A Gracious Grandmother

NOTE-this December series is a narrative from scripture and from fiction. It’s the story of Christmas as told by those who were closest to the event. Please read accordingly, thanks.

The Voices of Christmas

Part Four

We have lived on this land for hundreds of years, well, I mean we and our ancestors. It’s our home and the only place I’ve ever known, the only place I’ve ever wanted to be. And why would I ever want to leave? What could possibly move me from the birthplace of my mother and grandmother and her grandmother? The answer is nothing at all.

Rueben and I have eight children, five sons and three precious jewels for daughters, may the Lord be praised. My second is Miriam, or Mary, as her name is known outside of our culture. King Solomon said that foolishness is fixed in the heart of a child, and by long experience we know his words are true.

Well, Except for Mary

She has been a wonderful child, beautiful of heart, lovely of soul, and sweet of spirit and no daughter has ever been more loving. Her constant devotion has been to give praise to the Lord and to bring honor to her dad.

When she turned seven we pledged her to Joseph, the youngest son of our village carpenter and mason. We believed it a good match, that he would become as his father, a Godly and righteous man. It was our joy to watch them grow up and were confident that they would do well in the eyes of the lord. .

Well, Except for Mary

Try to imagine our devastation when she told us she that was with child. We wept and grieved, for it couldn’t be, it was unacceptable and inexcusable. She offered an explanation but we didn’t believe her, it was just too much to believe.

She promised us that she and Joseph had not been together, which Joseph also affirmed, which for him meant that she had been with another. He was torn apart and quickly pursued dissolving the pledge. How could she do this to him? We kept thinking…

“A daughter doesn’t immerse her family in shame by violating her virtue.”

But then, something happened, Joseph changed his mind. He told us an angel had appeared to him and said that Mary ‘s pregnancy was of the Holy Spirit, and that her virtue was intact. He spoke with faith’s conviction and his eyes were full of truth. We believed him. And I marveled at my daughter for no one could have coped with the accusations, public shame, and personal devastation, not a girl anywhere.

Well, Except for Mary

It was then our families gathered and joyously listened as they shared their angel stories, and told them over and over. It was beautiful. My daughter’s son, my grandson, will be called the Son of the Most High and will inherit King David’s throne and reign over the kingdom of God. May the birth of the Christ child be merry!

He is to be the Messiah, the Lord’s Anointed, and will bring good news to the poor and bind the broken hearted.

My grandson will be Yeshua, the salvation of God, and I will hold him in my arms.

baby born

So, I prayed and vowed that I would protect and care for my daughter and grandson in every way possible. God didn’t choose me to be the Messiah’s mother, he chose my daughter, and so, like my Heavenly Father, I have chosen her too.

I will love as no mother, or grandmother, has ever loved.

May the Lord grant me the strength of Samson, the wisdom of Solomon, and the fortitude of Deborah, the Judge of Israel, for I pledge my life to the two people whom all evil will set its might against.

I am Abarrane, mother of Mary and grandmother to Yeshua.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

It’s Time For Me to Go

NOTE-this December series is a narrative from scripture and from fiction. It’s the story of Christmas as told by those who were closest to the event. Please read accordingly, thanks.

The Voices of Christmas

Part Three

You haven’t known me but I’ve known you for everything was put into being by me. I am God. You will say, “Wait, we do you know you,” but no, you haven’t, not really.

A sacrifice was essential, and it was agreed that it would be me. This meant I would:

  • let go of my equality as God
  • renounce divinity and sovereignty
  • leave the throne of glory
  • become a man born from a woman
  • be obedient even to death on a cross

You have called me Lord, Sovereign and King, and those are right and true. But soon  the name you will connect with the most is:

Jesus of Nazareth

You will come to know me as Emanuel, Messiah, the Son of God

   God will become something less to achieve something more. I know it borders on the bizarre, but you are the final act in the act of creation and your needs are immense, seemingly impossible. But what is impossible with man is possible with God.

Humanity’s salvation will not be achieved by God in heaven, but by man on earth.

The plan made before man walked the earth was for me to come to you. This will be done so that you can know how much you are loved. It’s impossible for you to repair your own spiritual condition, and your condition is that you have separated yourselves from us and have no way back.

So, rather than leave you detached and distant, your God is coming near.

   The angels have praised and glorified my name. The great and fearsome cherubim and seraphim have declared my excellence. With a final divine thought I empty myself of all that makes me deity, it’s been set aside to be reclaimed on the day I return.

In one of your “blinks of an eye,” the Holy Spirit will place me in the womb of young woman in Nazareth, in Galilee. She is a virgin whom we favor for she is remarkable, full of faith and obedience. She has a heart as pure as the snows of Mt. Herman. Soon she will be my mother.

My birth will fulfill prophecies, be announced by angels and witnessed by herdsmen. It will be good news for all the people and accompanied by miraculous signs, for my birth will be miraculous.

cole-angel-shepherds

Now, if you will excuse me, it is time for me go. In a moment of splendorous majesty, God the Father and God the Spirit have anointed me, and I have been sent.

Take heart and do not be discouraged for the Lord your God is coming to you and my coming will be joyous and most merry!

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

 

 

 

Halos and Wings: Maybe?

NOTE-this December series is a narrative from scripture and from fiction. It’s the story of Christmas as told by those who were closest to the event. Please read accordingly, thanks.

The Voices of Christmas

Part Two

    There isn’t a memory of my not being here. As far as I can determine I have always been in the presence of God. To comprehend his presence requires a language that none of you speak, it’s angelic and beyond your grasp. For you were made just a little lower. Words like glory, splendor, majesty and radiance speak of his presence, but again, they are limited in scope.

I have found that many believe that we angels look something like this: 

IMG_0029
Little angels to be sure, but not exactly what we look like; close, really very close, but no and especially not the big, goofy one in the back.

    It’s believed that angels have bright, shiny halo’s and wings of fluffy white feathers, it’s a common belief. In truth, we can appear in almost any form.

THE LORD

The Lord is our boss and we exist awaiting his will. Most of our work is giving messages to mortals. Sometimes we look divine and sometimes not.

AND ME?

My name is Gabriel and I stand in the presence of God. I am sent to speak to those the Lord want’s spoken to. I deliver his messages and my favorites are the messages of good news.

For example, one day I was standing with the heavenly host, just plumping and fluffing my wings, when the Lord spoke my name.

(we don’t really count time in days, it’s just for your benefit) 

“Gabriel” the voice of God said.

“Yes, Lord, how may I serve you”?

“I need you to give some news to a couple of people. Are you ready”?

“Yes, Lord, always,” I said. “What is your command”?

“I need you to speak to Zechariah the priest, you will find him serving in the temple. Tell him that his wife is going to have a baby, that they will name him John, and that he will be the messenger for my anointed one”.

This was momentous, it was huge, for we the heavenly host have known for thousands of years that a day would come when our Lord would give salvation to the world. John’s coming was the first active step towards the Messiah’s birth. And I have been chosen to deliver the message. Wow, I wouldn’t want to be around Michael tonight, I’m sure he thought he would get this one.

And then, I had no more than returned when he sent me back. He sent me to a young Jewish girl named Mary.

He said, “Tell her that she will be with child from the power of the Holy Spirit and that she is to name him Yeshua, meaning God Saves! That he will be called the Son of the Most High and will inherit the throne of David.”

Wow, talk about an important mission with an essential message. Yeshua, born to a virgin and destined to die for Yahweh’s creation. First it was Zechariah, Elizabeth and John, and now Yeshua announces the time of Emanuel, for God to be with his people!

GOD’S SON

I have served the Son of God for millenniums and now the Lord is sending his Anointed. Soon he will leave to go and do what was chosen before time, to provide salvation for the world.

THE SACRED

These assignments were crafted from the sacred and divine. There has been nothing else as important.

I tell you that I am Gabriel and I stand in the presence of God. I give witness that his grace and mercy are coming to your land. A savior will be born to you and it will be good news for all the people.

It will be good news of the most merry kind.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

 

When God Spoke of Christmas

NOTE-This December series is a narrative based on scripture and fiction. It’s the story of Christmas as told by those who were closest to the event. Thank you.

The Voices of Christmas

Part One

I don’t feel the need to explain myself, for I am the Lord Almighty, The Great I Am. I existed before you and before time began. But I share these words with you because you are my greatest creation and my most prized possession.

THE PLAN

It was never my plan to leave you alone and lonely. It was never my intention to abandon, ignore or forget you, for how could a loving father forget his children? No, my plan has always been to give you an overwhelming measure of amazing grace. I created you to save you, but you could never be saved until you knew you needed saving.

The saving part has finally come.

Because I am God you must know that I have a universe of options and choices. Your salvation could have been achieved in as many ways as there are stars in your sky. It could happen in any fashion or circumstance of my choosing.

Starry Sky
A universe of stars, a universe of choices for the Lord our God. He chose us.

But I decided to save you by sending myself to the earth. Don’t be confused, the self I send will be my Son, for we are three but one. I know, it’s not an easy concept, and it would be simpler if I revealed myself as a single deity. But once you think about it you will realize that this is better. You see, the Father, Son, and Spirit reflect the nature of  man and woman. You are uniquely male and female because of us, for we are your family, and to bring salvation to the world will require a family. We have one in mind.

THE SON

Our son will be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. On the day and moment of my choosing he will be born to the woman we determined ahead of time. You will learn more about this later. But it will happen and when it does all creation will cry out in glory to my name.

BY THE WAY…

You won’t be saved because of his birth. No, it’s not his brith that will save you but his death. Yes, you heard me right. Our son will be born to die and his death will make your salvation real. Not to overwhelm you, but more than his death will be his resurrection that provides eternal life. You see, because of his resurrection you will have hope, the living hope of the resurrected, living Messiah.

Why are we doing this? Because we love you and want to give you the greatest gift of all, the gift of the Son of God, it will be a merry event!

Now I must go. The time has come and the Spirit and I have a few things to say to the Son before he empties himself of power and dominion and becomes a fetus within a young woman’s womb. She lives in Nazareth, it’s a tiny village in Galilee.

Be strong and courageous. More details will come.

My Love To All,

Your Heavenly Father

The Loyal Sports Fan

Team loyalty gets me into trouble with the friendly and the not so friendly. I know, already you are asking, “What?” Well, does team loyalty necessitate an acidic hatred of all other players, coaches, teams and cities?

Some say a definitive yes. I dare to say a cautious no. 

Don’t hate me.

 FAN LOYALTY?

  • Root for the local team, hate all others.
  • If two local teams: swear undying loyalty to whoever came first.
  • Only wear the caps, shirts, jackets and underwear of your team.
  • Amp up support for post season events.
  • Face painting strongly recommended, but not absolute.
  • Body painting for men with weight problems acceptable.
  • Tailgate & halftime parties, snacks, and victory celebrations required.
  • Boo, hiss, complain, insult, yell, and throw things at opposing teams
  • (If watching on TV, ignore the thing about throwing stuff)

HERE’S A THING

What happens when your company relocates you to another city? Do you remain loyal to your old team or do you drop them and embrace a new one?

EXAMPLES…

If you get transferred from Boston to Dallas are you required to hate the Patriots and love the Cowboys?

If you get transferred from Houston to New York are you required to hate the Astros and love the Yankees?

I know, the wisdom of Solomon wouldn’t be enough. 

Speaking of loyalty, should you be loyal to your spouse only when you are in town? Can you be unfaithful as long as you are in another city? Shouldn’t spousal loyalty be absolute regardless of where you are? Does geography determine loyalty?

Here’s another: Do you still love America when you are out of the country? Based on Fan Loyalty Guidelines, when I’m in Port-au-Prince, Mexico City,  Beijing or Jerusalem I should be loyal to Haiti, Mexico, China and Israel. It’s just a thought.

AND ME?

Forty years ago I became a Florida Gator fan. It doesn’t matter why. We currently live in Houston, Texas and have for 23 years. It’s been tough as there are several college teams of note in this state. Here is how I’ve steered through these shark-infested waters.

Florida Field
That’s not me there on the left. Close, really very close, but no. 
  • I love the Texas Aggies, Longhorns, Red-Raiders, Cougars, Horned Frogs, Mustangs and Bears and just over 1200 high school teams.
  • I love the: Texans, Cowboys, Astros, Rangers, Rockets and Mavericks

Sure, I have my favorites, but I don’t boo, hiss, say horrible things or chuck stuff at the other players. Can I cheer, root, clap, and support my team without hating and denigrating the other teams and players?

NOW JESUS

His disciples once rebuked a man for trying to do miracles. Jesus told them to leave him alone, that he wasn’t their enemy.

Speaking of enemies, Jesus taught his followers to pray for them, to be kind to those who would persecute them, and to forgive everyone.

I know, it’s tough to discuss sports and fan loyalty when you bring Jesus into it. 

TO CLOSE

This morning I’m giving thanks that even though he loved his fellow Israelites, Jesus still offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for all others too. Like me.

Thank you Jesus for not booing, hissing, yelling or saying horrible things or throwing things at me because I’m not from Jerusalem. You are the best!

Shalom

What Kids Do

FROM PROVERS 22:15

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child”. 

I guess that’s right, it sure seems to be.

  • Adam and Eve had trouble with Cain
  • Noah cursed one of his sons
  • Eli’s sons were wicked men
  • David had a son who plotted to steal his throne
  • He had another son who raped his sister
  • Isaac was lied to and deceived by a son
  • Jacob had sons who wanted to kill one of their brothers
  • Joseph and Mary had sons who didn’t believe in Jesus
  • Aaron’s sons were killed because of their foolishness
  • The children of Israel were stubborn, rebellious and sinful

WHAT ABOUT ME?

  • At five years old I buried my mom’s watch
  • At eight I set the back fence on fire
  • At eleven I got caught for public mischief
  • At twelve I got swats for talking too much in class
  • At fourteen I burned up some cotton trailers
  • At seventeen I went around town opening fire hydrants

WHAT ABOUT JESUS?

He was twelve when he separated himself from his parents and stayed behind in Jerusalem while they traveled north to Nazareth. When Joseph and Mary discovered he wasn’t with the caravan they headed back and it took them three days to find him. When they did, they were not happy. Nor were they impressed that he was sitting with the Rabbi’s studying and discussing the Torah.

TO CLOSE

I could tell stories of my own kids, but I won’t. But I’ll leave you with this. Kids can be foolish, impulsive, rebellious, unwise, disobedient and snarky. They are capable of mischief, breaking the law, fighting, stealing, cheating, lying, and other such behaviors.

Not all kids do all those things. I didn’t. But I did enough. Moms and Dads, I love you and pray for you and I know sometimes you want to pull your hair out. It’s okay, go ahead. But also know that from the first family on the planet to the very last, parents will know frustration and even heartbreak over what their kids can do.

Hang in there. You are in good company!

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.”

A Fist Full of a Dollar

Last  Sunday morning, in 2nd service, I was holding a basket for our children’s collection, to gather funds that bless our kids in Haiti.

15675662_10154870774631552_3389086574444121804_o

THE STORY

A little boy, I think he is 3 and one of my favorites, came up to give his dollar. He stood with his hand poised over the basket but was having trouble letting go. Others were waiting so his mom coaxed him to drop it in. But he wouldn’t. Then he happened to glance at one of the screens and saw himself “on TV.” That was his moment!

It was then I noticed that he had folded his dollar into a kind of airplane. He wasn’t gripping it due to its monetary value, nope, he just wasn’t ready to let go of his plane. But finally, he gave it a safe landing, smiled, and walked off holding his mom’s hand. It was the sweetest thing ever!

Basket of Dollars

I suppose we all hold on to something, to our…

  • memories
  • the past
  • fears and anxieties
  •  kids
  • pride
  • old letters
  • trust in the Lord
  • stuff

NOW: A FISHING STORY

Simon was preparing his nets for the next night of fishing, he was a commercial fisherman, and had just spent all night catching nothing. Then Jesus came by and asked him to take his boat to deep water and let his nets down. Simon didn’t want to. He knew successful fishing only happened at night. He argued a bit but reasoned that Jesus was an important rabbi, and so, he let them down and instantly they became full of fish. He shouted for his partners to bring their boat to help. When the nets were emptied both boats were overflowing with fish and looked as if they might sink.

Fishing Boat of Galillee

AN INVITATION

When they returned to shore, Jesus invited Simon to go with him and become one of his disciples, and he did. Simon let go of the greatest catch of fish in the history of the Sea of Galilee, or so I’m saying. He walked away from a boat full of “dollars” to walk on with Jesus.

Jesus didn’t fill the nets so Simon could make a killing at the market. He filled them so Simon would know that the Messiah had come, that Emanuel had arrived, that the long awaited Anointed One had appeared.

Simon could see that there was something more important than fish or money.

Peter and Jesus With Fish

TO CLOSE

We know that Simon was Simon Peter, the Apostle who preached on the Day of Pentecost and helped thousands to get saved. Peter demonstrated that a connection with Jesus was worth all he had.

And the little boy and his airplane? Well, he demonstrated an innocence and wide eyed wonder that made children the all time favorite of Jesus our Lord. Jesus loves the little children indeed.

Shalom 

 

Spirit Filled Wiggle Room

There are several phrases used in church that I haven’t located in Scripture. It’s okay, they don’t have to be found in scripture to be used.

Here Are a Few of Them

  • Have the communion trays been filled?
  • Who has our opening prayer?
  • Who’s officiating the Lord’s Supper?
  • Are we singing old or new songs?
  • Do we have announcements?
  • Is it time for the children’s contribution?
  • Don’t you think his sermons are too long!

These and others can be heard in my church on any given Sunday.

That’s because on any given Sunday we sing, pray, observe the Lord’s Meal, have a sermon and take up an offering. Sometimes we have a baby blessing, or a blessing for a mission trip, or for donated items to the less fortunate. Often there is a video, a testimonial or a baptism. It’s all pretty good.

IT’S REASSURING

Frankly, I find it reassuring that the Holy Spirit left “the worship service,” fairly vague. If a global, all time Order of Worship (another phrase not found in scripture) was important to the Spirit then it makes sense the Spirit would have given one. But he didn’t.

Clearly the early church sang, prayed, heard the word, shared the bread and wine and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Obviously they gave and they gave a lot.

Growing up in conservative churches our worship focus was about 40% on what we were doing and about 60% on doing it right. Doing it right was big in our church. Doing it right meant making sure we didn’t do it wrong. Doing it wrong might incur the wrath of God bringing judgment and condemnation on us and we sure didn’t want any of that.

IT’S DIFFERENT

It’s different today, or maybe I’m just different. The last few Sundays we took time to bless two groups of kids. The first were children about to start Kindergarten, a big change for them and their parents. We prayed over the parents during Bible Class and then over the kids in the worship assembly. The next week we did the same with kids, and their parents, entering the 7th grade. Both are important milestones. I’m glad we do that kind of thing. It’s important for the families and for the church family.

Children's Blessing 1
PRECIOUS LITTLE FIVE YEAR OLDS ABOUT TO START KINDERGARTEN 
SIXTH GRADE BLESSING
A BUNCH OF SWEET KIDS ABOUT TO START 7TH GRADE AND JOIN THE YOUGH GROUP!

IN CLOSING

I’m glad the Holy Spirit left us some wiggle room regarding what happens in worship.  The wiggling is some of the best stuff we do to encourage and bless others. I think the Spirit would be happy about it, but that’s just me.

Shalom

 

 

 

How Adorable Can You Get?

ON SUNDAY

Our church has a Family Ministry. It’s an 18 year curriculum for parents that’s organized by the milestones of a child’s life. The goal is for the church to partner with each family to support and equip them in their quest to raise Godly children.

One of the early milestones is a child transitioning from preschool to kindergarten. It’s a big deal for the child and can be a really big deal for moms and dads. This year, we have thirteen children entering Kindergarten.

Children's Blessing 1

On Sunday we recognized this milestone with our Family Ministry Team meeting with the parents to encourage them and pray over them. It was a beautiful thing. Then in our 2nd service we brought the kids on stage to give them a special blessing. It was sweet.

MORE THAN SWEET

But referring to it as sweet doesn’t capture all that it meant. It’s always precious to see young children in the spotlight but it’s so much more when we consider the significance those kids have and the special future God has planned.

  • Think about the amazing potential each one has
  • Consider the generations they will bring into the world
  • Imagine the impact they could have in their lifetimes
  • Embrace the endless possibilities that exist within a child’s heart
  • Rejoice that their young lives are being filled with Jesus Christ

children's blessing 2

PERSONALLY

I don’t remember kindergarten, I guess I went, but I don’t really remember. But one thing I know for sure, my church never brought me on stage or spoke words of blessing for a great future. They never prayed with my parents. I’m just grateful for those who have a better idea and are using their gifts and faith to help future generations.

TO CLOSE

They are adorable children, full of enthusiasm, unbridled energy, and souls as pure as new fallen snow. Jesus loves them. He loves all the little children. I think they are his favorite.

Have a great school year kids, you are loved and you are special!

A Very Cool Thing

There are things that warm my heart and fill my soul. Here are a few of them:

  • playful puppies
  • the love of a young child
  • an unexpected gift at an unexpected time
  • the hugs after baptisms

 FIRST: SOME JESUS CONTEXT

One day a wealthy man asked what he needed for salvation. He was told that because his wealth controlled him he needed to give it to the poor and make Jesus his one true master. He wouldn’t, and he left sad.

A woman was caught having sex with a man not her husband. The religious police brought her to Jesus trying to discredit him before the people, they failed and left defeated. Jesus didn’t condemn, but forgave, and encouraged her to live for God.

One night, an influential man approached Jesus saying that he must be a teacher from God due to his miraculous signs. Rather than discuss his credentials, Jesus taught him to be born again, that to enter the coming kingdom he would need to be born of the Spirit.

Three Key Thoughts:

  1. Make Jesus the Lord and master of your life.
  2. Look to Jesus for forgiveness and righteousness.
  3. Regardless of race or heritage, we all need to be born of the Spirit

Those three thoughts come together when a person confesses Jesus as Lord and Savior and is immersed into his name, and raised a new creation, fully cleansed, filled with the Spirit, and dedicated to holiness. Some call it baptism.

I saw a pic on Facebook of a Pastor, who is a dear friend, who was about to baptize some people, probably in the Conejos River, water temperature at snow melt levels!

A week ago I baptized a woman who happened to be deaf. Thankfully, our church has a member who interprets for the deaf and was a huge help. Being deaf had nothing to do with being baptized; it wasn’t about her hearing, but about her believing.

Below is a 20 second video clip of a dad baptizing his teenage son in a river very likely warmer than the Conejos. Watch the hug, its one of the things that warms my heart and fills my soul!