bring them old photos for a video slide show, set to music, to play during the service.  Why wait until a person dies for this?  Ask your grandparents now if you can borrow their old photographs, and then scan them into digital form and make a slide show of their lives from birth to old age.  You can add captions to the photos that say where the photos were taken and who the people are, and you can also add a favorite song or songs of theirs to go along with it.  Most computers have the software for making photo slide show DVD’s on them.  I used Movie Maker to make DVD’s of our family vacations, weddings, and a memorial of our dad.  It would be a nice trip down memory lane for them to get to see their lives laid out in such a way, and a special thing to share with them while they are living.

“And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him.”  – Ruth 4:15

 

Old Letters and Great Books

booksMy husband’s dad served in Korea, and wrote letters home to his parents a couple times a week.  We found the letters a while back, along with a bunch of pictures he took while in boot camp and on the front lines. We also were fortunate to get to inherit his army coat, a hat, and medals, maps, and various other personal objects from the war, along with the flag that was presented to the family at his funeral, and the bullet casings from the 21 gun salute.  Altogether the letters and photos, and photos of the objects made a wonderful book that is and shall forever be a cherished keepsake for generations.

I also collected all our family history, stories, pedigrees, photos, birth, marriage, and death certificates, newspaper clippings, obituaries, maps, military histories and pension papers, pioneer stories, censuses, etc. and made it all into a book (first a ring binder, and then a printed, spiral bound book with a hard cover) to share with my sisters.  I made scrapbook pages of the old photos and scanned those pages, and made separate chapters for each person, telling each person’s individual stories.  I visited courthouses, libraries, and museums in the towns where they lived (the ones that were closeby) and collected as much information as I could about them and the history of those areas (marriage, divorce, land records, court records, if they played on baseball teams, delivered mail, or worked in local factories, or acted, sang, or danced in theatre, etc.).  I visited cemetaries and churches and found headstones and church records.  I visited newspaper offices and got old newspaper stories and obituaries.  I will confess, it is a lot of work, but truly it is fun and rewarding work, and I sooooo encourage you to gather as much of this kind of information as you can from living relatives, while you can.   Honor your parents and your grandparents by preserving their legacy in words and pictures.  They will be delighted and honored to see all your efforts as well.

 “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.” – Proverbs 20:29

 

Grandma’s Recipes

What is your favorite thing that grandma makes?  Why  not make a date to make it with her, and for heaven sakes cookbooksget her recipe!  Get ALL her recipes, and make them into a cookbook.  My husband’s family actually collected recipes from everyone in the family one year and made a family cookbook for all of us.  We all contributed, and we all paid for our own copies of the book, and it is very much a prized possession of mine to this day.  Each person that contributed recipes also told a story to go with it, like if it was the first meal they made for their husband, or if it was their mother’s favorite thing that they made, etc.

I have myself very fond memories of having picnics with my grandmother.  She always made her standard cucumber sandwiches, hard boiled eggs with salt and pepper, and a thermos of iced tea.  When’s the last time you went on a picnic with your grandma?  Or soaked your feet in a tub of hose water in the back yard?  …And listened to her tell stories about a time she got in trouble as a kid.  …Or what it was like as a teenager going to school. …Or her first boyfriend, or first date.  …Or what she and her brothers/sisters did for fun.

 “Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.” – Psalms 71:18

 

Play a Game

My husband has fond memories of playing Yatzee with his grandmother.  It was her gamesfavorite game to play, and if he could beat her he felt like it was a real accomplishment.  Grandma was apparently very good at Yatzee.  My grandma liked to play cards, and her game of choice to play with us kids was Rummy.  She also showed us how to play Solitaire and let us play at the table while she cooked and baked.  I also remember making card houses in the living room, using the carpet to help hold the cards in place.  My sisters and I made elaborate card houses, some more fragile than others.  Does your grandma or grandpa have a favorite game they like to play.  Ask if you can come play it with them one afternoon.  Or, take them to play Bingo, or Pinochle or Bridge at the Senior Center, dominoes, Cribbage, or take them bowling, or to play miniature golf, or darts.  You might find out they’re pretty darn good at it.

“With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.”

– Job 12:12

Other Ideas

Go for a walk

Go fishing

Do some gardening (plant an herb garden in pots)

Go to church with them

Visit them and read them letters that they’ve gotten in the mail

Take grandma to get her hair and nails done

Take them to their doctor visits

Take them to the store to do their shopping, or run a few errands

Take them to a veterans memorial (if there is one with a spouse or loved one memorialized there)

Take them to a cemetery to put flowers on someone’s grave (for a loved one’s birthday rememberance, or veterans/memorial day)

Take them to a class reunion, or a small town annual get-together

Take them for a drive in the country

Play old records

Watch an old movie

Take them out for lunch

Invite them to your house for coffee (and devotions)

Take them to visit an old friend they haven’t seen in a while

Take them out for ice cream

Sit on a park bench and feed the birds, or the ducks (pond)

Take them for a boat ride (a little row boat across a pond or lake) and bring an umbrella for shade

Take them to a grandchild’s school event, or track meet, or soccer game

Take them to a rodeo, a fair, a car or horse race, or baseball game

Take them to lookout point after dark to look at the city lights

Ask them to teach you how to knit, crochet, sew, quilt, or tie a fly (fishing), etc.

Take them to the shooting range for some target practice

Rent a golf cart and take a drive through a scenic golf course

Take them for a drive to new parts of the city

Take them something you’ve baked or made and visit for an afternoon

Take a pizza and cokes and sit on the porch and eat it with them

Do something for them that is too hard for them to do themselves, but needs done, like vacuum, trim a tree, re-attach a rain gutter, paint, mow, move a hose, shovel a sidewalk, take mail out to the mailbox, light a pilot light, replace a lightbulb, put a heavy dish back up in the cupboard, put laundry away, etc.

Call and check on them at least once a week

Always tell them you love them, as often as you can

Send them cards and letters, with pictures

Pray with them and for them, for their health needs, and other needs

 

“The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” 

-Proverbs 16:31

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOST & FOUND, the Parables of “Lost” Things

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LOST & FOUND, the Parables of “Lost” Things

I remember when I worked at the school district, the last week of school, that our bin of lost and found items would get drug out and the items hung up on racks, or laid out on tables in the front foyer, where parents and students would be coming and going, and hopefully they’d see an item that belonged to them and take it home.  I was always amazed at how much stuff would accumulate over the year.  Coats, hats, gloves, shirts, sweatpants, lunch boxes, shoes… just a myriad of things.  My goodness, didn’t anyone miss this stuff?

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I have lost things though, so who am I to judge?

I lost my cell phone once.  I had it and then I didn’t have it.  I always kept it in my purse. Then one day I went to lunch with friends and afterwards ran a few errands, and when I got back home and went to make a phone call it wasn’t there.  I stirred the contents of my purse around with my hand, and then emptied it out completely, dumping the contents all over the floor.  Nope, no cellphone.

I looked in my car, all over the car, under the seats, between the seats, in the console, and even in the backseats.  I looked on the garage floor (maybe I accidentally kicked it out with my foot), and under the shelves along the wall.  It wasn’t there.  It wasn’t anywhere.

Like most people now-a-days I don’t have a landline, or even another cell phone as backup.  And even if I had walked to the neighbors that day it would have been useless to borrow their phone.  I did’t know anyone’s number.  No one calls a NUMBER any more, we all call a NAME or a FACE.  Oh dear.  This was bad. This was my only communication with the outside world and it was gone, gone, gone, forever!

I went back in the house and looked on every surface where I might have laid the phone: the kitchen counters, the bedroom dressers, the bathroom, the laundry room.  I retraced every step I’d made before leaving the house that day.  And then I got back in my car and drove back to every business in town where I’d been, and asked if anyone had found a cell phone.  Not a one.

I came back home and sat in a panic in the middle of my living room floor thinking intently about what to do next.  And in the middle of my racing thoughts I heard it…I heard my cell phone ringing.  “My phone!  Oh my gosh, where is it coming from?  I jumped to my feet and dashed around my house like a raving maniac, trying to get to the sound before it stopped ringing…….and where did I find it?  My… PURSE!

It had slipped through a tear in the lining and was caught between the lining and the shell of my hard leather purse.  I felt like an idiot, and at the same time was soooooooo relieved to have found it.  So happy in fact that I wanted to drive back to every place I’d been, call all my friends, and tell them all, “I FOUND IT!!!!”

So, I completely relate to the thrill of the woman finding her lost coin in the story below.

Lost Things

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FREE PRINTABLE coloring page, click >>>>>> Lost & Found

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The Parable of the Lost Sheep

 Matthew 18:10-14 (NKJV)  Courtesy of Bible Gateway

10 “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.[a]

12 “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 13 And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Luke 15:1-7 (NKJV)  Courtesy of Bible Gateway

Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying:

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

Luke 15:8-10 (NKJV)   Courtesy of Bible Gateway

 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins,[a] if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ 10 Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The Parable of the Lost Son

Luke 15:11-32 (NKJV)   Courtesy of Bible Gateway

Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’

20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring[a] out the best robe and putit on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’

28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

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Here’s my story:

I had been born an innocent child of God and raised going to church, but somewhere early in life I saw the things that the world had to offer and I was lured away by deception.  It’s a great cavernous thing that the world offers.  There’s never money enough, or time enough, or energy enough to attain that carrot that Satan dangles before our faces, but the game is so enticing (everybody’s doing it) that we continue to seek to try until we have nothing left to give.  That’s when we realize we are now slaves to things we hate (relationships, drugs, alcohol, situations), and it was all just a trap.  God in His mercy didn’t let it get so far with me that I was stealing pig slop out of hunger, but a diet of rice and oatmeal are close enough.  My father was about as far from rich as one can be, but he met me at the train station with as much relief and love and thankfulness as the father in Jesus’s story.  He had his own demons that he was fighting, and it was still a while before I came to my senses, but thankfully I settled down eventually, got married, was blessed with a child, and landed a decent job back home where I belonged.

And then I was working for a small town newspaper and calling on a customer for an ad. This customer had a wrapping and shipping business located inside a liquor store on the east side of town. As I made my acquaintance on my first visit, the woman of this husband/wife team set me on my heels with a pretty direct question. One I wasn’t prepared for, or was even expecting that day. She asked me if I knew Jesus, and if I were to die today if I knew where I would be going. Wow…I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. She made me very uncomfortable. But her words haunted me for weeks after that.

I knew what she was talking about. I had been raised in Sunday school. I had Christian grandparents. My dad had always said he hoped his daughters would get baptized at some time in our lives. I always intended to get baptized, but being fresh into my young life I wasn’t sure I was done sowing my wild oats yet. Somehow I had it in my head that making a commitment to God meant the end of “fun.”

I avoided her in every way after that, but a month down the road when I stopped in to pick up their ad for our paper, being careful to go in the afternoon when I knew she wouldn’t be there, she WAS there and smiling at me as I walked through the door. DANG-IT! But as much as I make this out to be a bad thing, truly our conversation had been all I could think about. I had wrestled with God over what she said for weeks. So when she asked if I had thought about what we talked about, I humbly confessed I’d thought of nothing else.

She asked me if I was ready to make the commitment and I said yes, afraid I may not get a second chance. She whisked me off to the bathroom grabbed my hands and told me to pray with her, “Repeat after me” she said, and I did.

I honestly couldn’t tell you the words I prayed with her that day. All of them escape my memory. But something incredible happened in that bathroom when I said, “Amen.” My blood felt strangely carbonated in my veins, like life was flooding into me in some magical, spiritual way (very much the way life flooded into the Beast when Bell, the Beauty, kissed him and told him she loved him).  That very similar magical effervesence bubbled up inside of me and all around me. I was saved from spiritual death that day.  My legs were wobbly and weak. My mind was swirling. I absolutely was not the same person walking out of that bathroom as the person who walked into it moments earlier. I followed her out to her desk and stared in a daze out the huge picture window. All of a sudden I became aware of the sky and the most gorgeous sunset I’ve ever seen. It was magnificent with reds and purples. I wondered in my heart and asked God, “Have sunsets always been this beautiful and I never noticed, or did You make this one especially for me?”

Just as I thought this I saw a figment of angels in the clouds…thousands of them. They were all singing and rejoicing. It was so emotionally moving to me that I dissolved to tears instantly.  It was some months later that I came across the scripture that says, there is “more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7, and how we have so great a cloud of witnesses watching from above (Hebrews 12:1).

The angels were rejoicing over me that day, a great cloud of witnesses, and God gave me a brief and beautiful glimpse.  But I’m not the only one; they are gathered to rejoice over you too!

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If you are reading this and have never asked Jesus into your heart, but feel His Spirit speaking to you, take heed my friend.  He is seeking you.  You didn’t end up here by accident.  God brought you to these words today for a reason.  He wants you.  He’s reaching out to you right here and right now.  Please trust Him!  Give Him your heart today.  You don’t need any fancy words.  You just need to talk to Him.  If you would feel better talking to a real person right now about this decision, that’s good too, and CBN has prayer partners ready to pray at any time of day, just give them a call (1-800-823-6053), or seek out a local pastor.  Pray right now, whereever you are, and ask Jesus to come into your heart while He is knocking on your heart’s door, and let Him be Lord of your life.  Don’t quench His Spirit!  Don’t let the devil lure you away.  Let God’s Spirit lead you.  Trust me, it’s the best decision you will ever make, and the greatest love story!

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(This is a video of Glen Campbell, sometime soon after he got saved.  I’m a big Glen Campbell fan, and this is one of my favorite songs.  I am pretty sure it tells his personal story, and that’s really what I love about it.  At the time of this video it wasn’t recorded on a CD yet, but it is now.  He actually recorded several Christian albums! Glen has gone on to be with Jesus, but his beautiful, personal songs and music live on for us to listen to, and you can get them at Amazon.com.)

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You are the Lord’s Pearl of Great Price!

You are His Hidden Treasure!

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The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

Matthew 13:44-46  (NKJV)

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Solid Rock

FREE PRINTABLE coloring page, click >>>>>> Solid Rock Printable

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I dearly hope you have trusted Him as Savior today.

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God bless you my friend!!!!

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

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The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

Matthew 20:1-16 (NKJV)

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.

My Bible footnote says it would have been 6:00AM.

Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 

My Bible footnote says a denarius (a word of Latin origin) was the standard wage for a full day’s work.  The KJV uses the word “penny” or pence in place of denarius which in Roman currency of the time would have been ten asses (asses were bronze or copper coins used during the Roman Empire).  Denarius is the origin of the common noun for money in Italian denaro, in Portuguese dinheiro and in Spanish dinero.

Here are some example salaries and product costs as of the times of Diocletian in the third century AD:

Farm laborer monthly pay, with meals = 400 asses

Teacher’s monthly pay, per boy = 800 asses

Barber’s service price, per client = 32 asses

1 kg of pork = 380 asses (1 lb = 170 asses)

1 kg of grapes = 32 asses (1 lb = 15 asses)

* Source: Wikipedia

And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 

The third hour would be 9:00AM; and there were more people standing inactive, unemployed; (by implication) lazy, useless: – barren, idle, slow“(Strongs #692 argos) in the “agora” (Strongs #58), which is probably the town square, market, or thoroughfare/street.

and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 

Their wage: whatever is right (just drawing attention to that).  The Greek word used is dikaios (1342) and it means “equitable” (in character or act); (by implication) innocent; holy, just, meet, right(-eous).

Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 

The sixth hour is noon and the ninth hour is 3:00PM.

And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle,[a]and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ 

The 11th hour is 5:00PM (an hour before quitting time), and is it just me or does the land owner seem kind of annoyed that there are folks just standing around idle all day?

They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’[b]

Again he promises “what is right.”

“So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ 

To pay them, the landowner worked his way backwards from the new hires to those with seniority (which btw, is an exact representation of the grapes in the basket.  The first grapes gathered are at the bottom and will be last to come out. The first grapes to come out of the basket are the last ones that went in).

And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 

Quite a generous wage for an hour’s worth of work.

10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 

The landowner was certainly a man of his word wasn’t he, although “fair” is in the eye of the beholder isn’t it?   Ever been hired for a job and completely happy about your wage until you found out what others were being paid?  My husband calls it O.P.M. (other people’s money), and it is the root of all discontentment.  Yep; been there and done that.

11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 

12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 

13 But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?

14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.

I believe the “wage” in the parable is probably A TICKET TO HEAVEN, and when I look at it like that I kind of get a different perspective. I can’t help but draw a parallel with the thief on the cross.  Jesus told him as they hung on their crosses together, with the sun fading on the day, that today he would be in paradise with Him.  The thief had run out of time to do very many good works.  He was at the 11th hour of his life.  All he had time for was to witness to one last man, yet he got the same reward as our righteous King, as well as all the prophets and saints and godly Hebrews of the Old Testiment who had preached, and prophesied, and judged, and led, been faithful, and died before him.

The thing I have to remember is that Salvation is not earned.  It is a gift rewarded for saying yes to an invitation.

15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 

My Bible footnote says that this parable blossomed out of the attitude that the disciples had shown toward service and rewards.

I find this a tricky thing about church. It is so easy when you belong to ANY group of people to look around at others and compare.  So easy to get hurt feelings about things.  So easy to get wrapped up in unholy competitions.

Am I the only one that is secretly longing for pats on the back for my good deeds? Sometimes tempted to brag about charitible things I’ve done just to make myself feel more spiritual or worthy to my peers?  Am I the only one that feels a twinge of jealousy when someone else in the congregation is liked more, fawned over more, appreciated more?  Am I the only one that is hurt when my fruit salad is passed over for Linda’s Fritata?  Or when Beth is chosen to lead next month’s Ladies Group instead of me?  Or when Emily puts a picture on Facebook and it gets 47 likes immediately and I don’t even have 47 friends?  Or when a certain, once unknown blog writer, celebrates her Food Network show and new line of kitchen wares filling up all the isles in all the Wal-mart stores across America and I count it a huge success if just one person clicks the “like” star on one of my posts.

Although rewards are part of God’s plan (Romans 2:6; Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10), Jesus rebukes the spirit of serving for the rewards rather than out of love (1 Corinthians 13).

16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”[c]  

Matt20.16

Click this link for the FREE downloadable coloring page: Grapevine  to use for your small group, or Sunday School class, or just to color as you spend time in prayer.

The last will be first and the first will be last…just like the grapes being gathered into the baskets, the last ones in will be the first ones to enter the winepress, but they will altogether be a lovely batch of vino.

Chosen vs. Called. 

The Greek word for Called is “Kletos.” Strongs #2822.  It means invited, appointed.  It is used eleven times in the New Testament (Bible Study Tools), and most of those times it is in reference to a calling to ministry or a special appointment, such as apostle or saint.

A calling is kind of a general thing, but it is usually geared to a specific group of folks.  For instance, I think of a ranch cook calling the hands for supper.  She yells or rings the bell and anyone on HER ranch who is hungry will come running.  A church bell calls ITS congregation to church.  A school bell calls ITS students to class.  The disciples, and we as Christians, received a calling from Christ to take the love of Christ to our neighbors.  Many are called.

The Greek word for Chosen is “Ekletos.”  Strongs #1588.  It means select, favorite, elect.

Choosing is much more personal.  We choose a mate.  We choose our clothes.  We choose what we want to eat from a menu.  Choosing is intimate.  This word is used 23 times in scripture (Bible Study Tools). Most of those times the word is translated “elect” as in “the elect,” the favorites of the called, the cream of the crop, the most exalted ones of the called.  Jesus called many disciples, but chose a smaller group of twelve apostles.  Of the apostles, Jesus chose an inner circle, Peter, James, and John as His elect.  Often He asked these three to come be with Him for something special, like healing miracles, the transfiguration, or the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Although the two words, Kletos and Ekletos are spelled the same, they are not pronounced the same and have different meanings.  They are homographs, but I have an uneducated hunch that there is an intended play-on-words in the Greek that is sort of lost in English, don’t you?

The same phrase is repeated in Matthew 22:14.

We all have an inner circle of friends, a small group that we trust just a little bit more, cherish just a little bit more.  I want to live my life in such a way as that the Lord would trust me just a little bit more, and cherish me just a little bit more.  Not to lord it over anyone, but just to have Him smile at me with affection.  I want to have a comfort zone thing with Him.  I want to have the trust/integrity thing with HIM!!!!  I have been forgiven much, I also want to love much (Luke 7:47)!

Personal Application

In penning this post I got to thinking about the shopping trip I made with my granddaughter this past weekend.  It wasn’t going to take us long to pick out some uniform pieces for school: a couple skirts, a couple pants, and a couple pair of shorts, but our little dash in to Old Navy hit a roadblock when we encountered the unbelievable, Disneyland-like lines for the dressing rooms, and then to pay at the end.  It was just crazy how many people were in that store.  I guess that’s what we got for not arriving there until afternoon on the half-price day of the tax-free weekend.

While we were in the monsterous line to pay we passed a bouncy-ball vending machine, and to help pass the time I dug some quarters out of my purse to let my little schnookums try for a pink ball.  One…two…three tries and one…two…three green/blue/yellow balls came out.  Well, shucks.  I asked her what she was gonna do with three balls?  She decided she would give one ball to her sister and keep the other two for herself, but I suggested she give the third ball to another kid in the store.  “Why?” she inquired.  “To be nice,” I riposted, and then I asked her to look around for a kid her age who would be a good candidate.  She looked around, but was overcome with fear and shyness.  She wanted me to do it.  I kept pointing people out to her, and encouraging her, promising that it would make her feel good to do it, but she just couldn’t get up the gumption to talk to someone she didn’t know.  I asked her to choose which ball she wanted to give away, and on our way out of the store I asked a little girl if she’d like to have it.  Although my little jelly-bean was too scared to step out and talk to another person, at least she was willing to give, and I was proud of her for that.

I feel the Holy Spirit challenging me in several ways today through the reading and studying of this parable.  Like my darling granddaughter, I too hold back sometimes, because of timidity.  My anxiousness causes me to stand around idle all day in my comfort zone waiting for a job to come looking for me.  Sometimes I find myself looking around to see if anyone else is stepping out before I do, so I don’t look foolish taking a leap-of-faith all by myself.  Consequently, I don’t make it into the vineyard until the 6th or 9th hour (if at all).  But then there are other times when I feel like I am the one who has been there all day, putting in the biggest effort, and here come others that have done barely anything and are getting lavish praise.  Sometimes I get jealous over favoritism shown to others in the small groups that I belong to.

In all honesty, I don’t accept praise well, but admit it is a nice reward to have someone notice my efforts (so that I can humbly dismiss them – ha, right?).  But to get very little praise or appreciation when others around me seem to be getting tons of praise for what seems like a fraction of the work, that is pretty hard to take.  Stumbling blocks.  Oh Lord, I hate the stumbling blocks in this Pilgrims Progress of life.  They are so hard to get past, but here’s what I’m feeling the Lord leading me to use as tools to help me climb over them, dig under them, and squeeze around them:

ladderTry to remember that Jesus made a fair deal with me when He invited me to work in His vineyard.

pick-axeRemember that He is a man of His word and will reward me with what is right. “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”  Galatians 6:9

shovelStop looking around at the deal everyone else is getting, or get jealous over favoritism.  It’s Satan’s oldest trick to get us to LOOK at things we’re not supposed to have and then looooong for them.  There are far more harder working Christians out there than me who are going to be given the same gift as me in the end, and who have done a mountain more work.  Who cares if I am His favorite or not.  As long as I make it to heaven, who cares if all I have to live in is a pup-tent, and scraps from the Master’s table to eat.  Tis better to be in God’s kingdom than to be anywhere else.

RopeBe motivated by love, and not distracted by greed, or jealousy or even obligation, nor tempted into expecting a reward for every little thing.  To keep my eyes on the vineyard and not on the prize box.  To take the hard shell off my heart and let it swell for that person in front of me who needs a friend, or a sandwich, or a hug, or a kleenex, or a good laugh.

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Dear Lord Jesus, help me not to fall into the trap of comparison.  Help me to keep my eyes on You and consider only the prize that You have promised me.  Help me to be content with such things as I have.  Help me not to be idle, or crippled by fear or timidity, or green with envy and miss a great blessing.  In Your precious name I pray.  Amen.

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“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)

 

 

How I Got Rid of My Little Toenail Fungus

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How I Got Rid of My Little Toenail Fungus

Never, never, never was this an issue for me in Wyoming, but apparently is a common problem in Texas.  I’m not sure I understand why.  In Wyoming we ladies have our feet cooped up in socks and shoes for most of the year  When not in shoes, our feet are usually in house slippers, and I even wore sockies to bed.  My poor feet rarely saw the light of day and rarely got a breath of fresh air except in the summer.

I confess that in Wyoming I used to get a pedicure maybe once or twice a year, usually in the spring and again sometime in the late summer, and that last nail polish job would (I’m kind of embarrassed to say) last for most the winter on my hibernating tootsies. Honestly, I didn’t spend too much time caring all that much about what my feet looked like in the winter; they were out’ta sight out’ta mind.  The only housekeeping I did to my feet during the dark months was to keep the nails short and filed with no sharp edges, so they wouldn’t wear holes in my socks.

In Texas, where our feet are on display for ten months out of the year, I notice my feet need work just about once a week.   And the little darlin’s breathe fresh air daily and get plenty of sunshine.  So it is kind of a head-scratcher why I have had so much trouble with this nail fungus thing – whatever it is?  Maybe it’s that mold spores and fungus have a greater survival rate in hot and humid climates than in the harsh winters and dry climates of the Rockies?

First Infection

I first discovered this fungus on my big toe toenail (shown on the left foot in photo above) when I was removing toenail polish several months after moving to Texas.   I freaked out, went crazy on Google researching this strange phenomenon, and then made a mad dash to the store to find my hopeful cure.  I purchased the most expensive brand of Tea Tree Oil, a #1-rated toenail fungus medicine with brush applicator, and a tube of Lamisil, suggested by the pharmicist.  I trimmed all my toenails close and sanded the tops to make them thin.

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I soaked my feet in an epson salt solution, dried them off really well, and then gave myself a thorough pedicure, removing all dead skin under and around the nail.  I did NOT polish my nails afterwards; I left them naked so they could breathe.  I washed all my sandals in the washing machine, HOT wash and rinse cycles, and then wiped them off with Clorox wipes to kill any residual spores.   I let them completely dry out in the bright, hot, Texas summer sun for a day.

I tossed out all my socks and bought new, 100% cotton ones.  I wiped down my dresser drawer with Clorox wipes and let it dry out in the hot summer sun.

I worked tirelessly to cure this fungus, if indeed that is what it was, with my over-the-counter remedies.  I never let my feet stay wet.  If I walked across wet grass, played in the sprinklers with the grandkids, or walked across the yard in the rain, I always toweled them off after, and after all my showers, with a clean, fresh towel that didn’t get reused or shared.

I kept my toenails short, but didn’t cut away the detached part on the advice of the pharmicist, although because I had sanded them really thin they did tear from the digging underneath with my fingernail file.  I also sterilized my clippers, files, knippers, etc. after every use.  I applied the Tea Tree Oil, the toenail fungus medicine, and the Lamisil cream after every shower, and made sure to get it up underneath each nail really good, and all over the tops too.

Months, and months, and months, and months went by with little improvement, but eventually the detached area slowly diminished to the point where I thought I was cured, and I relaxed my toe treatments.

Finally healed

And then this last January I noticed that the stupid thing was back.  UGH!!!!  Worse than before.  The detachement was almost to the root of my cuticle, and almost the whole left side of my nail.  Bummer!

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Now, I’ve heard there is a pill for this, but I didn’t want to treat my whole body for an issue under a small area of one toenail, especially when it costs money to go see a doctor to get a prescription, and when there are side effects to that medicine that are a little bit unsettling.  I’ve also heard that an alternative treatment and even more effective is laser therapy, but Holy Jemimah monkeys, it’s pricey, and may require several treatments to cure, which would mean several trips to the big city.  My toenails are not thick and yellow, they are normal and clear. They just have one little place of detachment.

So this time I followed my gut instincts and trimmed the detached toenail away from the cuticle beneath, using knippers so I could get in really close, and completely expose the area to fresh air and direct treatment.  Don’t worry, it didn’t hurt at all.  It probably does kind of make you cringe to look at it though.  I’m sorry.

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I then applied a drop of Clorox directly to the infected cuticle and nail with a Q-tip and let it soak in.

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I figured that if Clorox kills everything, including funguses on a variety of surfaces, I would do a clinical study of my own and see how effective it was on human tissue.  (Note: it honestly sounds less dangerous to me than prescription topical medications).  I used a Q-tip to apply a drop of Clorox to the cuticle, rubbing it into the skin and allowing it to soak in, and then over the nail, and I let it completely dry on its own.

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I wore nothing but flip-flops.  I again tossed out all my socks and purchased brand new ones.  I didn’t share my towel, or reuse it.  Everything got washed in the hotest setting on the washer and dried on the hottest setting in the dryer.

A couple of days later I applied hydrogen peroxide to the same area with a Q-tip, and let it dry on its own.  I spent the next month alternating my applications of Clorox or peroxide every few days.  After a few weeks I went to a once-a-week application, and then a once-every-two-weeks application, and finally once-a-month.

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Here’s what my toe looks like now after only six months:

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Here, look at the extremes side by side:

Soooooo, if you want my unprofessional opinion (I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV) …forget about all the fancy, expensive, over-the-counter medications that take forever to work and aren’t effective at keeping fungus away, and before you spend your life savings on doctors and prescriptions.  Just get a small jug of cheap old Clorox and an inexpensive bottle of ordinary old trustworthy Peroxide, both of which are easily found, some steril Q-tips, and give this a whirl.  In my personal experience they are much more effective, and obviously won’t harm your skin when used topically on the infected site in small amounts and in moderation.  And another tip…  DON’T POLISH your toenails.  For one, polish keeps your nails from being able to breathe, like they need to, and two, polish hides (yes, I know that you want to hide your issue, but) it also hides dirt and grime.  It’s okay to paint them for a special occasion, but don’t let them stay polished for more than a day or two.  I believe the fungal spores live in the soil, and if that soil is allowed to just sit under your nails for any length of time, it breeds infection.  So I keep my toenails naked, and clean.

Sending prayers of healing your way!!!

“Make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed..   Hebrews 12:13 NKJV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How God healed my pinched nerve (neck/shoulder/back)

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How God healed my pinched nerve (neck/shoulder/back)

Yes, it will heal, but it will possibly take a lot longer time than you’re going to be happy about.  It took about four months for my pain and symptoms to completely disappear.

These are some of the things the Lord led me to try before finally breaking down and getting in to see a doctor:

  • A heating pad, as soon as it cooled I reheated it
  • Hot showers, as hot as I could stand and for as long as the hot water lasted
  • A TENS unit (a really good one), used non-stop until the gel pads dissolved and wouldn’t stick to my skin any more. Don’t think it really helped, but was at least a distraction from the pain.
  • Deep tissue massages, three visits in two weeks; I don’t recommend deep tissue because the sore muscles only add to the pain issues, and it all seemed to aggrivate the nerves, but a nice Swedish massage with some trigger point may be helpful.
  • A deep thumping electronic massager, like the TENS unit, not sure how helpful it was, but it was a welcome distraction from the intense pain.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications, very helpful
  • A cervical collar, helpful, but only for short periods during the day, helpful at night with a neck pillow and other pillows to prop up under my back.
  • Pain relieving gels/creams (Salonpas), very helpful
  • Exercise, helpful, but painful

…and total non-activity, helpful

no Chiro.jpgEverything I researched said DO NOT SEEK A CHIROPRACTOR FOR YOUR NECK (cervical spine) unless your chiropractor is highly skilled in neck treatment.  If after fully examining you with x-rays he suggests light traction and physical therapy exercises, ice and heat therapy, massage and trigger point therapy, and even laser treatments (like are used for neuropathy), rather than mentioning an “adjustment,” you’ve got a good Chiropractor. My GP said the back is okay to manipulate, but the neck (cervical vertebrae) should never be “adjusted.”

First things first…POSTURE!!!!  It is of utmost importance that you correct your posture.  I was a sloucher, and when my pain started I kind of babied it by slumping over.  Worst thing I could have done.  Sitting at the computer for hours and hours with head forward and arms extended is also the WORST thing!!!  Texting, driving, reading a book, writing with head forward…WORST things.

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The best way to get correct posture is when standing, to grab a piece of the hair on the very top of your head and give it a tug upward.  Imagine that tuft of hair is connected to your spine by a string, and pull your spine into alignment.  Keep your head tall, not tipped forward, not backward.  Keep your back straight.  Let your arms fall to the sides.  Support your lumbar when sitting, or lying down.

Right and wrong ways to sit at a desk…

Good walking posture…

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If you have a job that requires a lot of sitting at a desk or computer, here are some stretches that you should do to help prevent neck and pinched nerve problems …

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And believe it or not, your diet is a huge deal too.  I ditched all junk food and crammed my body with superfoods, natural probiotics and electrolytes – especially after doing my exercises and getting a massage.  I ate a ton of blueberries, cherries, raisins, and apples – because I craved them.  I ate dark chocolate, and Greek yogurt with active enzymes.  I crunched on carrots and ate lots of salad (with power greens, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and vinaigrette dressings) and mostly alkaline foods.  And I drank tons of coconut water (the healthy brands without a ton of sugar and preservatives). Quite honestly though, coconut water doesn’t taste very good unless it has some sweetener in it, and it must be ICE cold, but it is much better for you than Gatorade.  Also, Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and you can buy it in capsule form.  Fish Oil, with Omega Fatty Acids, is also supposed to be good for inflammation.

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I finally sought out a doctor when the pain was unbearable and wasn’t getting any better.  As it turns out the doctor that I was able to get in with also knew personally the pain of a pinched nerve and started me down the path to recovery.

I couldn’t sleep in my bed.  I couldn’t lie down at all without screaming pain in my neck/back.  The only position I seemed to be able to get into that would give me some relief from my pain was to sit in a chair, legs apart, leaned forward as if tying my shoes, resting my head on a pillow on the table in front of me, and letting my arms dangle to my toes between my legs with my palms down and fingers aimed toward me.  When husband was home, he would lay my hot pad (microwave flax-seed filled, as hot as possible without burning the seeds) across my shoulders and neck. I would stay in that position until my legs fell asleep. It was truly the most debilitating thing that has ever happened to me.  A nightmare!

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The pain actually started on Christmas day.  I woke up with it that morning.  At first it was just a stabbing pain between my left shoulder blade and spine.  It felt like someone had stabbed me with a pencil in the Trapezius muscle and wouldn’t take it out.  I had range of motion, but was just terribly uncomfortable.  In hindsight it might have been from sitting too long in front of the computer working on a project, or it could have been something that I lifted and carried that I shouldn’t have, although neither of those activities alerted me to knowingly injuring myself.

My stabbing pain was accompanied by a little area of numbness just above that felt as if little bugs were crawling under my skin.  If I’d have known what to do at this point, boy, I sure would have done it.  And now when this kind of pain comes on me I jump on it with the tennis ball treatment.  I now use a dog toy size tennis ball, stand with my back up against a wall, and place that ball right in the area of the pain.  I lean hard against the ball and use my body to roll it around until I find the offending spasms.  Then I do trigger point therapy on that spot, holding the ball hard against that area for several minutes until I feel it kind of relax.  Then I use my body to roll the ball around and rub out that area, then go on to feel for more.  After 10 or 15 mintues of trigger point therapy I put the ball away, get an ice pack, and lay in a chair against a pillow for support with the ice pack against the place where I rubbed with the tennis ball.  I keep the ice on until it isn’t cold any more – about 30 minutes.  This has worked well for keeping my back from every progressing to worse pain, as it did that first time.

Not having the tennis ball info for this first spell I thought it would just go away on its own and tried to ignore it.  A day or two later the pain began radiating under my shoulder-blade area.  It then began to roll down the bones of my left arm like molten lava, first the underside (triceps) part of my arm, to the elbow, and then up and over my forearm (brachioradialis muscle), and down into my wrist.  Then it bled into the web between my thumb and pointer finger, and then my pointer finger went numb.  That’s when I started thinking it was a pinched (entrapped) nerve.

Peripheral Nerves of the Upper Extremity

The bone deep aching nerve pain in my arm was the worst of all.  It was the worst at night and nothing I did helped.  I wrapped my arm in my hot pad and elevated it.  I tried squeezing a ball.  I tried ice.  I put the TENS unit on it.  I wrapped it.  I pressed it against the wall at a 90 degree angle with my palm up (my massage therapist suggested this), and that helped a little, and hot hot hot showers seemed to help.

Wymberly arm exer.

I would have gone to a doctor sooner if I’d have had one, but my primary care physician had just recently closed his practice.  I didn’t know any other doctors in my community that were accepting new patients.  I live in a community where the doctors require you to fill out an application and after they’ve had a chance to review the application will decide whether they wish to take you as a patient.  It is a long, drawn out process.

PLUS, I kept thinking it was getting better.

But every time I thought I was getting better I would do something to set myself back.  First set back was a monstrous SNEEZE that undid all the good I felt I had accomplished over the previous two-week period.  The second was when I tried to do some yard work and over-did it.  The sore muscles irritated the nerve pain.  Third was when I grabbed something from a pantry shelf just a little above my head and it caused a jar beside it to tumble off.  I flinched and reached to save it from crashing to the floor and once again was on my knees in tears.

I finally found a doctor 40 miles away that could see me.  Husband took the day off work and drove me over.  It was agony to be in the vehicle for that drive, but finally seeing someone who might be able to help was what got me through it.

He sent me to the hospital for x-rays and prescribed a 6-day steroid.  Some muscle relaxers (and even a stronger pain medicine than Ibuprofen) would have been nice, but for whatever reasons he didn’t prescribe them.  He did inform me that I could not take both Ibuprofen and Naproxen Sodium together, even staggered, but could stagger whichever one with Tylenol for a short while.

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I took the (nasty) 6-day steroid and waited for the results of the x-rays.  The doctor never got back to me on the x-rays, but did have the Physical Therapy people contact me to set up an appointment.  It was another miserable, 40-mile-each-way trip to see them, but they did tell me the results of my x-ray (which showed only a minor narrowed area, which they said was normal for my age).

Physical Therapy was the thing that healed me!  God bless the physical therapists.

I had a wonderful therapist who assessed my pain issues, and measured me for range of motion and pain triggers.   She tried to do some traction (which actually hurt me more than helped unfortunately), but she also did a couple of chiropractic maneuvers in the shoulder-blade area that didn’t hurt at all (or really help either).  Finally she set me up with some exercises and made me do them during my visit; and then she iced me with a huge cold pack that covered my whole neck and back for about 20 minutes (which felt wonderful, and was very helpful). She told me to use heat whenever, and before doing my exercises (to loosen things up) but then ice afterward for at least 20 minutes.  She also tennis ballgave me a tennis ball to use to roll on my back against a wall and massage the areas that hurt, and work on the trigger points.  It worked wonders!!! And icing afterwards helped tons.

She sent me home with a few sheets of the exercises with instructions.  And wanted to see me in a week to assess whether the exercises were helpful or not. I’m sharing them with you because they were extremely effective!!!

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I also encourage you to search the Internet for blogs and conversations about whatever issue you are dealing with.  I found a blog that led me to The Spine Institute  which has wonderful information on the McKenzie neck exercises and other issues of the spine, including the sciatic nerve. (I apologize for this guy’s excessive talking, but hang in there for the info.  It’s worth it).

I confess I never made it back for another session of Physical Therapy as I ended up coming down with the flu not long after finishing the steroids, and then another flu bug back to back of the first one, both lasted weeks, but I did faithfully do the exercises she gave to me to do every day, and they fixed me!!!!  Thank God.  No surgery.  By the time I was over the flu I was also doing much better with the pinched nerve.  It has been four months since this affliction first hit, but I am finally over all my symptoms, and even have regained feeling in my finger.  My arm has completely stopped having numb sensations, and no numb spot in my back with the feeling of bugs crawling under my skin.

I try not to sit at my computer for too long before getting up and doing something physical.  I don’t text on my phone with my head down.  And I watch my posture like a hawk.

Another very helpful thing, certainly the most spiritually helpful, was to meditate on the scriptures in God’s word that speak of healing.  Pastor John Hagee has created a You Tube video that was amazing to listen to when I wanted to sleep but was in so much pain…

You healed me

I hope something here has helped you with your neck pain today.  May God speed healing your way.  In His precious name I pray for you.  God bless.

Martha Served

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Martha Served

“Now it happened as [Jesus] went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.” Luke 10:38 …And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10: 39-42)

I recently put together a fairly elaborate luncheon for a group of ladies. I’d put a lot of thought and effort into it, wanting it to be sort-of-like a seventh inning stretch for them — a sort of coach’s halftime speech that would give them a sense of accomplishment for their work so far, refresh them, and then inoculate them with the energy and enthusiasm to crank out the last ounces of their strength and finish the game.

As they nibbled on their morsels, I remarked to them that this was going to probably be my finest hour, the penacle of parties, and it was going to all be downhill from here. One of the ladies piped up saying that I didn’t really need to go to so much fuss and bother, that she was just as tickled with a loaf of bread and simple assortment of lunch meats. As long as she didn’t have to cook it, or clean up from it, she was totally happy. The other guests agreed.

That’s when the scripture about “Martha, Martha” and Jesus popped into my head. And I have to also say, I love how the scriptures are so honest with Martha’s wording of her question to Jesus, “Do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” By her words I’m almost certain Martha was probably a firstborn. I’d even venture a guess that she and her siblings may have lost their parents at a young age and Martha assumed the role of mother to her brother and sister. I only wonder this because the three of them are always together, but there is never any mention of parents or spouses. Mary fits the model of a second born – an opposite of the firstborn. The oldest always feels like they have more responsibilities than the other kids, and that younger siblings get away with slacking off much more than they do.

Martha had obviously been brought up with manners and knew how to entertain guests. I bet she kept her house spotless clean, dishes done, beds made with fresh linens, and Refreshments (2)smelling great with scented candles and such. When Jesus stayed I’m sure she tried hard to make sure everything was perfect for Him. Maybe she laid a mint on His pillow and bottle of water on his nightstand. Perhaps she washed his clothes for Him. And what a sweet surprise it would have been to have them pressed and hanging in the bathroom for Him when He got up to shower in the morning. With a name like Martha you have to think she probably did crafts, gardened, was an amazing decorator, and most assuredly a fantastic cook too! Or maybe it is Martha Stewart I’m thinking of? Ha!

Scripture says the Mary/Martha/Lazarus family lived in Bethany. Luke says Jesus came to their village and that’s where He met Martha. I often wonder what Martha was doing when Jesus came through? Was she planting flowers in front of her home, or sweeping off the sidewalks when Jesus passed by? Was she at the market or on her way home and they met in the street? I wish I knew how their paths had crossed? What had He said to her that prompted her to invite Him to her house? And what did she make for supper? Even more intriguing…what did Jesus like to eat?

Like Martha I am a firstborn, with a lot of things on my mind. Always a million plans on my heart. I admire Martha wanting to make her guest comfortable and happy. If she is Refreshments (1)anything like me she probably spent all week deciding on what to make for supper after extending that invitation, and then shopped all over town for the freshest and finest ingredients. I wonder if she scrubbed and dusted and made sure everything was perfect, like I certainly would have. From the cleaning of the bathrooms to the chopping of vegetables, I imagine she stayed busy. And I’m pretty sure Jesus not only cared, but that He noticed, and was grateful.

In fact the more I look at it from my recent experience with the ladies, the more the tone of His response seems to sweetly suggest that she didn’t need to go to so much trouble and fuss for Him; that she had made way too much food and preparations; and that a simple dinner would have done fine. I think Jesus appreciated Martha’s efforts greatly, but what I see that He desired rather than an extravagant meal was the pleasure of her company, which is where Mary comes in.

Jesus often broke the social molds of the age and this is one more example. Mary was allowed to sit at Jesus’ feet and be taught. That was a luxury reserved for the men in those days, but Jesus let Mary be seated in the congregation around Him instead of sending her away to do women’s work. In fact, Jesus wanted Martha to put down the spatula and oven mitt and partake as well.

Jesus loved Martha (John 11:5) and her sister, and their love for Him was mutual, but I see each was different in return. John 11:2 and 12:3 says it was this Mary who anointed Jesus with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair (Matt.26:7). That makes me think Mary (as the Greeks would say) “eros” loved Jesus – with a deep, familial, affectionate love. Martha “philos” loved Jesus, with a brotherly, giving, serving love. And Jesus “agape” loved Mary and Martha, with unconditional, sacrificial love.

God had gifted Martha to serve, and her gift is important. If she hadn’t been there, Jesus would have maybe starved. He’d have had to probably sleep on the cold hard floor or worse, on the street. As special as Martha’s gift was, though, it’s only part of the total package of hospitality. I believe John 12:2-3 lists the total package: Martha served, Lazarus sat, and Mary anointed. As a guest in their home Jesus was provided for, kept company, and well-regarded.

Those two girls, whether they realized it or not, were a pair. Together these two women demonstrate what I think are the two sides of hospitality, giving and receiving (and Lazarus was there to talk sports, right?).

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Luke 10 begins with Jesus sending out His disciples two-by-two and ends with Mary and Martha?

“After these things the Lord appointed seventy other [disciples] also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Luke 10: 1-9)

I feel like the kingdom of God has come near me today. As much as I love to serve, I have to remember that it isn’t fair to impose my ways on anyone (we are all gifted differently), or expect someone is being lazy who doesn’t share my vision. I need to put away distractions sometimes and just sit at Jesus’ feet, probably a lot more often than I actually do.

And when I do serve, I’m going to try to KEEP IT SIMPLER so that I can receive from the Lord what He wishes to teach me, rather than trying so hard to impress my guests.

It is so true what Jesus says in Matthew 13:17, “For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” I sooooo wish I could see how very different Martha’s first supper for Jesus was from that last one with Him after her brother came back to life?

“There they made Him a supper; and Martha served…” John 12:2

Angels Unawares

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Angels Unawares

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Have you ever been touched by an angel?

Christmas Angel

“For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”  Psalm 91:11

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.  Psalm 34:7

My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.        Daniel 6:22

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I listened recently to a sermon about angels watching over us, and as the pastor recanted a few of his experiences I was reminded of one of my own.

I was a young adult woman, fresh out of high school — but a hick from the sticks in every literal sense.  I had made friends with a wild and crazy gal I met at my first job in the big city, forty miles from my small town home.  She was fun and had lots of friends.  It was a pretty crazy place to work too.  The exact kind of job, and co-workers, my dad would have forbidden me to be part of had he known.  After the crumbling business folded my new gal friend asked if I wanted to move to Phoenix with her.  I remember digging in my pockets and coming up with what I thought was enough gas money to contribute to our travels and said, “Sure, I’ll go”  (like Jenny in Forrest Gump, only not to San Francisco).

So off to Phoenix we went.  We couldn’t stay long however, as my sister was getting married the very next month and had asked me to be her maid-of-honor, so after making a few acquaintances, finding a place to live, and securing a couple of decent part-time jobs, my friend and I  hit the road back to Wyoming (having no idea of the peril which lie ahead).

We left Phoenix in a hidalgo-like dirt storm.  A dust cloud a mile high was waiting for us to make the city limits and then it pounced on us like a playful cat on a clueless mouse.  The roadway disappeared in a consuming brown-out.  I strained to keep the tail-lights of the car in front of me in view, trusting that whomever was in the lead knew where the road was. It was a harrowing twenty minutes. Gradually the brown cloud dissolved into cottony white.  The dirt storm curtsied off and a blizzard took center stage.  The roadway became slick and icier by the minute.  Cars, trucks, semis, all began sliding around, and some slipped off the highway.

Being a Wyoming girl, I put the car in a low gear and tanked slowly through the obstacle course of fast, slow, and out-of-control vehicles, finally making it over the pass at Flagstaff and to the other side, thankfully unscathed.  It took us all day, but we finally arrived at Gallup, New Mexico late that evening.  Our plan for a two-day trip was still possible, although the next day would probably be a really  l–o–n–g  day.  We spent the very last of our money (earned from part-time jobs in Phoenix) on a room for the night, saving just enough back for a tank or two of gasoline and perhaps one stop at a McDonalds.

The next morning when I turned the key in the ignition, my alternator light was on, on the dashboard.  The car seemed to run okay, so when we went to get gas I asked the mechanic to have a look at our issue.  He reported the alternator was in need of replacement.  He suggested we drive to Albuquerque, where we could probably get it fixed that afternoon.  He said we’d be fine as long as we didn’t run any electrical stuff.  No heater.  No radio.  No headlights.  Soooo, off we went on a wing and a prayer and thank God arrived safely, just as the  mechanic had promised we would, at a Chevron station just inside the city limits, and right off the Interstate.

It had to be a Chevron station because my parents had given me a Chevron credit card with strict instructions that it be used ONLY for an emergency!  We pulled the car into the parking lot and went in to talk to the mechanic.   He had one of the men pull it into the bay and check it out.  Sure enough it could be fixed easily and quickly, but they wouldn’t be able to get the part there until the next morning.  I offered to go fetch the part myself and bring it to them, if that’s all they needed to get it done that day.  He said the parts store wouldn’t have it themselves until the next morning, and as soon as they got it they would run it over.

My body broke out in a sweat.  Worry billowed up from my bowels until the ache in my stomach was surly manifested all over my face.  I turned around trying very hard to “be cool”in a very crowded waiting room.  My friend stood across the room, the two of us trying to read each other’s thoughts through the laser beams in our eyes, afraid to utter a single word that would reveal our desperate vulnerability.

The reality was, we didn’t have money for another motel room and neither of us knew a single person in Albuquerque, NM.  We needed to discuss our dilemma, and come up with a plan, but where?  We stepped outside and found a secluded corner of the parking lot where we could sit on a curb and quietly bounce ideas off each other.  Maybe we could sleep in the car?  I suggested. But what kind of neighborhood was this?  The door locks were defective on the old Dodge Colt and if we locked them it would take more mechanic work ($$$) to remove the door panels to get them unlocked, otherwise we’d be forced to climb in and out of the windows for the rest of the trip home, in the cold and the snow.  Maybe the owner of the garage would let us sleep in the car inside his garage if we swore an oath not to leave the car or touch anything? 

As the sun sank lower and lower in the southwestern sky so our desperate situation grew more and more crimson.  We were two young, unarmed, dirt poor girls in desperate straits and a long ways from home, without a viable plan.  Those were the days before cell phones, before bank ATMs, and before things could be charged to a credit card over the phone.  Even if we called our parents, there was very little they could do, but worry.

When we re-entered the waiting room late, late in the day, still mostly without a plan, and by that time it was almost totally cleared out.  That’s when a man approached us.  I guess he’d probably been sitting in the waiting room the whole time, but we hadn’t noticed him.  He was tallish and slender built, a bit older than us, early thirties maybe, handsome, but not overly so, the kind of handsome that made him blend in rather than stand out.

He offered that we could stay with him and he’d bring us back to our car in the morning. Of course we thanked him very much, but vehemently declined his offer, assuring him we had plans.  He let a little while pass and then he approached us again, saying it wasn’t safe for us to sleep in our car in that neighborhood.  Had he somehow overheard us?  We looked briefly at each other in an almost naked moment of stunned silence.  He assured us that he was offering the safest option.  Something about him lent us to trust him, a little, although we remained guarded and aloof.

I don’t remember the exact moment that he finally persuaded us, or even the words he used, but I’m sure it had a lot to do with the owner of the station bringing out the keys to lock up shop.  We two helpless girls relented to his offer and followed him out to his vintage Porsche 2-seater with a stick shift, covered in gray primer.  We squeezed into the passenger bucket seat and off we went…off into the sunset…off and away from the bright lights and the big city…away to the uninhabited burbs of the suburbs…to a shabby looking single-wide trailer  truly in the middle of literally nowhere.  What the hell were we thinking?

We pried ourselves out of the car and hesitantly sauntered behind him to the door of his trailer, which stood all by itself out there in the dark and quiet outback of New Mexico, and although rugged and weather-beaten on the outside was surprisingly immaculate on the inside.  I remember being impressed that he had a very nice stereo system and a comfortable pit group of sofas.  His place was very orderly, and minimalistic, not the typical bachelor pad you would expect.  It was neat and it smelled good.  It actually smelled like nothing – not like sweaty socks or musty closets or last night’s cooking, or anything.

He gave us a tiny tour and showed us the room where we’d be sleeping, and the bathroom where we could shower if we wanted.  It looked clean and comfortable.  And then the three of us sat in his living room and made small talk.  We talked about what we all did for a living.   He was very vague – making us to imagine he maybe had some career in the CIA or secret service or something.

It finally got to that time of night when it seemed rude to stay up any longer.  Carol and I slipped back to our room.  I don’t know about her, but I laid on my side of the bed peering up at the darkness, with worry and thoughts playing red-rover-red-rover in my imaginations.  Was he a serial killer?   Is this how I die?   Why was he being so kind to us?  In my anxiousness I prayed to Jesus, and somehow in my heart also felt my grandma praying for us as well, as I often did when I was young and in a tight spot.  An uncanny peace snuggled in around me.

I guess I finally dozed off towards morning.  I remember waking up and seeing a glimmer of daylight peeping through the windows.  I thanked God that we’d been kept safe all night, and nudged Carol to see if she was awake.  We both got dressed quickly and I peeked out the window to see what the desert looked like in the daylight. The Porsche was gone.  Oh no.  Where did he go?  What if he didn’t come back?  Or, what if he did come back and he brought others with him?  Maybe we should try to make a run for it?  That’s just crazy…where would we go? Before I could even put a period on my racing thoughts his car roared into its parking spot and our host reemerged, dressed business causal, like he was returning from work or something, and with a grocery sack in his hands.

He came inside and when he saw us standing there, greeted us benignantly.  “You’re up?” “I thought I’d make us some breakfast before we went to get your car.  The garage doesn’t open until eight.”  Oh my gosh, was this guy for real?  Even though he had given us no reason NOT to trust him, I still couldn’t help but be a little guarded, and at the same time exceedingly grateful.  He made us breakfast burritos.  They were the first breakfast burritos I’d ever eaten in my life and they were fantastic.  As soon as we ate them he ushered us out the door.

We piled into his car (in his really cool car that he skillfully drove, if I hadn’t mentioned that already) and we zipped back to town.  Upon arrival at the service station we found our car sitting outside in the parking lot.  Our host parked beside it and went in before us to check on the repair.  He returned to let us know the car was fixed.  We went in to take care of the bill and get the keys.  When we returned, there he was leaning on his car, waiting to see us off.  We thanked him over and over again for his extreme kindness.  My heart truly swelled with gratitude (and relief).  I asked him how in the world we could ever repay him for all that he had done for us.  He simply responded, “Someday, someone will need you as much as you needed me…pay it forward,” and he waved goodbye to us as we drove away.

His name was Robert Ortiz…one of a hundred Robert Ortiz’s in the Albuquerque phonebook in the 1980’s.  I have looked occasionally for him ever since.  Often wishing to find him.  But then, the bigger part of me is happy to let him forever be the “angel” that he was, and trust that I shall see him again someday when I can tell him how I repaid him.

I wish I could say this was the only bump in the road and the rest of the trip was uneventful, but more peril lie ahead.

The roads were a terrible mess through Colorado and Denver, icy all the way from Cheyenne north.  The sun had long ago set in the sky when we ran almost out of fuel at Douglas.  We dashed into a gas station (about one or two o’clock in the morning) and searched the cracks and crevices of the car for change, under the seats, in the ash tray, in the glove-box, every nook and cranny, until we came up with about $2.00.  We thought that should get us home (gas was pretty cheap back then, and a Dodge Colt could go a hundred miles on a gallon of gas just about).

I went in to pay and Carol pumped.  But Carol wasn’t paying attention (maybe she dozed off?) and let the pump go over about 10 cents.  We knew we didn’t have another dime to our names so we quickly screwed on the gas cap and raced away as thieves in the night with 10 cents worth of stolen gasoline in our tank.  We kept expecting a cop to come out of nowhere and pull us over but he never did.

We got back on the highway and just about five little miles down the road I lost control of the car on an icy bridge.  We ricocheted like a rocketing pin-ball back and forth across the railings of that bridge all the way to the end.  Carol screamed the whole time, “We’re gonna die!!!”  And at the end of the bridge, the car shot into the barrow ditch in a cloud of powder white snow.  Moments, no, more like seconds later, a semi-truck blew past us, leaving a plume of white in its wake – certain death had we not landed off the road.

When we realized we were still alive, patting all the parts of our bodies, we turned the key on the stalled car to see if it would start again.  It did, thank heaven, but try as I might to find a gear and get us going, it wasn’t budging.  We got out to see if we were stuck in the snow and found a tire had blown out, and the car was dented all the way around.  (Oh man, my dad was going to kill me).

I went to the trunk to retrieve the spare, but couldn’t get the trunk open.  Both back corners were mashed-in causing the truck lid to be jammed shut.  Just about that time a pickup truck came by, a very nice 4-wheel drive rig, actually, with fog lights and expensive wheels.  He slowed and stopped about a hundred feet past us.  We watched as he took his rifle off the back window rack and lowered the barrel out the driver’s window, as he then began to slowly back up towards us.  Carol and I scrambled for the car screaming, and that’s when we heard him say, “Oh hell, its two girls.”

He got out of his truck, apologized for scaring us, introduced us to his wife, who was sitting right next to him, and then helped us pry our trunk open to get the spare out.  He changed our tire, God bless him and explained that he was a National Guardsman.  He and his wife were on their way back to Casper after a meeting.

He apologized for scaring us with the gun, but explained that just last week someone in this very stretch of roadway had faked an accident and killed the people who had stopped to help them.  The authorities hadn’t caught the perpetrators yet.  Some of the other details of his story were pretty disturbing, and an eerie chill washed over us.

Once the tire was fixed the man said he’d follow us to make sure we made it to Casper okay.  I begged him to just go on ahead as I was scared to drive very fast and didn’t want to hold him up.  He insisted, so we set out together.  After several miles of me feeling totally guilty for him to have to drive so slowly, I rolled down my window and waved him by.  He obliged, disappearing into the darkness.  But then, ten miles later, there he was again, on the side of the road.  We slowed down and stopped to see if he was waiting for us or what.  He said he had a blowout himself and had to change his tire.  He told us to go on ahead and he’d see us down the road.  Sure enough, a little while later there he was again, going out around us and disappearing into the darkness.

Carol and I finally made it to her apartment about 4 o’clock that morning.  We were exhausted.  I believe I knelt down and kissed the frosty pavement of the parking space in the parking lot of her building, and might have fallen asleep there from exhaustion if it hadn’t been so bloody cold.

The next morning as I dug in my purse for the keys to my broken car, so I could go check-in with my sister, there, tucked way down in the very bottom was a $20 dollar bill.  What?  Where did this come from, I thought?  When I told Carol about it, she looked in her purse, and behold there found a $20 bill also.  We both scratched our heads and surmised that it had to have been Robert, in Albuquerque.  He had to have done it after we fell asleep at his house.  Neither of us ever heard him come into our room.  OMGosh, he was in our room while we slept (creepy), but he tucked money into our purses (tears).  How did he do this without either of us hearing him?

Was Robert an angel?  He was certainly a mysterious stranger, with an undercover life, who appeared out of nowhere in our most desperate hour.  And his last words to us, “Do as I have done for you,” sure goes a long ways to making the case.

And our National Guardsman…was he an angel too?

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for some have entertained angels unawares…..

I wish I could say this was the only harebrained adventure I’d ever set off on, but it wasn’t.  In fact, there were so many that there is probably not enough blog space on WordPress to confess all of them to you.  My life is an avalanche of dumb-ass stunts that God has miraculously retrieved me from.  When I get to heaven I am certain I will owe my guardian angels big time.

As stupid as I have been in my life, I cannot be so foolish as NOT to thank God upon every cringe-worthy remembrance.  I must thank Him for His mercy.  I thank Him for the hands that have led me safely home thus far.  As I look back over my life, and see my Savior’s tender care, I shall trust that where ever my path may weave from here, He’ll lead me safely home.  Praise the Lord.

Soooooooooooo….what’s your story?

Read other stories at CBN.com: Saved By Angels.  And Angels on the Highway.

 

Letters From Korea

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Letters From Korea

DSCN9675 (2)I just have to share this with you, because it has been one of the more rewarding things I have done in a long while, and I hope that perhaps if someone else out there happens to run across a pile of old letters written by a family member and is wondering what to do with them, I hope to soooooooo encourage you to do something lasting with them.  Share them.  Make a gorgeous scrapbook.  Make a book.  Whatever you do, don’t let them end up lost or trashed.  Your family will cherish them more than you could have ever dreamed.

Several months ago my husband came home with a plastic bag of old letters.  They were written by his dad while he was in the Army.  He showed them to me and asked if perhaps someday I could type them out for him, so they’d be easier for him to read, but after encountering the glazed-over look on my face, he just kind of reached over and delicately tossed them on my “Honey-do” pile with a grin and didn’t mention them again.

Now, it’s not that I didn’t want to do this for him, it’s just that I am really not the best typist in the world.  At my peak I think I could do 40 words per minute, but now that TEXTING has become a thing my typing skills suuuuuuuuck.  Like seriously bad.  Besides that, I have waaaaaaay too many things on my “to-do” list as it is.  But when husband’s birthday began to draw near and I pondered what to get him, those letters scrambled into my head.  I thought how much of a neat surprise it would be for him if I actually followed through on his request and presented him with those typed letters for his birthday, or better yet, what if I made a book?

Dec 21 1951 Dan to Folks 001I still wasn’t looking forward to doing all that typing, but could definitely at least start by sorting them into chronological order.  And so I did.  And then, just for grins, I slipped one of the letters out of its envelope and started reading.  Well, that did it.  With just one letter I was completely drawn in.  Even though I wasn’t even born yet when these letters were written, and never knew this man until I was about the age that he was when he wrote them, it was as if someone I hadn’t heard from in a very long time had written to me.  And it was someone I have missed terribly.  I could hear his voice in my head as I read his words.  The letter made me laugh, and it made me cry.  It had me at “Hi Folks” actually, and I had to know more.

I spent the next week typing, from the moment I got out of bed in the morning to the wee hours of the night, night after night.  There were a couple days I didn’t even get dressed all day, or brush my hair.  My rump hurt from sitting in the chair so long, but I was obsessed to finish if it killed me.  If the letters hadn’t been so interesting I might have lost interest, but he is one of those people you just want to be around, fun and entertaining and full of life, and all of that spilled out of his letters.

Camp Roberts and Korea 001I took pictures of the letters and scanned each one as I typed them, thinking it would be neat to see the actual letters right beside the typed versions, and then I went through every picture stash in our possession looking for photos from that era.  As luck would have it husband had also brought home an old photo album from his parents’ house, the kind with black paper pages and photo corners holding each picture in place, and there were several war-time photos scattered throughout.  I scanned each one and saved them on my computer.  I also sent an email to my sis-in-law asking if she had any photos, and I told her what I was doing.  She went through all her pictures and sent me scans of everything she had.

I also made a list of all the names of people mentioned in the letters and asked Sis if she knew who any of those people were.  She knew so much and was very helpful.  And we have an aunt also still living, so I sent her the list of names and got her help too. Along with the letter and pictures I found maps, war maps, and various other items that belonged to my husband’s parents from his time in the service.  Like a pair of ladies panties that had “OFF LIMITS” embroidered on them, and a scarf he must have had made in Japan with his Company and Regiment embroidered on it along with the word “wife.”   I took photos of those things too and then went to work constructing the book out of all these various pieces.  I also added a little bit of history about the basic training camp he was in, and a timeline and major highlights of the war for the younger readers who maybe won’t know or remember Korean War history from high school.

After weeks of constant daily labor the book was finally born. I created a front and back cover, and typed the whole thing in a WORD document, converted to a PDF, and uploaded to lulu.com for publication.

Two weeks later I had a book in my hands to give to husband.  He was thrilled.  He sat down the instant I gave it to him and read the whole thing, cover to cover in about 2 hours.

I couldn’t help thinking while I was putting the book together that everyone in the family would cherish a copy of it.  I just knew that anyone who knew and loved Dan would delight to have their own copy.  True to form, every family member that I have sent it to so far has written back and reported that they cracked the cover and couldn’t put it down.  None of that is due to my writing….it is all Dan.  It’s all his words.

Our nephew texted and said the book is “by far one of the best gifts he’s ever been given.”  And our aunt said, “What a treasure.  It’s like being in a time machine.”  Our youngest daughter ended up with the dishes that Dan sent home from Japan and she said with choking emotion, “I’ll never look at those dishes the same again.”  I can’t tell you how it blesses me for it to mean so much to them.  (But I knew it would).

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So….. if you have letters ….please ……please  ….DO SOMETHING AWESOME WITH THEM.  It will mean so much to your family.

“The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.”  Proverbs 20:29

Mrs H’s Easter Dinner Cookbook

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Mrs H’s Easter Dinner Cookbook

Easter Egg

Easter Traditions

After a busy morning of egg hunts and hide-and-seek baskets, our little brood (hubbie, kids, and me) would nab a quick breakfast and get ready for church. The first few years of our young Christian lives we just went to our church like normal, but somewhere along the way we decided to visit different churches for Easter. I guess just because Easter service is a show anyway and we already knew what our own church was doing, so why not explore. It’s been a neat tradition with many interesting experiences.

Our family has always leaned more toward the contemporary type churches with a little tradition mingled in, maybe wading toward the charismatic side but not off the deep end. One year we decided to try the Methodist church downtown, the big brick building with the gorgeous stained glass windows. The congregation, when we arrived, seemed mostly older. I recognized a few of the faces as high society movers and shakers in the community. We chose to sit in the balcony, since there wasn’t such a thing in our church, and marveled at the three-story high pipe organ that the organist played masterfully. I’ll admit I was distracted from the words in the hymnal for watching how much effort it was for her to play that immense thing. Her legs were jumping, her hands were all over the cascading terraces of keys, and she kept pushing and pulling levers while still working away at the melody. She coaxed amazing sound out of that gargantuan brass piped spectacle.

The church itself was so formal and so fancy with tall ceilings and carved walls, the balcony, and a pastor who stood at a podium at one side of the stage and wore a robe and a colored sash. It wasn’t anything like our casual, modern, smaller-budget church.

As incredible as the ambiance was, it wasn’t the most memorable part of our experience that day. That part was coming up. There was a darling family sitting right behind us who had a little girl about our Gracee’s age who had sneaked in some candy. Gracee had too. It kept them both occupied for most of the service. But as soon as the music stopped and it got quiet, and the pastor began his rehearsed and monotone sermon, alas, that’s when Gobstoppers exploded without warning and spilled like a sack of marbles onto the polished wooden floor beneath, making us all jump.

The million little balls rolled for what seemed like an eternity down the floor between everyone’s feet, hollering and screaming as they went, echoing into the rafters with deafening clarity. I wondered what it sounded like to the people in the pews below as it was ringing literally in our ears. With a hundred or more eyes all glaring in our direction, we lowered our eyes down to our Gracee fearing it was her doing, not daring to move our heads or move the expression on our faces at all, and she, with huge wide eyes herself, moved backward in the pew, cupped her left hand over her pointer finger, and pointed with desperate innocence behind us. We smiled in relief but didn’t dare look back that way to add more shame to their humiliation. We all just sat like stones and waited for the commotion to end. It finally did thank goodness and our attention turned once again back to the drone of the pastor’s eulogy.

Note to self: If we should ever come back to this church, never let the kid bring jawbreakers and sit in the balcony. Then again, it might have been God’s sense of humor to liven things up a little. Whew, it was stuffy in there.

Another year we visited the Assembly of God church at the foot of the mountain. The pastor there had invited his Christian motorcycle group to come and give the sermon. As the congregation sat quietly waiting, a man in leathers turned the key on his Harley, parked outside the sanctuary in the lobby, and then drove his super shiny rumbling machine into our midst and up the center aisle, with exhaust fumes trailing in his wake. He parked it sideways at the base of the pastor’s podium, turned off the engine, and began his sermon from the mount of his studded leather seat. The other tatted and muscle-bound members of the group, also decked in their riveted and logoed black leather jackets, hats, and chaps, sat in chairs flanking the preacher on either side. It was AWESOME! His sermon was good too. And looking around, I also noticed that I knew quite a few of the members who went to that church too, and they all came over and greeted us after.

Another year we attended the huge Highland Park service held at the Event’s Center, with its thousands in attendance, which is a lot for this community. It had that mega-church feel, like maybe a church in a big city would have. It was an amazing worship service put on by very talented musicians and extremely gifted singers, and projected like a concert from the stage out to us in the stadium, showcasing the enormous talents of its members. Their pastor preached a beautiful sermon and it was all just a gorgeous display. It was neat to see that I knew quite a few of those people as well… many were coworkers.

And one year we attended a smaller, more intimate church, where the worship and sermon was lively and interactive. The pastor was very engaging and authoritative. At one point in his preaching he wanted us all to raise our hands and worship the Lord in our spirits. We did. It was fairly easy as he was very charismatic and the congregation was all eager. When our collective response didn’t quite seem aggressive enough for his liking, he told us to stand to our feet and worship our Savior with cheers and shouting. He begged us to let go our inhibitions and give Jesus the kind of accolades we would dispense at a sporting event. We did, and it was loud and joyful. When that just still wasn’t quite corresponding to his yearning, he shouted to us to get up on our chairs and reach our arms to the ceiling and give the Lord a shout of glory. We did, we did, we did. And some jumped and bounced. And hallelujah we did! And even though it was just a tad outside of our comfort zone, and we felt a little silly, when in Rome, we did! And it was kind of amazing. And none of us got hurt!

Some Easter’s we’ve come home to a homemade feast and other times we’ve gone out. One year we had Easter dinner at Denny’s. Our waitress asked for our drink orders and then gave each of the girls a plastic Easter egg. She said there were little prizes inside. The girls opened their eggs and each had a slip of paper in it. The waitress took the papers and disappeared returning moments later with Dani’s prize, a nice little Easter basket with a few goodies in it. She was thrilled and began to rummage through it, Gracee looked on in wonder. The waitress disappeared and returned a few seconds later with the news that Gracee had won the grand prize, and then presented her with a huge white stuffed bunny rabbit with long dangling ears and a big blue bow tied around its neck. Gracee was surprised and her dad and I were thrilled for her. As he and I returned to our mugs of hot coffee we caught the look on Dani’s face. She was frozen with one hand still in her tiny basket, jaw dropped, eyes fixated on this giant furry outrage…

Oh dear, I better stop there. Long story short, this was the Easter that went down in the annals of our family history as the Easter of the loathsome big blue bunny. And with that I wish you all a happy Easter filled with special moments that make you smile, beam with precious memories, and love and laughter, and years and years of great traditions. God bless.

1. Easter Egg Hunt

EASTER EGG HUNT FOR KIDS: When my kids were little and the few years of their age made a big difference in their abilities, I assigned one or two colors of eggs to each child and they were only allowed to “find” their own colors. This was the only way I figured would make the hunt fair for the younger one, and challenging for the older one. At the end of the egg hunt the kids then went on a scavenger hunt to find their Easter Baskets. This was one of the scripture scavenger hunts I put together for my kids when they were about 4 and 9. Their dad helped them with this because he was usually ready for church and I still needed to be. This gave me time to get dressed and my hair done. Then we got them dressed and our family headed off to worship our risen Lord.

Easter Egg Hunt for kids

Easter Egg Hunt for kids2

SPECIAL NOTE: Since this blog post was originally written I have come up with another pretty dang fun and awesome, kid-approved (actually, “whole family approved”) all-day Easter activity that I’m pretty excited to share with you. Follow this link to more Easter Fun & Games!

Easter Chatterbox

Your kids can use this little “cootie catcher” as a way to share their faith and the Easter story with their friends and classmates:

Easter Cootie Catcher

M&M Easter Story

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RECIPES

 

Our Easter Dinner is usually pretty simple. Who has time to fuss in the kitchen when we’re going to be dolling up for and going to church all morning?  I like to have it ready when we get home, so we can enjoy the after dinner egg hunts and games and crafts and whatever.

Easter Dinner collage2

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fruity ham

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For my Glazed Ham

I start with a nice hickory smoked (if you know somebody that does them locally – mmmmm those are the best), spiral sliced ham that only basically needs to be heated because it is already cooked. Just wrap the ham in foil and heat as instructed on the package directions (mine, as you can see, got a little over heated waiting for us to return from church – I would recommend a little lower temperature on that oven if you are doing what I did and are trying to have dinner ready to serve as you walk in the door from church). I whipped up a batch of Jezebel Sauce a day or two before so I would have it to glaze the ham with, and then to plate it I covered mine with whatever fruits I had on hand, fresh or canned. On this day I covered mine with a large can of Fruit Cocktail and some sliced oranges. You could go with peaches, pineapple, pears, plums, cherries, mango, apples, appricots, or whatever!

Jezebel Sauce

1 (18 ounce) jar peach preserves

1 (18 ounce) jar orange marmalade

1 (18 ounce) jar apple preserves

1 (18 ounce) jar pineapple preserves

5/8 cup ground dry mustard

1 (4 ounce) jar prepared horseradish

In a bowl thoroughly mix all ingredients. May be stored in sterile containers in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Great as a glaze or served poured over cream cheese and served with wheat thins crackers.

Plate your hot ham, decorate it with the fruit, and pour the glaze over. Return it to the oven to warm the glaze and fruits, approximately 15 minutes. Serve.

scallop potatoes

Scalloped Potatoes

I’m rather fond of Martha Stewart’s recipe, although I left the skins on my taters, added some red onion, a sprinkle of pepper, and also some rosemary for garnish after it had baked. And because I had covered mine with foil it didn’t have her lovely golden top on it.

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pea salad

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And I’m completely nuts for this cold, crunchy Pea Salad!

This is the dressing. Mix it up in a large bowl.

1/3 cup sour cream

1 T. Mayo

1 T. vinegar

Salt and Pepper

This is the salad:

4 cups. frozen peas

1/2 small red onion, chopped

6 oz. cheddar cheese cut into small cubes

3 T. chopped fresh parsley

Add the salad ingredients to the dressing in the large bowl. Cover with plastic and keep in fridge for 2 to 4 hours before serving.

When ready to serve…

Crumble 8 slices of crispy cooked bacon. Transfer the pea salad to a serving dish and garnish with the bacon, or you can add the bacon to the salad before transferring to your serving dish, whichever you prefer.

And for dessert…

Strawberry Napoleons

EASY STRAWBERRY NAPOLEONS RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cold whole milk
  • 1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 cups whipped topping
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°. Unfold thawed puff pastry on cutting board.

With a sharp knife, cut pastry into nine squares. Place on baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to wire rack to cool completely.

In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar and vanilla; set aside. In another bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for two minutes.

Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft set. Stir in whipped topping and until thoroughly blended. Cover and refrigerate.

To assemble, split puff pastry squares horizontally for a total of 18 squares. Set aside six tops. Place six of the remaining puff pastry pieces on individual serving plates. Spread about 1/4 cup pudding mixture over each pastry square. Top with a spoonful of strawberries and another piece of puff pastry. Spread remaining pudding mixture over pastry pieces. Top with remaining strawberries and reserved pastry tops.

In a microwave, melt chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Transfer chocolate to a small, heavy-duty plastic bag. Cut a tiny corner from bag; squeeze chocolate over napoleons. Yield: 6 servings.

© Taste of Home 2012

Visit my Pinterest Easter Feast page for more recipes!

P.S. Got leftover ham?

Here are my two favorite things to do with it…

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Ham & Potato Casserole

6 potatoes cut into slices or cubes as you prefer (or a bag of frozen hash browns)

2 cups diced ham leftovers

2 cups shedded cheese

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 stick of butter, melted

2/3 pint carton heavy cream

3 Tbls flour

1 jalapeno, diced

A sprinkle or two of spicy dry rub seasoning (basically just cayenne powder and ground black pepper)

Preheat oven to 350*F. Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl and pour out into a large greased casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour. Remove foil, give the dish a good stir, return to oven and bake an additional 1/2 hour uncovered. If it appears to be getting too golden on top, it is probably done. My oven seems to take a little longer than other peoples. This dish is a great way to get rid of several things you might have left in your fridge. 🙂

Deviled Ham (for sandwiches)

These are my husband’s favorite!!!! He will flat out gorge on them for two solid days in a row. So I usually make all the deviled ham into sandwiches, lay them in a casserole dish, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap, and store it in his “mancave” fridge where he can just help himself until he is sick. LOL! P.S. I rarely measure my ingredients for this (although I did for you this time to make sure it would turn out), but I never have the exact same amount of leftover ham, so I’m going to say we start with 2 cups of ground ham and you can double or half the other ingredients in porportion to what you have, okay?

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I grind my leftover ham in a hand-crank grinder (old school), and then to approximately 2 cups of ground ham I add:

1/2 tsp. ground pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground pepper

1/3 cup minced onion (about a quarter of a large onion)

1/3 cup minced celery (about 1 rib of celery)

4 Tbsps sweet pickle relish

1 Tbsp Dijon or spicy brown mustard

Moisten with mayonaise until misture holds together and is slightly creamy. I start with a good heaping serving spoon of Mayo, and then maybe a little more than that.

Mix together by tossing and stirring until everything is mixed well. Cut the crusts off of your favorite white sandwich bread. Spread slices with the deviled ham and cover with another slice of bread. Cut sandwiches into quarters and poke a decorative toothpick through to hold them together. Serve with whatever was leftover on the relish tray (carrot sticks, cream cheese stuffed celery sticks, green and black olives, deviled eggs, spicy pickled okra, spicy pickled jardinière mix, pickled asparagus, dilled green beans, little dill and sweet pickles, etc.), chips, or whatever you have. These go great with cheddar cheese soup. Check out my recipe in my blog post “Soups On.” (<<< click link)

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“And when [Herod] had apprehended [Peter], he put him in prison…intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” Acts 12:4 (KJV)

Feast of Trumpets

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Feast of Trumpets

fall-feasts

Four Feasts we’ve studied (Passover & Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Pentecost), three Feasts remain (Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles). The remaining three are fall Feasts, and all three take place at the last harvest of the year, the grape harvest, and within the span of about a month.

The Feast of Trumpets

This year (2017) the Feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hashanah, arrives on the evening of Wednesday, September 20 and will end in the evening of Friday, September 22, of this Hebrew Year 5778.

This is how it got started:

Then God spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying:

“In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a Sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.” Leviticus 23:24-25

What was the offering to be made by fire to the Lord?

“… one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year. Be sure they are without blemish. (a blood offering). Their grain offering shall be of fine flour mixed with oil. (an unleavened bread offering). Also one kid of the goats as a sin offering, (scapegoat) besides the sin offering for atonement, the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings.” Numbers 29:7-11

Rosh Hashanah is always observed on the first two days of Tishri, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. Why is a “New Year” celebrated in the middle of a year? Because it celebrates the end of one agricultural year/season and the beginning of another. It’s what we might call a fiscal new year, like the one when we have to choose our healthcare plans. In God’s kingdom it is all about the harvests, the harvest of crops and the harvest of souls. How many stories did Jesus tell where He used sowing seeds, watering plants, tending crops, and bringing in the harvests to describe His kingdom and our ministry on this earth?

The trumpet is often used to gather people. Trumpets, and shouts, were also used as a weapon of war, for example, to bring down the walls of Jericho. And in the same vein, “… I [Jesus] will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18 (KJV). I believe that we who are His will hear the trump of the Lord one day very soon, and that it will gather us from the heavens and the earth, to protect us from some severely ugly times. I believe God will allow the ugly times to come to hopefully show the deceived who they are truly worshipping, and hopefully it will turn their hearts.

It was seventy years after the death and resurrection of our blessed Savior, that the Jewish people became a scattered people over the face of the earth, their temple destroyed, and their land taken over, but it was prophesied that in the last days God would gather them again to their promised land (Deuteronomy 28:58-67). After just under 1900 years it has happened as prophesied. In 1967 the Shofar blew in celebration in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount after the victory of the Six-Day War between returning Jews and the occupants of the promised land. Since that time Jews have been allowed to return to their homeland! Even so, it is still fearcely squabbled over, and hard to believe that such a tiny speck of a place on the globe could be the object of so much violent hostility. It seems there will never be peace in Israel.

The holiday though is also very relevant to Christians, as we also are a scattered people all over the globe – as God wanted us to be so that we could share the gospel with every tribe and tongue and race and nation; and we are also scattered between heaven and earth. (Please check out: Should Christians Celebrate Rosh Hashanah?).

“And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year… prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad” John 12:49-52

Clearly in the New Testament it is a trumpet that will summon and gather God’s people from all the places where we have been scattered:

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1Thessalonians 4:16-17)

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

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This picture of “gathering people” reminds me so much of something from the little town where I grew up. Atop of the hill, in the center of town stood a charming little log church with a steeple. The pews were each hewn of split logs, and even the pulpit and altar were hand-made of logs and hand cut boards. When the time for Sunday Service came one of the elders or deacons of the church would undo the bolt on the doors, turn the knob, and pull the front double doors open, and then He’d begin clanging that big brass church bell, taking grasp of the thick rope that hung down into the front foyer with his two strong hands and pulling with his body weight, then letting the rope rise back up, pulling it down again, and letting the rope rise back up. The sound would echo across the rooftops and down that lofty steeple, causing all the nesting birds to take flight.

Magically, at the clang-clang-clang of that bell, folks began bustling from their houses and vehicles, all dressed in their Sunday-best go-to-meeting clothes. Ladies in dresses, spritzed with perfume, curled hair in hats, wearing makeup and white gloves. Men, freshly shaven, in suits with stiff collars and ties, and hair neatly parted and combed into place. Children, bathed, with shining faces, coiffed and suited and well-mannered, as miniatures of their parents. They all strolled and shuffled up that hill, smiling and greeting one another, and gathering through the open doors, taking their places in the rustic hardwood pews for a sit-down spiritual feast. Oh how lovely it was on Sunday morning to hear those church bells ringing! The piano playing. And the choir singing.

In the same way as the church folks gathered in to satisfy their hungry souls, so similar was the practice on ranches all over my rugged cowboy state. When supper was ready it was common to hear the cook or the wife step outside and run the wand around on the triangle and holler, “COME AND GET IT!” and here they’d come. The hard-working, broke-back, famished ranch hands would wobble to their feet, swing a leg off their horses, toss their tools in a box, remove their hats to wipe the sweat from their brow, and knock the dust off their pants as they started the journey to the chow hall. They all came a hobblin’ from the far corners of the fields, some smiling, and some grunting, and all eager to fill their aching bellies, have a laugh (or a cry), share a story, and then call it a night.

Can you hear the church bells ringing? Can you hear the choir singing? Can you hear a little lady belting out, “COME AND GET IT! O weary sojourner, come and hear the word of the Lord!”

Our Savior is coming! The Landowner is coming to settle accounts, and gather His grapes into the winepress. I don’t want you to be taken by surprise.

Scripture says, two men will be in the field and one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be in the kitchen. One will be taken and one will be left (Matt.24 & Luke 17). The wise virgins will go with the bridegroom and the foolish virgins will be left behind (Matthew 25).

“For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking…until the flood came and took them all away…” Matthew 24:36-39

“You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.” John 14:28-29 (NKJV)

“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24: 23-27) …for those who are HIS!

Have you ever wondered why we dream that we can fly?  Not fly like a bird, but rather float like a balloon, but with the ability to maneuver up and down and left and right with our arms and legs, like we can in water, but without any resistance.  In my dreams I am able to fly above my enemies, just out of their reach.  I can go farther and faster than them.

(Thank you Carleen Sabin for making and posting this beautiful You-Tube video)

The word of God says that some of us will fall asleep (die), and some will just fly away (like Elijah). The redeemed will be blessed to experience the Rapture, the magnificent fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets.  The defiant, who refuse to hear the word of God will be left behind.  If you’ve been riding the fence, please don’t wait until it is too late.  Get with a believer or a pastor today. Don’t let the trumpet of God surprise you. Come, while the door is open.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever will believe on Him shall have eternal life. John 3:16

Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 18:9-10

He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life: he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the son of God. 1 John 5:10-13

Behold I [Jesus] stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:20

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Happy Firey Tongues Day!

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Happy Firey Tongues Day!

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“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” Acts 2:1

Pentecost is celebrated in late spring/early summer (on these dates).

Most folks are familiar with the word Pentecost and the event in the New Testament which it represents. It was on this day a little over 2000 years ago that the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they all spoke in tongues.  It is the day that marked the birth of the Christian church.

But several thousand years before that, God introduced Shavuot to His people (Exodus 23:16). Shavuot was a memorial to be observed exactly 50 days (or 7 weeks plus a day) from the Jewish Feast of Firstfruits – which was the tithe (bikkurim) and regard to God for the spring harvest, which took place right after Passover/Unleavened Bread.  In Jewish history, it marks the day that the Torah was given to the children of Israel on Mount Sinai and is celebrated today by the reading of the book of Ruth, as well as dressing in white robes, and holding baptisms.

The word “Pentecost” means fiftieth. Originally, on this blessing-of-the-summer-harvest or pilgrim “feast of weeks,” the people were to bring out of their habitations two loaves of bread, and unlike the feasts before it, this time the bread was baked WITH leaven.  The loaves were to be of the same weight and was therefore called the Counting of the Omer (a dry measure or sheaf of grain).

Firstfruits and Shavuot are both grain harvests. Firstfruits is a harvest of barley, and is the setting for the story in the Book of Ruth where Boaz harvests his fields and leaves behind a little for the gleaners (the poor who lived in the land). Ruth came to glean in order to provide food for herself and Naomi, her mother-in-law, who had both been away in another country until the death of their husbands forced them to come back home. Boaz was Naomi’s close relative, and therefore Boaz honored a Hebrew obligation to redeem the land for his cousin/close friend who died and left no living male descendents to carry on his name. Out of respect for Naomi, Boaz graciously married Ruth (who was not Jewish) and the two had a son, Obed (who was king David’s grandfather and is listed in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:5), giving him a share of Boaz’s wealth and an inheritance in the land (and in the kingdom to come). Boaz became the kinsman redeemer, and his valor is a gorgeous picture of hospitality.

Shavuot is the firstfruits offering of the wheat harvest, waved to the Lord to honor and thank God for His provision. The leaven in the flour of those loaves was covered by bread that had risen, the leaven therefore was no longer visible. The summer wheat harvest was always a bigger harvest than the spring barley harvest, but a mere drop in the bucket compared to the fall (fruit) harvest.

Copy and Shadow of things to Come

Once again, Jesus is the fulfillment of these beautiful Jewish feasts.  He is our “Bread of life.” He has covered our “sin” (leaven) by his body that was sacrificed and now is risen.

He is our Kinsmen Redeemer because He has graciously married us, who are not Jewish, and given us a new life and an inheritance in the kingdom to come, grafting us in and making us part of the family of God by His redeeming blood.

The Torah brought the Law of God to His people ~ and ~ The Word/Logos-of-God brought the Spirit to His people

It is to our advantage that Jesus ascended into heaven after redeeming us, for if Jesus had not gone, the Holy Spirit could not have come (John 16:7).  We all needed the Holy Spirit to come, for so many reasons, including…

We would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon us (Acts 1:8)

He would teach us and guide us, and help us to be discerners of truth

He would empart to us Spiritual gifts that would enable us to do the will of God

The ministry of the Holy Spirit is the heart of Pentecost.  Like the other feasts, Pentecost has a first observance, followed by a middle ritual observance part, and finally a fulfillment, both on earth and in God’s kingdom to come.  The Jewish Feasts were and are a copy and shadow of things to come. Jesus, before He ascended into heaven (BTW: on the very day of Firstfruits, as the wave offering to God of the harvest of souls to come), instructed his disciples to…

 “tarry in the city until they were endued with power from on high”   — Luke 24:49

It was an event He had been preparing them for since before He went to the cross, and one He reminded them of again after His resurrection, during the 40 days of His appearances before His ascension. He told them He would be leaving and that it was to their advantage that He go, for if He didn’t go the Holy Spirit would not come (John 16:7).

He encouraged them that the Holy Spirit would stay with them and help them (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin (John 16:8). He would guide them, and relay to them whatever He heard from the Father (John 16:13). He would tell them of things to come (John 16:13), remind them of the scriptures that they had read and heard, and give them power to heal and to preach ( Luke 4:18; 1 Cor. 12:9).  All very vital things for a people who’s Savior was traveling on to His throne and would be out of sight until His promised return.  It was a token of assurance for them, as He is for us, that our Lord will keep His promise to come back for us (2 Cor. 1:22).

The Mystery

There is a LOT of philosophy out there about the Holy Spirit.  The New Testament church has been divided and subdivided over this issue of the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.  This very country that I live in today was birthed out of such divisions.  There are scholars with waaaaaaaaay more credentials than lowly little me to debate the issue, but the one thing they, and I, and we all have in common as the basis for our beliefs are the eye witness testimonies of the men and women who were actually there when the event occured.  Some of Jesus last words to His Apostles were, “You are witnesses of these things.”  And that is something no one else on the planet can boast.  It makes the word of God, the Bible, an extremely valuable document.  And if anyone wants to know about the Holy Spirit of God all we have to do is seek Him in the scriptures.  Study the scriptures and you will find Him!  The scriptures are in fact the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:15) and they are intricately woven.

In the closing chapter of Luke Jesus said,

“Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

I have prayed that I may rightly divide this word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), and scripture always teaches scripture.  So, I am convinced that Jesus wanted His disciples to go and wait in the city, to stay in the city, to NOT LEAVE THE CITY of Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came to them, because of the confirmation of Acts 1:4 – just in case they had other ideas, since Jesus had just told them in Luke 24:47 that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  He didn’t want them to go off on a missions adventure just yet, and certainly not without the company of the Holy Ghost.

No question the disciples were saved.  No question their lives were totally changed when Jesus came into their lives.  But their calling, their ministry was not complete without the Holy Spirit, without the fullness of God, because they had His work to do.

“The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:17

In John 20:22 it says Jesus breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” possibly prophesying how the Holy Spirit would come to them – in a breath or wind from heaven, and demonstrating that it is He who gives us the ability to receive the Holy Spirit.

“And the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostsrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  Genesis 2:7

“Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.  So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  John 3:5-8

So where did the disciples go after their Messiah had ascended to heaven and disappeared out of their sight?  They obeyed their Lord, and went to the city, as Jesus had instructed, “and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God” Luke 24:53.  And they were in the upper room all together in fellowship, with one accord in prayer and supplication, all eleven disciples and the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers (Acts 1:12-14).  While they were there clinging to Jesus in prayer and biding the time with each other, they chose a replacement for Judas.  They obeyed Jesus directions and trusted His order and His timing.

As Fish Drawn Up in a Net

I wonder what draws you to this post today?  Are you searching for the Baptism of the Holy Ghost? Are you here reading this today because you are at a place in your new spiritual walk with Jesus where you have experienced His passover (saving blood) and unleavened bread (cleansing), you’ve communed with Him as Savior, and experienced His breath of new life – been baptised in water for the remission of sins.  You know that your soul is among His firstfruits offering, but reading in John and Acts you feel as if you lack the power and courage to truly love as the Bible tells us to love (1 Corinthians 13)?

Are you reading about the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, and know that you don’t always have those qualities or virtues evident in you?

Are you reading about Spiritual Gifts in Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Corinthians 12, and haven’t a clue what yours are, much less the ability to fan them into flame (2 Timothy 1:6)?

Are you timid and fearful to share your faith?

Do you always seem to be under attack by the enemy, unable to fight him off or get your head above the flood of your struggles?  Is your Spiritual Armor laying on the pages of your Bible instead of covering your body?

Are you reading in your Bible of people who over and over again received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues, and you don’t speak in tongues?  You neither speak in a foreign language that others can understand, nor a prayer language that only God understands?

These are the very things that drew me to seek the truth of the Holy Spirit, the baptism, the indwelling, the empowering Holy Spirit in the scriptures.  The Feast of Pentecost!

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” Acts 8:18-23

What is my motive?  To be better than others? To be held in high regard?  Are my motives poisoned by jealousy?  Is there bitterness or iniquity in my heart?

Honestly, in my quest to know the Holy Spirit of God – the truth, I have found many imposters, or maybe not necessarily imposters, but seekers like myself who were blown to and fro by every wind of doctrine, and tossed by every tempest.  It has been the blind leading the blind in many cases.  Some also may have pretended to be filled with the Holy Spirit just to fit in with all the craziness sweeping through.  There are tongues of men and tongues of angels (even dark angels).  Tongues can be faked.  False teachers abound.  There are tares among the wheat!

I am not called to judge, or pluck up what I think are weeds.  We are to be patient with those weaker in faith, as our Father is patient with us.

But I am convinced the scriptures will lead us to the truth, if we search for it with all of our hearts.  And I  believe the Holy Spirit is not gotten by any other means than that Jesus give Him to us, and that Jesus gives Him to us for for His own good purpose (not ours): to enable us to hear His voice and fulfill the gifts and calling He has placed on our lives, to be fruitful to take the good news of Christ’s love to the world, to be equipped for ministry (Eph. 4:12-16), and to be able to have those private conversations with Him that nobody else can understand or evesdrop on, especially Satan.  And I believe it isn’t something we have to fear will be weird or scary – just like our Salvation wasn’t weird or scarry, but glorious.  I believe the Holy Spirit is poured into us to be poured out of us, and that we have a constant need of refilling, or of fanning into flame, when we feel empty, weary, or lost.

Our Father desires to give us good gifts, and if we ask for the Holy Spirit out of right motive I am confident He will give Him to us (Luke 11:11-13) and that the fruit of the Spirit will be evident in us (Gal.5:22-23).

I believe in order to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit we must love God from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5), and be willing to do God’s will, and follow God’s instructions, and not quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19) who leads us.   (*Quenching the Spirit is, I believe, to withhold love by suppressing conviction, prohibiting manifestation, or snuffing out a Holy fire that is kindled in our hearts).  Like the parable of the rich young ruler who tells Jesus he has done everything that is required, but is there anything else that he must do, and Jesus tells him to sell everything he has and give it to the poor, and come follow Him.  If we are like this young pharisee and desire to keep anything back, we will never receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Luke 14:25-33; Luke 18:18-22).  We must be empty of our own will, because the Holy Spirit will sometimes lead us where we do not wish to go (John 21:18).  The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Could it be that we must cling to Jesus like the apostles did – in the church, continually praising and blessing God! …and in one accord with the brethren in prayer and supplication?  The word of God says, if we seek Him we will find Him, when we search for Him with all of our heart (Jeremiah 29:13)!  It says that where two or more are gathered in His name, there He is amongst us (Matthew 18:20).  Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven,”  Matthew 18:19.

So, the discpiles waited in the city, but the use of the word “Tarry” is even more incredible than that…

The word “tarry” captured my imagination when I studied this scripture. So I pulled my Complete Word Study of the New Testament book off the shelf and researched the word tarry in Luke 24:49. When I did I found that the Greek word translated tarry in this one place in the scriptures is kathizo (Strongs 2523) and next to it is a tiny grammatical code “aim.” It is an abbreviation of the words aorist imperative, which indicates that this was a simple action to be done in the future, not “pim,” which is present imperative, and would have commanded a continuous or repetitive action.

This is another one of those instances when the Bible proves to be parable-like, with special things hidden away in it that the Lord only shares with those who seek Him.  Why does the Holy Spirit prompt us to be curious about the words in scripture?  Because the jots and tittles in scripture are important, so much so that not one of them shall pass away until they are fulfilled.  Words mean things.  Jesus’ choice of words is important. I’m so grateful that I had the time to obey the Spirit’s prompting and study this out, because there was treasure hidden.

I looked up the word kathizo and found that it means to sit, to set down, to seat down, to dwell. It is never used however when the action is to rest, but refers rather to a person taking a special seat of importance, one reserved for important tasks, like a judge sits at his bench in a courtroom to hear a case, or a king on his throne to govern his kingdom, or a preacher in his pulpit to preach to his congregation, or a watchman at his post to guard the city. It isn’t about taking a load off; it’s about taking the captain’s chair in the control tower. Literally the scripture could be read, “…but sit (take your place) in the city…until you are endued…”

Isn’t that interesting?  Well, I hope YOU’RE sitting down, because I have something pretty exciting to share and I can hardly wait for you to see it. Please turn to Acts 2:2 and fill in the blank below to find out what the disciples were doing when the Holy Spirit arrived:

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as a rushing might wind, and it filled the whole house where they were ________________.”

What a beautiful mystery!

Jesus told His disciples to literally go sit in Jerusalem in the special place, and when the time had fully come for the Holy Spirit to arrive, here He came, first with a voice in that mighty rushing wind, as if the Lord were whispering from His throne in heaven: Are you sitting? Here it comes!  It honestly gives me goosebumps to think of it…

Twelve Apostles SITTING, as on thrones – like the elders sitting on thrones around God’s throne  – Revelation 4:4.  Kings and Priests.  A copy and shadow of things to come!!!!

And just in case that isn’t awesome enough, let’s finish that verse of scripture with a discerning look at the word “endued.”  I always thought it meant imparted or given, but it is Strongs #1746 enduo, and it means CLOTHED  – in the sense of sinking into a garment (sitting into it perhaps?); invested with clothing; arrayed…  Wow!

Twelve Apostles SITTING, as on thrones, and CLOTHED in white robes, with crowns of gold on their headsRevelation 4:4.

This scripture reveals the Holy Spirit as clothing, as an investment – as a deposit guaranteeing our redemption, as Spiritual Armor, as a robe of righteousness, as a Bride made ready!!!!

Check out these scriptures about white robes and fine linen…

“Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who would be killed as they were, was completed.” Revelation 6:11

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.”  Revelation 7:9

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife and made herself ready.  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”  Revelation 19:7-8

The Holy Spirit gave the Apostles the power to do righteous acts, which we get to read all about in the Book of Acts!  A righteous act is like righteous judgment – it is an act or a judgment that knows every hidden thing.  The only way for a human to know every hidden thing is to have it emparted to us by an all-knowing God.  Who can know the mind of God except the Spirit!  The Spirit reveals the mind of God to us and therefore the will of God.

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse.  And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True…He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood...  – Revelation 19:11,13

There is a dress code in heaven.  This is why the person was thrown out of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22:11-14.  He was a fake (Isaiah 64:6; Matthew 23:25-33) in filthy rags.  He was a “tare,” who grew up among the wheat, but he doesn’t fool the King!

Oh wise virgins, seek Him while He may be found – fill your lamps with the oil that lasts until the bridegroom returns (Matthew 25:1-13) – like the oil of Hanukkah.

The apostles received power when the Holy Spirit came upon them…

Let me set the actual scene:  Jewish people from every nation and language of the world were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks, and consequently they all became eye witnesses of the spectacle of its fulfillment.  When the Holy Spirit gave divine utterance to Jesus’ apostles, the people there each heard the gospel of salvation being preached to them in their native language. Everyone present became witnesses of the power of Jesus in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and took the testimony back to their homes far and wide, and ultimately to the ends of the earth. And the powerful sermon that Peter bravely preached to them that day, by the power of the Holy Spirit that was newly poured into him, resulted in the salvation of 3,000 people.

3,000!  This was a greater number of souls than was harvested at Jesus’ crucifixion – FIRSTFRUITS (when the graves were opened and the bodies of the saints were raised), but only a drop in the bucket to the fall harvest – Feast of Trumpets, which is yet to come. I believe 3000 is an intentional number, for it was the exact number who were killed on the day the law came down from Mount Sinai, because of the golden calf (Exodus 32:28). Second Corinthians 3:6 says, “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

The giving of the Law (and the Torah) at Mount Sinai, after the Passover, and after their baptism in the Red Sea, marked the birth of a new nation bound for their promised land…  In like manner, Pentecost marked the birth of the Christian church, the adopted children of God, with the same inheritance (eternal life in God’s kingdom) as our Jewish brothers and sisters. Jew and Christian = two loaves.

Let’s recap the closing words of Peter’s famous sermon: Repent! Be baptized! Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit!

“For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)

The promise is the same today as it was yesterday, and last year, and last century, and that magnificent day in the ancient world.

“The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matthew 10:37).

If we are born again, we are laborors for Christ.  One disciple may plant the word of God into mens hearts, while another waters what was planted, but truly it is only the Lord who gives the increase and causes the seed to to live and breathe and have its being.  No man comes to the Father except the Spirit draws him. If it is the Lord who gives the increase then it is foolish for us to get puffed up and take credit for anything, isn’t it?

“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6

“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Paul asked of the new Ephesian disciples. “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” “And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them…” (Acts 19:2, 6)

Ask, and It shall be given to you! The Spirit cannot be purchased (Acts 8:14-24), and if you do not have Him working through you, beware (the Seven Sons of Sceva, Acts 19:11-19). But, if you are saved, and you fear the Lord, and your motives are pure, ask of the Father and He will give you the Helper to clothe you, to lead you, protect you, enable you, empower and guide you in all wisdom.

“If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.” (Luke 11:11-13)

If you have asked Jesus into your heart, confessed and repented of your sins, been washed and cleansed in the blood of the Savior, been baptised (died to your old fleshly ways and been raised to new life) making confession before men, and yet feel timid to do the work of an apostle or ambassador of Christ, or you didn’t speak with new tongues, or because you don’t feel the power (boldness) that the scriptures speak of to preach or to heal, then ask my dear brother or sister, please ask.

We must do as the disciples did and spend our time in the church praising and blessing God, clinging to Jesus humbly.  We must sell everything we have (the iniquity in our heart) and follow Jesus (Philippians 3:8-11).  If we give God our whole hearts, Jesus will sweep us clean and put us in order (Matthew 12:43-45; Luke 11:24-26) – breathe on us! But then He must also fill us with the Holy Spirit so that when those old spirits come knocking again, there will be no room inside.  Without the Holy Spirit we are unable to do the will of God.  We are unable to resist the devil.  And we are slaves to our flesh (the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak).  The Holy Spirit is given to us for our good and the good of the world.

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.”  Philippians 3:12

You and I are in the summer harvest time of God’s calendar: “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9)

Let us be WISE VIRGINS and fill our lamps with the *oil that doesn’t run out (read about the history of the feast of Hanukkah or Dedication when after cleansing the temple, the priests lit the Menorah with a day’s worth of oil, but it burned (gave light) for 8 days and never went out until the rider on the horse returned).  (*Oil is another symbol used for the Holy Spirit in scripture.)

And let us look forward to that great fall harvest, when the greatest body of Jews will join the church at the Second Coming of Christ (Zechariah 12:10; 13:1), the great fall (fruit) harvest when “All Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). That is when the times of the Gentiles will be fulfilled. God will bless us who have blessed her, and curse those who cursed her, and welcome us both to our inheritance.  Two loaves!!!!!

Climb up Sunshine Mtn

 

“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47

*This mini-Bible study is part of a study of the feasts of Israel.  If you have enjoyed it you may also enjoy reading about all the other feasts in scripture: “The Lord our Passover,” “FIRSTFRUITS,” “Feast of Trumpets,” “No Man Knows the Day or the Hour…,” and “Feast of Booths.”  You can find the links to these in the list of recent posts listed on the right column of this page.  Thank you for sharing this journey with me.  I pray that you are blessed by God’s word and filled with a desire to know Him with all of your heart and share Him with a lost world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIRSTFRUITS

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FIRSTFRUITS

Are you ready to accompany me on another captivating adventure into the Biblical Feasts of Israel? Are you as addicted to this series of adventures as I am?  If you missed our first excursion into the Biblical holidays of the Hebrews, please get your passport up to date by clicking on the link under recent posts (or here: The Lord Our Passover) to catch up, and then be sure to come back here for FIRSTFRUITS, the second stop on our tour.

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“For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.”  Romans 11:16

The Firstfruits observance rose out of the sawdust of the construction of the very first ever “church” (the tabernacle) and its priesthood. The Hebrew people, wandering in the desert, on their way to the Promised Land, were instructed to give their first best of their first spring crops to God and in return God would bless their spring harvests. He would also use these offerings and tithes to fund the operation and ministries of His house on earth.

“But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses…to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go.”  There you shall take your offerings, your sacrifices, and your tithes. “And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.” (Deuteronomy 12:5-7)

God established that His people (the Hebrews) seek His dwelling place (the tabernacle), and go there, packing their tithes and offerings, partaking of the communion (which had been established between Melchizedek king of Salem and Abraham their ancestor in Genesis 14:18-20), and there rejoice before the Lord.

“And it shall be, when you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide.

And you shall go to the priest in those days…then the priest shall take the basket out of your hand and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God. And you shall say…I remember what you delivered me from ‘and now behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O Lord, have given me.’

Then you shall set it before the Lord your God and worship before the Lord your God. So you shall rejoice in every good thing which the Lord your God has given to you and your house, you and the Levite and the stranger who is among you.

When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase…and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled…then you shall say, ‘I have obeyed the voice of the Lord my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded me.

Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people…’”
(Deuteronomy 26:1-15)

According to Leviticus 23:9-12, the priest would wave a sheaf of green barley from each offering of the new harvest before the LORD (north, south, east, and west); a male lamb was then sacrificed as a burnt offering to the LORD; there was also a grain offering of unleavened bread made with oil, and a drink offering of wine.

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Green barley

16 Firstfruits

I took this photo of a crop of wheat growing in a field near my house.  The farmers all around me planted winter wheat in their fields last year.  When spring came, with perfect warm and dry conditions, most of them were counting their chickens, as the saying goes, hoping to cash in on the terrible, relentless drought we were suffering with exactly the right low maintenance/minimum water required crop.  I enjoyed watching as the beautiful fields of green slowly began turning amber gold, and the warm Texas sun dutifully accomplished its work.

One late afternoon weeks before the harvest those still green grains got bent over and blown down by a tornado and wind squalls.  The gusts mischievously pounded the crops with down drafts in the night while we were all sleeping, and in the morning when we rose the fields looked as if aliens had crafted crop circles in the night, or as if herds of elephants had bedded down in the middle of them.  Every field was sculpted with strange mazes and patterns of wheat pinned to the ground in random fashion.  The farmers kept their optimism that their crops were still harvestable.

Just when the wheat was almost perfectly aged and ripe for harvest, south Texas got smashed with a month of flooding rains.  Inches and inches of rain.  Rain that carried houses away, washed bridges away, washed all our firewood and even our picnic table away, and filled up all the lakes and rivers to overflowing.  The wheat fields sat in standing bogs.  After a few weeks the amber waves, well, what remained of them, began turning a grayish tan.  Even so, the farmers held out hope that the sun would come out, dry everything out, and there would still be something enough to salvage.

The sun did eventually come out. The wheat did eventually dry out.  When the wheat was finally dehydrated enough for harvest the farmers turned the key on their gargantuan tractors, and lowered their combine blades down to the ground to rake up their pitiful, drowned, and wind damaged wheat.  The blades dragged across rocks and hard clumps of dirt, in an attempt to reap every kernel possible.  The damage to their equipment ended up exceeding the small pittance they netted from those fields.  There was little to no profits that year, only tax write-offs and equipment repairs.

So when I read this scripture about green barley I realized that there is still a lot of faith to be had between green FIRSTFRUITS and that actual golden harvest, at least in south Texas.

“Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the firsfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine” Proverbs 3:9-10.

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. And try me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sake, so that he will not destroy the fruit…” Malachi 3:10-11.

“Do not think that I [Jesus] have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:17-20

The Firstfruits Resurrection

Now, here again is a mystery which gambols and pirouettes on the chiastic ring structure of scripture – the focal point of all the mysteries, Jesus!  Let’s begin with the amazing coincidence that Jesus, our male Lamb, sacrificed, arose from the grave on the very day of Firstfruits – three days after Passover/Unleavened Bread.

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order; Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

So, not only did Jesus rise again, but as He did, He waved a “firstfruits” offering to His Father in heaven, as our High Priest, passing through the rent curtain of the Holy of Holies on earth and entering the Holy of Holies in heaven.

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.  Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Matthew 27:50-53

We learned in the Passover study that Jesus’ body is the unleavened bread, pierced, striped, and broken for us.  His shed blood is the wine of the new covenant.  When we partake of the communion, we remember His sacrifice until that day when He shall eat and drink it anew with us at the wedding feast of the Lamb, in His kingdom.

“We have a High Priest, (in the order of Melchizedek Gen. 14:18 ) who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man” Hebrews 8:1,2,5.

Jesus is the first-begotten of the Father (Heb. 1:6); the Firstborn of Creation (Col. 1:15-16); the first-begotten of the dead (Rev. 1:5) and is the Firstfruits of those who are to be resurrected (1 Cor. 15:20-23). And just as He is our Firstfruits, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” (James 1:18).

There are 50 days between the waving of the green barley and the next “firstfruits offering, the waving of the two loaves of wheat bread. Those fifty days are called “the counting of the Omer.” Each day of the Omer a sheaf of grain is waved by the priest before God.

“So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Our High Priest, Jesus, spent the first 40 of the counting of the omer showing Himself to His disciples and others, by many infallible proofs. He spent the time preparing His disciples, telling them He would be gone for a while, and though they grieved over it, it was to their advantage that He go, for unless He went He could not send the Holy Spirit back for them. He instructed them that after He was gone to go and take their place in the city and wait until they were given the seal of promise. Then He went to the Mount of Olives where He bid farewell to all and a cloud hid Him away. His beloved disciples then went and waited, as instructed, as we also must, for the promise of their redemption.

“…but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:23)  

“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

“Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

The green barley was the waving of the firstfruits – and corresponds to the resurrection of the O.T. Saints. The Lord descended into Paradise after His death on the cross to preach the gospel to them, and sprinkle His blood on the mercy seat for them, and they were resurrected.

The two loaves that are waved at Shavuot/Pentecost represent Jew and Gentile, who are commissioned by Jesus to take the gospel (plant and water seeds, in the fields which are white for harvest) to all the word. Jesus waved them to the north, south, east, and west. It has taken 2000 years, but the gospel had to be preached in all the world as a prerequisite for Jesus to return for His bride. When our job is complete, He will rapture the living and resurrect the dead of His church (N.T. Saints).

“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

Our Lord has gone to make a place for us! His promise that He will return for us is the seal of the Holy Spirit, which came at Shavuot/Pentecost, at the firstfruits of the wheat. We accept His bridal contract when we ask Jesus to live in our hearts and take His cup (communion). The dowry He paid was His blood on the cross. The Bridal gift that He left is the gift of the Holy Spirit who can only come to live in us when we are made clean by His blood sprinkled on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies in heaven.

Acts 2 was the “early rains” upon the fields. There will also be “latter rains” poured out, Joel 2:28-29 just before the Lord comes for His church. The wise virgins had their lamps full of this, but the foolish did not. See the blog post about the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (in the list of recent posts on the right side of this page).

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There is a famous credit card commercial on TV that asks, “What’s in your wallet?”  In the same vein I ask,

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“What’s in your BASKET?”

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This is the question on my heart now every time I walk down the isles of the big box stores at Easter, strolling among the purple baskets, green baskets, yellow baskets, pink baskets, and blue baskets…baskets filled with candy and toys…baskets for little girls and little boys…baskets filled with grass and eggs.  Longaberger baskets, Peterboro baskets, and great big Texas baskets filled and decorated with bread, or flowers, or fruit, used as centerpieces on our dining room tables.  What’s in your basket?  What do you have to present to the Lord?

Jolee Wheat

With our High Priest now seated in His heavenly sanctuary, what firstfruits will we present to Him in our baskets?

There is one thing I know, we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out when we die (1 Timothy 6:7).  Not our riches.  Not our fame.  Not our social calendar.  Not our church attendance.  The only things to follow us to heaven are the souls of people whom we have invited to the great banquet, AND our other good deeds, which were done in obedience, and in secret, without fanfare, if they survive the fire (done out of love) – 1 Corinthians 3:14-15.

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)

“And he who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” John 4:36.

I wonder, could the firstfruits in our baskets be the PEOPLE whom we’ve brought to the house of God (church), shared our faith with, helped in times of need, and fed and fellowshipped with around our tables?

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Are my firstfruits fireproof?

Why was Cain’s offering not accepted (Genesis 4:3-5)?  I believe there is a big hint in the wording of the scriptures that tells us he gave an offering, but it was not of his “first” fruits.   Abel’s offering, on the other hand, was of the “first” born of his flocks.

Also…

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  Matthew 6:1-4

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”  Matthew 23:23  “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:20

And perhaps the biggest of all, if we do the good we know to do out of obligation rather than love, we may as well not done anything at all (1 Corinthians 13:3).  Love suffers long, is kind, does not envy, doesn’t parade itself, and if not puffed up.  It doesn’t behave rudely, seek it own, or easily provoked.  It thinks no evil.  It doesn’t rejoice in other people’s misery, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and never fails.

Something the Holy Spirit put in my heart to consider also is Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled with your brother, then come and offer your gift.”

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors and their works follow them” Revelation 14:13.

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I’m excited for our next adventure in the feasts (the Feast of Weeks, Pentecost).  You’ll find it under the title: Happy Firey Tongues Day!  Come take your place at my Lord’s table, and let us sup together these blessed feasts that the Lord has laid out for us in His word.  Let us be rich and well fed on the Word that we may have hope for our future!

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“Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Aside
Welcome…

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Welcome…

…to my new adventure in writing… (I’m just horsin’ around, really).

Memoirs of a Reluctant Hostess

Sooooooo…if you’ve stumbled upon this post today by some divine fortuity, and lavished even one precious minute of your life (that you’ll never get back) upon reading my stuff, I hope and pray you leave with something eternally useful in your heart.

Front Door

GIFT OF HOSPITALITY – HO HUM

The Lord has been patiently prodding this stubborn old mule/me for years to fan into flame the gift – if you want to call it that.  But my obedience to obey ebbs and flows as the ocean tides. One season will bring a warm current of inspiration, and as it runs through will have me twirling and tossing about in swirling eddies of eagerness. I’m coaxed from my inhibitions, like a feral cat out from under a rickety porch, to crack open my front door, peek with squinted eyes outside to see who might be there, and even muster the courage to inv…  to inv… to invite you inside. Encouraged by your warm response I might feel eager to throw an even bigger shindig next time.

But just as surely as the autumn leaves fall off the trees, a cool wind will blow in my heart (life gets busy, or sad, or new interests vie for my attention; a dish will go awry, friends will cancel last-minute, or the heartwarming comedy I so carefully constructed somehow ends in tragedy – ugh, drama). The disappointment loosens my grasp on that high place where I had climbed to. I lower my sails, dump my plans overboard, pull up the anchor (or actually it’s the welcome mat), switch off the porch light, turn the deadbolt on my decorative, etched glass door…and retreat into the depths of my quiet abode with just my loved ones and my thoughts.

The funny thing about a comfort zone however, is that it is only serene and nice for a while, and then it becomes dreary, and boring, and lifeless. Ho-hum!  In my lackluster funk I make up my mind that I am sick to death of all the same old dishes, and begin to only half-heartedly piddle in the kitchen. All my meals end up as “blackened” (something) – the smoke alarm becomes our new dinner bell. The answer to what’s for dinner is met with, “Are you talking to me?” in my Jersey Mike’s Godfather voice …or “TAKE OUT!”   I give up wanting to cook even more, because I have no (nix, nada) desire to clean up the mess afterward. Ho-Ho-Ho-humbug!

The longer this season lasts, the more lowly I feel until desperate for friendship I’ll dust off my Bible and invite Jesus for coffee. God bless Him, He is always faithful to bring a sermon, steer me to a new recipe, drag me to some new person, or march me by a holiday, and before I know it His warm El Niño will drift back into my heart again. His latter rains will fall on my parched and sun-baked soul, and what-do-you-know I’m floating in the great flood plain again.

God’s word, the company of Jesus, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit never fail to re-persuade me that LIFE IS ALL ABOUT THE TABLE – and our calling to it is irresistible.

This blog is my homely confession but handsome voyage. Could it also be yours?

Coffee with Dad
COFFEE WITH DAD

Many years ago, one summer Sunday morning, I was a young mom with young children, and a brand new Christian. Husband was gone to work and I was ready to leave for church, but my car wouldn’t start. I called my dad to ask him what could be the matter with it, hoping it might be something simple that I could fix, and then be on my way. He said he’d be right over, and the generous, helpful man that he predictably was, in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, was there. We popped the hood and he worked his magic, as dads always do. He made the old jalopy live again. But by this time it was a half hour past the start of church and I decided I didn’t want to walk in late. So I made a pot of coffee, put the kids in their play clothes, and Dad and I sat for a visit.

My dad and I have had our share of “philosophical” conversations over the years, and a few about religion. I’ve never seen my dad read the Good Book, or grace the pews of God’s house, except for the time when he and Mom came to my baptism, but that isn’t to say he is devoid of religion. I may never have sought to be baptized (saved) if not for my dad, who made it clear he hoped his girls would all do that for him some day. His mother (my grandmother) was certainly a Spirit-filled, God-fearing woman as well, and had to have had at least as much influence on him as she did on me – his daughter.

This particular day, as the flowers prayed and the birds sang, Dad and I had church at my table. We sipped our brew and explored the back roads of many religious topics until our little heart-to-heart finally found a bench to rest on. Out of a quiet moment he asked me if I thought Jesus was the sort of man who would sit down and have a cup of coffee with you. Being a very new Christian at the time I didn’t know very much of my Bible, but the Holy Spirit dropped a scripture in my thoughts just then, and with assurance I spoke, “Oh yes, I think Jesus is exactly that kind of man. It says in Revelation, ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me’” (Revelation 3:20).

I think both our hearts burned within us just then. Dad sat, quietly, thinking, and then he gathered up his hat, sipped the last drop from his cup, and said, as he went to the door, “There have been a few times in my life when I felt close to God, but this might be the closest.” And with that he placed his cap and was on his way.

I cherish this and all the good memories, for Dad is now a prisoner in the dark world of dementia, a mere whisper of the man he once was. He is fragile, and old, and many miles away from me now. As I write this he’s in a nursing home recuperating from a fall in which he broke his hip. I called Mom this last Veteran’s Day and asked her to pass on my “Happy Veteran’s Day” wishes to Dad. I was surprised when she said, “You can tell him yourself, he has been very lucid today. In fact he just asked about you.” “He did?” I replied in astonishment. “Yes, he said, where’s my Colleen? I seem to have lost track of her.” It reduced me to tears instantly! …And again now as I write about it.

Dad didn’t talk long, but we got to hear each other’s voices, and for a brief moment God filled my heart another time with affection for him, on this meandering, uncertain road of life we journey. I hope God used our chat that summer day. I hope my dad trusted Jesus in his heart and found his peace with God. Jesus certainly used my dad to speak to me that day too. For it was after that I began to realize, and piece together in my heart, a portrait of our Father’s kingdom, and His ministry at the supper table.

If you read His word and follow the bread crumb trail, the sum of the Bible points us to a meal with Jesus. The first scraps to fall from the Master’s table are in Genesis, where God gave Adam and Eve a garden for their table and communed with them there (Genesis 2:8-9; 3:8). It follows them out of the garden, leads into an ark (Genesis 7:1, 16), and back off again (Genesis 8:20). “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs…behold I establish my covenant with you and with your descendents after you” (Genesis 9:3, 9). The bread crumbs lead Abraham to the land of promise (Genesis 12:7, 8) and into a tent by some terebinth trees (Genesis 13:18) where he had a meal with God. “Then Melchizedek, king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.” (Genesis 14:18) He blessed Abraham, and Abraham gave him a tithe. And God made a covenant (a name change and circumcision was established) with Abraham there (Genesis 15).

The Lord and two others visited Abraham’s tent later and received Abraham’s hospitality, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by…” (Genesis 18:3-5). And when Abraham sought a wife for his son Isaac, his servant encountered the plentiful hospitality of Laban, Rebekah’s brother (Genesis 24:31-33, 54-55). And thus God taught all of us, His children, about hospitality.

God staked his tent in the Wilderness with us here on earth, broke bread (or manna) and passed the offering plate through Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy; teaching us to share the bounty of our crops and herds (our tithes and offerings) to help the needy (Levite, stranger, fatherless, widow). From one great deliverance (Passover) to the next (Purim) God teaches His people to celebrate with feasts. Hot dishes have been passed from one judge’s table to another, one king’s table to another, and one prophet’s table to another, until they found their place at the Last Supper – a rehearsal of Passover but also a glimpse of the future Wedding Feast of the Lamb. For it was at this supper that Jesus instituted the Holy Communion and said, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). He told of this Heavenly Feast in Matthew 22 and Revelation 19:9, giving us glimpses of heaven, and something to look forward to.

Jesus, in his earthly ministry, said to the wee little man, Zacchaeus, “Come down from there, for I’m coming to your house,” And to the church of the Laodiceans in Revelation He announced, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). God has been our host and asks to be our guest. He teaches us to be both good hosts and good guests. His Spirit flows into and then out of each of us. I have found God’s WORD to be a magnificent tapestry of the art of breaking bread. He is the Father of it and His word begs us to learn to practice with Him, and to look forward to a fulfillment in heaven. This is the spirit and inspiration behind this blog, although it is comical, almost scandalous that God would have me (honestly me?) put together a blog about hospitality.

Surely He jests.

Sister's and seashells
EATING & DRINKING – GOD’S DESIGN?

My sister is a Baptist and you know what they say about Baptists don’t you? Well, they love to eat! Her church has about as many food fellowships as worship services. I’ve been included to participate in many of them, and although some may call it excess, I think they are wise indeed. “The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children” (Matthew 11:19). Every feast established by God in scripture is a shadow of things to come – a rehearsal of a future event. “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” Colossians 2:17.

When tax collectors and sinners drew near to Jesus, to hear Him, the Pharisees and scribes of that day also complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them’ (Luke 15). So Jesus spoke parables to them. He told one story of the prodigal son (the wayward son who squandered half the family wealth – as we do also when we spend God’s gifting on ourselves and our own pleasures). When he returned home (as we do when we accept Christ as Savior), his father (like our Father in heaven) ran to him (even though his sins were great) when he saw him returning home and coming down the road. With tears in his eyes he hugged his neck, kissed him, and blessed God that he had returned. The son asked forgiveness, but the father never mentioned his transgressions. Instead, he called for the best robe, a ring, and sandals for his feet. And after that, he threw a grand feast with music and dancing, because his son had been lost and now he was found. I believe that is the picture God wants us to see of heaven. It’s exactly what I believe is going to happen. That is how thrilled I believe our Lord will be to see us and welcome us to heaven, and to His table.

Alicia's Table

THE SUPPER TABLE – A COPY & SHADOW

It is a shame to admit what we in this country have done to the supper table (shoved it off in a special room that nobody goes into, made a shrine of it, or piled it high with unfolded laundry and school books – wait, am I the only one?). God didn’t intend meals to be in front of the TV (not that there’s anything wrong with that on occasion), and surely He intended for meals to not be a necessary evil, but a blessing. God made us to need food. He gave us fruits and vegetables, grains, fishes and meat to be received with thanksgiving for nourishment. But beyond that, He gave us herbs and spices and tongues and taste buds to ENJOY the flavors. Why would He do that? Surely He knew some of us would have no self-control, or that we’d eat all the wrong things and for all the wrong reasons, and make ourselves sick, or develop allergies, or make endless diets to fix endless problems? Stop the merry-go-round for a minute and think…maybe we wouldn’t have all those issues if we went back to eating our meals with gratitude, at the table, with our Unseen Guest.

“And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you” Deuteronomy 12:7

Maybe if mealtime was a retreat and destination rather than a filling station beside the busy highway of life we wouldn’t have to count calories, check our plate size, or worry about the cholesterol count – the Lord would bless that food to our bodies for strength and health. And that satisfying meal would sustain us to the next one. Maybe if we took the time to savor truly delicious food (coupled with rich conversation) we wouldn’t have such an addiction to garbage food (and gossip)? Perhaps if we made the Lord the center of the experience we’d have His blessing upon it, and all the diets and obesity would go obsolete. I don’t know…just sayin’.

Here’s an idea. Would you be willing to give it a try with me? Shall we make the effort to make at least one dinner a month (for now) into a “special occasion?” Shall we gather around the table and eat before the Lord? This doesn’t have to be a huge production; it just has to include reverence and gratitude, and our Master – who has provided it. We don’t have to be limited by my scanty recipe suggestions, or be wrangled into cheffy cuisine – but sometimes a new cookbook inspires my enthusiasm. And if we’re too nervous to cook, there’s always take-out. The main thing is that God, family, and friends are gathered around, that there is love, and a table is at the center of it – and that we learn what God’s heartbeat is about eating with others, with friends and strangers, with family and with Him. For if we learn it, I know (I just know it) we will be blessed in it. We’ll see the big picture.

Are you in this with me? Are you ready to find a blessing? Our kids might even want to invite their friends over to show off their cool mom’s creativity with food and music and decorations. Then again, you might be thinking, “No kids, just hubby!” Send the kids away for the evening and surprise the husband with a gourmet meal and romantic evening. Maybe there are no kids or they are grown and moved away. Maybe there is no husband? What if the next time we ate a meal out all by ourselves, we sought out another who may be in the restaurant all by themselves, and we shared the meal and a grace with them?

Who knows that God placed us here for such a time as this? Do we know our neighbors? Why not have them over and pay them back for all the snow shoveling they did with their groovy little machine over the winter, or thank them for the times they watched the house, took in our mail, watered our garden, watched the dog, and made it look like we were home when we were away. Wouldn’t it be nice to show our appreciation by making an evening unforgettable for them!

Maybe there are some new neighbors (or acquaintances at work…or church)? Shall we introduce ourselves, treat them to a home-cooked meal, and in the process introduce them to … well … God’s Supper Table, and give them a glimpse of heaven?

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In the pages of this blog I’ve shared themed meals and recipes from all over the world, for the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind; here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but we are all one in Christ.  This gospel shall be preached in all the world, and all the nations will be gathered before the Lord, for He has redeemed us from every tribe and nation, every people and language.

I’ve shared some of the most precious things I’ve learned from scripture.  And I’m passing along a hodge-podge of other little things too (crafts, projects, hobbies, etc.) as life has brought them to me, I am sharing with you.

I hope you’ll enjoy my little cul-de-sac on the Web. It is all God’s doing. I hope you’ll join with me also in fanning into flame this gift that God has placed within us.  Let us not forsake the gathering of ourselves together, or neglect the spiritual nourishment that our earthly bodies so desperately need.

May our Lord bless and keep you forever! IJN Amen

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