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Broken Pieces

Posted on December 9, 2019

It was one of those mornings. You know. When the sun wins a blue ribbon for a slow motion video of the darkness fleeing in every direction until it is overcome by the golden light that illuminates all of creation and wakes a sleeping world.

On this particular Summer morning, she felt drawn to every window in her small, country home, witnessing the transformation that appears when the darkness is chased away by the warm, soft sunlight. Walking from room to room, her senses brought to her attention how each room had a separate personality, feel, look and purpose.  Stopping in the middle of her favorite room, her kitchen, where much life had been shared and many needs had been met, she gazed out at the farm fields and gentle hills in awe of how God had used his golden pen to highlight his most recent work of art. A sensation of gratitude passed through her body as she spoke. “My Lord,  have you done all of this just for me, this morning? Why should I be so blessed to know such beauty, while others live without a glimpse of it? Thank you.  Because of what you have already given me this morning, you’ve made my day!”

She stood for a moment, taking it all in, her eyes fixed on the stained glass heart, which hung in the upper corner of her kitchen window. Her grandmother made it especially for her and gave it to her on her 13th birthday along with a handmade card which read, “Now my dear, you are a teenager. Guard your heart with all your might and every morning give it anew to God. He will watch over you and direct your paths for you are precious in His sight. Just as you are to me. I love you always! Grandma.”  She memorized those words her grandmother had written to her and treasured her gift more than any other. She smiled as she remembered all the wonderful times they had spent together. After school, the bus would drop her off at her grandmother’s house and they would spend hours together, talking, cooking, laughing, playing games and reading bible stories. In the summer, she would spend days there. Some of the most precious memories from her childhood, were the times with her grandma. Closing her eyes, visions of the two of them together floated in her mind and she wished they could be together just one more time. She spoke these words as if the two of them were working side by side once again, preparing a meal for a family in crises. “Oh Grandma, my life has not gone exactly the way I had planned or the way you had hoped. You always knew what to say, the right decisions, how to find the good in people and how to handle hard situations and you always took the time to listen to me, even when I grew to be a young women. You told me to keep trusting the Lord and to stay in his Word and I would find the plans he had for me. You were always there for me, no matter what. I miss you so much. I love you Grandma!”

As she studied the many pieces of stained glass, with beams of light from the heavens streaming through them igniting colors throughout her kitchen, she could feel her grandmother’s love and hear her sweet voice. She imagined her fingers, diligently working to cut the glass perfectly to fit the pattern and the look of satisfaction she must have had when she finished making this special gift for her granddaughter. Noticing how dusty it had become, she said to herself, “I should take it down and wash it”. As she reached up to remove it from the hook from where it hung, it slipped through her fingers, falling onto the counter and then to the floor. Gasping, she turned, only to see what was once a beautiful stained glass heart, now in pieces, scattered across the tile of the kitchen floor!

On the verge of tears and with feelings of anger swelling within her for not being more careful, she bit her lip and brought out the broom and dustpan and began cleaning up her mess. Not wanting to look at her broken treasure any longer and in disbelief of what she had done, she stood still, staring at the window where the heart once hung, wishing it to reappear, then taking a large serving tray, she slid broken glass onto it. Unable to bare the thought of throwing away this daily reminder of her grandmother’s love, she placed the serving tray on the counter until she could bring herself to dump it in the trash.  Turning aside for a moment, she imagined the serving tray shouting out to her, “HA HA! This is your reward for your carelessness! Broken pieces, just like your whole life has been!” Pretending to be callused against such a familiar remark, she walked away. With feelings of disgust and sorrow taking over, she looked for the darkest corner of her house to sit and sulk, something she did well. As she sat, thoughts and visions of past failures and disappointments replayed in her mind. She began to doze off and dreamed she was on a merry-go-round that was elevated high and would not stop for her to get off. The crowd of people watching her from the ground were playing a game called, “Remember When”. They were calling out her name and laughing at her! She wanted to get off and hide but she couldn’t get her body to move. She just kept going around and around listening to the chants of the crowd.

Startled by the ringing of her phone, she sat up, thankful to have been jolted back into reality. A smile came to her face when she saw the call was from her neighbor, Angelica, appropriately named for she was like an angel sent to her from God. An unlikely farm wife. As a child she had dreams of being a singer, dancer and actress. Then she fell in love with a farm boy, Adam Anderson, and now they live down the road, doing their best to raise their family, livestock and crops. Angelica, though twelve years younger than she, was her best friend ever!

“Gooood .. ‘morning, Naomi!” The sweet voice of her friend rang out in her usual, bright, melodic way. Just hearing the sound of Angelica’s rich alto voice softened her attitude and had a way of magically dissolving her stress. She could hear the children playing in the background as Angelica asked,”How’s my sweet neighbor doing this morning?” Naomi visualized the children playing on the hardwood floor with their Lego farm animals, buildings and tractors. Just the thought of Angelica’s children warmed her heart. Chubby little two year old, Abe, with his bushy brown hair, dark eyes and fixed smile. Sweet Ariel, four years old, hair of blonde, eyes of the morning sky and dreams as wild as the ocean! And of course, Alisha, The big sister at eight. Always watching out for her younger siblings. Her light brown hair and eyes that changed with the light from emerald to brown made  it obvious she was her mother’s child.

Trying hard to not give a clue to her poor disposition, due to the morning events, Naomi forced out a little laugh and a pleasant, “Good morning Angelica! Your neighbor, who could be sweeter,  is doing fine this morning. ” Knowing her all too well, Angelica sensed that something was bothering her, however, since Naomi did not volunteer to tell her what it was, she decided not to ask just yet. After instructing her children to be quiet while she was on the phone, Angelica proceeded to tell Naomi of her plans for the day. “I will be out delivering this morning. Is it OK if I swing by in 30?” “Oh yes. That would be great!” Answered back, Naomi. “I’ll be here!” ” The children are going with Adam to the Farm and Ranch at Willow Crossing for supplies, Yeah!” Chimed Angelica. “So it will just be me this time. See you in a few!”

Do you have an, “Angelica”, in your life? I hope you do. As I am writing this story, based partly on people I have known in my life, I can’t help thinking of Naomi and Ruth, from the Book of Ruth in the Bible. If you recall, in the days when the judges ruled, Naomi and her husband, Elimelech, along with their two sons moved from Bethlehem to Moab to escape an extreme drought. During the years they lived there, the sons grew and each married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. In time, Naomi’s husband died and then both of her sons died, before having any children, leaving Naomi, Orpah and Ruth without any men to support them or give them families of their own. Now, Naomi  worshiped the God of Israel, Jehovah, but her daughter in laws, being of the land of Moab, worshiped pagan gods. Naomi decided that her best option for survival was to return to her home town of Bethlehem in hopes a relative there would take her in. Naomi knew that two Moabite women turning up in Bethlehem would have little chance of finding husbands so she told Orpah and Ruth to return to their hometowns and to their own families in Moab where hopefully two men would choose them for their wives, since they were still considered young women. Obviously they had great love for each other for the Bible states, “they wept aloud” and then, “they wept again.” Reluctantly, Orpah returned to her family in Moab, however, Ruth was determined to stay with Naomi. The following words that Ruth spoke in her response to Naomi, possibly go unmatched in revealing the depth of love, loyalty, commitment and faithfulness that one human being can feel toward another. Ruth’s Resolve to go with and stand by Naomi, no matter what lies ahead, until death, is nothing short of an awesome statement of eternal friendship! As you read Ruth’s words, from one broken woman to another broken woman, place yourself in Naomi’s shoes. Upon hearing Ruth speak, what tremendous encouragement and boost in her self worth this must have given her. Do you have a friend who may need to know of your resolve to be the best friend you can be, no matter what, until death do you part?

Let’s open the window into thousands of years past and watch and hear this conversation between Naomi and Ruth. See them dressed to travel in simple clothes, carrying only a few possessions and enough food for 4 or 5 days. Naomi and Ruth standing on a hardened dirt path that will take them on a 40 mile journey, first North, then across the Arnon River, up around the North end of the Dead Sea, across the River Jordan and then South East to Bethlehem. In the distance you can see the back of Orpah as she is walking away. Finding it hard for words, Noami and Ruth hug one last time. Then with tears flowing, they look into each others eyes and with broken voices of emotion, they speak. Listen to their conversation as recorded in chapter 1 of Ruth. “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister in law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” But Ruth replied,  “Don’t urge me to leave or to turn back from you! Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me!”

Wow! Do you feel what I do when I read this? I believe there was much more that tied these two women together, like two strands that could never be broken, than just the fact that they were related through marriage. I see a respect and a love, one for the other, so great that it places the other’s needs before their own, not asking for anything in return. Isn’t this similar to the Agape’ love that our Heavenly Father extends to us? First as our creator and designer, then as our provider and then ultimately as our Redeemer! loving us with an everlasting love and wanting us to spend eternity with Him in the awesome place he has made for us called Heaven. Freely offering salvation for all who will seek forgiveness through His Son, Jesus Christ, who came to show us how to live. Who was crucified to pay for our sin’s and then rose on the third day and is now at the right hand of The Father in Heaven. While on earth, Jesus told us that if we will believe in Him, where He is going, there we will also be. God even gives us the faith to believe in Him, asking little in return, but to love Him back and love others as He loves us.

Now, let’s watch as Naomi, in our story, meets Angelica at the door, loaded down with a box of milk, eggs, meat and her wonderful homemade yogurt. “Oh, I just love these warm summer mornings!” Commented Angelica, as she made her way to the kitchen with,”The good stuff”, as she liked to call it. Setting the box on the counter, she spotted the platter with broken colored glass over to the side and looked up to see the stained glass heart was missing from the window . Quickly assessing what had happened and knowing how much the gift from her grandma meant to Naomi, Angelica’s mind went into high gear trying to think of something encouraging to say to Naomi…. She turned and simply gave Naomi a hug and said, “I’m so sorry.” And then exclaimed,”Oh Naomi! How beautiful are these pieces of colored glass! You should make something out of them!” Naomi was silent, still unable to think past the ruin of her grandma’s glass artwork. Angelica, desperate to say something that would bring her friend out of this obvious state of self punishment, blurted out, “You could make another stained glass design out of these pieces!” Swallowing her tears, Naomi responded in a weak voice,”Me? I’m not an artist like my grandma and besides, I’m good at breaking things, not fixing them.” Angelica placed her hands on Naomi’s shoulders, looked straight into her eyes and said, ” Yes you, Naomi Swan! Your grandmother lives on in your heart.” She went on,”In our women’s Bible study we have been talking about how so much today is built to throw away when it breaks, but the really important things in life, when broken, are meant to be redeemed and made into something new! Re created! Naomi, that stained glass heart was important to you. What would your grandmother do with the broken pieces? Naomi looked at the platter of broken glass and then looked back at Angelica.  “OK.”She said.”I’ll think about it.” Before Angelica went out the door, she turned to Naomi and said,”Promise me, Miss Swan, that if you think about throwing those broken pieces of glass away, you will give them to me instead.” Naomi laughed as she spoke, “OK, OK, I promise! Now go before I give them to you today!” Standing on the porch, Naomi yelled out as Angelica climbed into the old battered pickup loaded with coolers full of “the good stuff. ” Thanks!” Angelica gave her a thumbs up as she pulled away.

Naomi had to laugh just a bit. Her friend did not fit the role of a farm wife. But her heart was in it and she was determined to be the best wife and helper for Adam and the best mother to those kids. Chuckling, Naomi thought to herself, “Angelica would probably win hands down a  best dressed farm wife in America contest! ” Then speaking only to her house and God she asked,”Lord, what would I do without her? Just being around Angelica helps me see what is really important in life. Here I am, sobbing over broken glass! Knowing Angelica has given me purpose to live again! I want to be a better person and I am learning again to walk by faith and not by sight.” She thought she could almost hear her grandma saying, “That’s my girl!” Walking back to her kitchen, Naomi stopped and contemplated  what she could do with the broken glass. “Angelica is right. We live in a throw away world.” Realizing she had missed her quiet time that morning, she sat down with her notebook and pen and opened her Bible to where she had stopped reading the day before, Hebrews ch. 10.

“Yes!” Exclaimed Naomi. Reading again out loud, verse 24. “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” She continued on as if someone was sitting there at the table with her. “That’s what Angelica has done for me! A few years ago my life was like those broken pieces of glass. Lord, by bringing Angelica into my life you have given me a new heart and have transformed me to reflect who you are, at least a little bit. Now, as a thank you, I will give her a new heart made of broken pieces of colored glass.!” Looking upward, Naomi spoke as if she was a child learning to ride a bicycle for the first time, ” You are going to have to help me with this cause I have no idea how to do it.”

Feeling good about her decision and being excited to follow in her grandma’s steps by making a stained glass heart for her friend, Naomi spent a couple of hours on her computer researching the art of stained glass. Already feeling overwhelmed and under skilled and with a list of tools and supplies she would need to do the job, she decided to head for town to see what was available locally. Seeing flashing lights of emergency vehicles up ahead near the Deer creek bridge, she took a detour into town. Judging by the number of lights flashing and all the volunteer fire department trucks that were still arriving, Naomi thought to herself, ” Something pretty bad must have happened. I  should pull over and pray for everyone there.”

At the local craft store, after browsing for an hour, Naomi walked to the check out with a basket of promising tools and craft making  items, armed with a smile and thinking of the challenge the task before her presented. Just then, she caught a glimpse of someone rushing through the front door of the store. She turned to see it was her friend, Judy. Naomi could tell something was wrong. Judy, what is it? She asked. It’s Angelica! A semi lost control on the bridge and took Angelica’s truck over the side with it!  Catching her breath and taking hold of Naomi’s hand, Judy continued, Angelica is in critical condition in surgery at the hospital.

Who can measure the heaviness of our heart when we receive news such as this? Naomi reached over to the counter to keep from loosing her balance. She asked the clerk to hold her items for her and she would return tomorrow for them. How can we explain at times like this, how all of our problems and difficulties suddenly seem small and insignificant. Naomi’s first thoughts were of Angelica’s children. How thankful she was that they had gone with their dad that morning. She felt ashamed that she had wasted her tears over trivial matters earlier. Now her tears held value and overflowed with love and concern and were mixed with prayers for this one who’s life hung in the balance. Shaking her head, Naomi stopped herself short from thinking what her life would be like without Angelica. Where do the formalities of prayer go when everything in our mind, body and soul reaches up to God pleading for him to intercede? The moment Naomi sat down in her car and shut the door she dropped her head and cried out,”Oh God! Don’t let Angelica die! Her family needs her! I need her! Lord, she has so much purpose here. God, I know you would take wonderful care of her there in Heaven with you, but please let us have her a little longer.”
How our priorities change when someone we love is fighting for life. Over the next few weeks and then months, Naomi’s main purpose was to do whatever she could to help Angelica’s family. She made herself available as often as she could to take care of the children so Adam could be with Angelica or do farm work. Neighboring farmers and ranchers were incredible examples of love in action as they lived out their prayers for the Anderson family. With their help, along with many others, Adam was able to keep his farming operation going and still be with Angelica when she most needed him. Lonnie Batesman, the driver of the semi, did not survive the accident, leaving his wife and 3 teenage children to continue running their farm. Lonnie and his family were friends of the Andersons which added much weight to the pain of this tragedy. The community reached out in remarkable ways to help the Batesman family as well as the Andersons.

After months of recovery and rehab, Angelica was ready to come home! It was a day never to be forgotten by all who had gathered in the Anderson’s front yard to welcome Angelica with banners, balloons and cheers. With the help of friends and a local car dealer, Adam was able to acquire a later model pickup that would be easier for Angelica to get in and out of as she carried out her weekly deliveries of “the good stuff”,  her favorite job on the farm. The shiny gold truck pulled slowly in the drive and stopped a short distance from the new steps, Adam had built, leading up to the front porch. For a few moments there was silence as Adam helped Angelica stand. Then carefully balancing herself between Adam and the truck door, she looked in amazement at her awesome support team who were now standing on either side of the children as they held a big sign which read,”Welcome home Mommy!” As Alisha, Ariel and Abe ran to hug their mother and then help her navigate up the stairs, the front porch was suddenly transformed into a beautiful stage and Angelica, the star of the show, as the sound of a standing ovation erupted from the audience!

Naomi, wanting to freeze this moment in her mind, studied the Anderson’s expressions and looked over the crowd. Her eyes were drawn back to Angelica. She thought to herself, ” Angelica has never been more radiant!” Her special glasses framed in fashionable pink and black accented her natural beauty. Turning to her husband, Angelica said, “Hold me tight!” Then looking toward Heaven, with both arms outstretched in praise position, she shouted, “I’m home!”

In the days to come the Anderson family traveled to the homes of all those who had touched their lives with acts of love since the time of the accident, offering them their choice of “The good stuff” as a thank you gift. Abe and Ariel were quick to point out to everyone that mommy had a new leg and they got to help her take it off and put it on while Alisha assumed the self appointed role of her mothers personal nurse and delivery assistant. Adam continued to find ways to update their old farm house making it easier for his wife to maneuver from room to room. They kept in close contact with the Batesman family, helping them however they could.

Naomi finished the new stained glass heart just in time for Angelica’s birthday. Now her mission was to find just the right verse to write in her card. Bible in hand, Naomi walked out to the back porch where she could watch God slowly wash the bright colors of the fields and the blue sky into various shades of grays and black. The clear full moon, in it’s magical way,  must have slid a piece of chalk down it’s silvery beam to accent the edges of the metal rooftops of the out buildings and outlined the pond in the distance. Soon the entire back yard became as romantic as a 100 year old black and white photo that has a way of holding time in it’s place. “This is it!” Shouted Naomi! Loud enough to scare off a raccoon, who had crept in the yard in search of leftover cat food. With her finger on Psalms 147, Naomi spoke slowly and softly, as if she was learning to read, enunciating every syllable to savor the last drop of meaning from each word, “He heals the brokenhearted … and binds up their wounds … He counts the number of the stars … and calls them all by name.  Amen! ” Laughing, she added sarcastically, ” And Lord, I think you know the number of glass slivers I got in my fingers! But it was worth it and you helped me all the way, just like you always do.”

Checking her voice mail, Naomi saw she had missed a call from Angelica, “Hey beautiful friend!” Angelica’s musical voice rang out, “My assistant and I will be rolling your way around 10:00 Saturday morning. Let me know if you need anything other than the usual. Love you tons!” Considering the history and all the feelings that went into the making of the new stained glass heart, Naomi thought it best if she wasn’t there when Angelica received her gift. Speaking to the gift and shaking her head, she declared, “That would be an emotional scene!” Calling Angelica, Naomi informed her that she needed to drive over to Eagle Ridge Saturday morning and to have Alisha put her delivery in the fridge. “Do you remember where the key is?” Asked Naomi. “Yes!” Exclaimed Angelica. “You know, it’s surprising with all I’ve forgotten, I still remember that! Yeah!” “Oh! And when you are here,” Naomi added. “I have a little something for you that will be on the kitchen counter.” “Oh boy! I can’t wait!” Angelica responded..”You know how I love surprises and what a coincidence, I have a little something for you as well and I will leave it in the kitchen .”

“God,” Naomi asked. “Why is it so hard to write what I want to say to Angelica? Please give me words that make sense.” Naomi spoke as she wrote. “Dear Angelica, It is my prayer that this heart made of many broken pieces will serve to remind you of how awesome our God is. Even the smallest broken piece of our lives is important to him and he will take it along with other broken pieces and make something beautiful of us! Redeeming us through the righteousness of Christ where we become forgiven and whole and useful once again. Angelica, when you found me, I was lost with no hope. I had made a mess of my life. Yet you saw something in me that was worth saving that I couldn’t see. I know now that Jesus had hold of your one hand as you reached down with your other hand into that dark hole I lived in and pulled me into the light! The good stuff you have brought into my life is not only the good food from your farm, but even more than that, it is the good stuff you have brought to my soul! You have taught me what living for God and others is all about and you have been Jesus in the real world to me more ways than you know.” Laying her hand on Angelica’s gift, Naomi continued.  “Now, I echo the words of Ruth as she spoke to  Naomi in the Bible. May the Lord deal with me severely if anything but death separates you and me. Amen.”

When Naomi returned from Eagle Ridge on Saturday, she walked directly to the kitchen to make sure Angelica had picked up her gift. Seeing the gift was gone she breathed a sigh of gratitude. Glancing up where her grandmother’s heart had once hung in her window she was surprised to see a beautifully framed photo of her and Angelica, standing arm in arm, hanging in it’s place. “Oh Angelica, you are too much.” Naomi said softly. She stared at the photo, remembering exactly where and when it was taken. Three times Angelica had stopped by to invite her to a women’s retreat and three times Naomi answered, “No way!” The fourth time she asked her, Naomi heard what she thought was  her grandmother’s voice saying, “You need to go.” Before she realized what she had done she answered, OK, I’ll go.” It was the scariest thing she had ever done, but it became one of the best decisions of her life. At that retreat, Naomi encountered Jesus in a personal way like never before. Studying the photo, she saw that Angelica had hand painted, in small letters, a passage from Ecclesiastes ch 4 around the frame that read,”Two are better than one. If either falls down, one can help the other up.”

Walking outside to look up at the night sky, Naomi wondered how many stars were in the heavens and what names God called each of them by???  “Oh Lord,” Naomi prayed, ” once again you’ve made my day! … Oh who am I kidding…. You’ve made my life!”

If your life is anything like mine,  your table has seen many broken pieces. The question is, have you asked the Lord to take those jagged broken pieces, clean them up, smooth the edges and make something new out of them? Why should you? Well, for one, you are precious in his sight. There is no one exactly like you, never has been, never will be. You are the only person who can offer back to him all that you are made of. Yes, it is scary to think about becoming a new creation, but when you allow God to do it, by using his Word and other people he brings into your life, you will be perfectly satisfied with who you are and he then will use you to touch others lives with his love.

I Wish You Godspeed!                                                                                                                                     Bob


Journey To Christmas

Posted on December 26, 2017

His life had been nothing much to brag about. He had made more mistakes than he cared to remember. He often wondered why he even existed? Did his life really count? If so, then why didn’t he have anything to show for it? His friends numbered no more than the fingers on one hand and he hadn’t seen any of them in months. He never married and had no other family, so basically, he was alone in the world. Oh, he had a few treasures wrapped in the blanket that was slung over his shoulder. A drinking cup, a sling, his hunting knife, a fishing net and a small leather bag with some items Esther had given him. It wasn’t much, but it grew heavier every step that he took  over the rough terrain. He chose the more difficult, less traveled path for this journey. It was best if no one recognized him. He would just as soon his past stayed in the past. He laughed out loud. Who was he kidding? It seemed he had always taken the hard road in life. Speaking ,somewhat sarcastically, into the night air as if to smooth over his poor choices before his fellow travelers, who lived only in his mind, he said,”Why should I change now? Besides, I don’t know how to do things the easy way. That would be out of character for me.” Satisfied with his assessment concerning his pattern of living, he stopped and mumbled, “Yep. That’s about it. What do you say we sleep for the night under those rocks?”

Whenever he opened his blanket, revealing his belongings, his memories of Esther were awakened. And why shouldn’t they be? She was the only one who ever really loved him and cared for him. Raising him as her own from a young child to manhood. Never having a husband chosen for her and no children of her own, he became the child and then the man in her life. As he laid down, he thought of her faithfulness. Whenever the scrolls were opened, she was there hanging on every word and memorizing all she could. Then she would recite the stories about God to him at the end of each day. She believed that every person was created by God with a special purpose in life. Of course, being named after the famous Esther who saved her people from annihilation, gave her great incentive to believe that was possible. He often thought her special purpose was finding him when he was near death, washed up on the shore after his family’s boat was broken to pieces during a storm. His parents were never found.  Esther took him in as her own and from that day forth she lived her life for him. She taught him everything she knew and when she died he was barely old enough to live on his own. Because of what he learned from her, he survived. Now, nearly twenty years later, he knew his days were numbered and he wondered, had he missed his calling? His special purpose? Could God still find him useful for anything significant? Drying a tear, he confessed, “I have fallen short of Esther’s dreams for me. She had such high hopes. God must be shaking his head right now, thinking, “what a waste”.

Speaking to no one there, he said,” Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m hungry!” So, he started a fire beside the rock he had claimed for the night and with net and knife in hand went down by the waterside in search of  fish.  He did pride himself in his ability to hunt, camp and fish well enough so he had never been to the point where he had to beg for food and on occasion he could help others who weren’t able to provide for themselves. He could start a camp fire with little of nothing. And even at his age he was strong and agile and could take care of himself against those who sought to harm him. Esther was a remarkable woman. Training him up in ways most men weren’t capable of doing. If only he could thank her for all she had done for him.

As the sun set low, he expected, at best, to return to his campsite with one small fish for his evening meal. Wading into the water a little further and then standing still and quiet, as if he were pretending to be a statue, he waited. Starting to lose patience, he glanced back toward his camp to see if his fire was still burning when he felt movement around his feet. Looking down, he hardly could believe his eyes! There were four large fish swimming around his feet! A swift movement of his net brought them up out of the water. He held them high and shouted, “Jehovah Jireh! My Provider! I asked for an evening meal and you gave me a morning meal and noon meal as well!  This has never happened before!” He stood for a moment in amazement, then off he went to clean and cook his prize. He was not a Jew by birth, but Esther had given him her family name and taught him that Jehovah God was his God as well and that he should show proper respect and honor to him always.”This is a good night”, he thought to himself, as he sat with his fish over the fire, anticipating the first bite.

Hearing the sound of a hoofed animal approaching, he called out, ” Who goes there?” A man’s voice answered back through the night air, “My wife and myself, on our way to my hometown to register for the census.” With one hand on his knife and the other searching the ground for a rock that would fit nicely in his sling, he called back,”Come near my fire so I can see you.” Knowing all too well that robbers were common in this area,he waited, muscles tensing and mentally  ready to spring into action if it should be necessary.  As they slowly walked into the flickering light of his campfire, he relaxed. It was obvious that they meant him no harm. Actually, they were somewhat of a pitiful sight. He noticed quickly the wife was great with child. Esther had taught him all about how a woman carries a child in the womb. Remembering how she described it, he predicted that this baby was about ready to enter the world!

Esther’s sweet voice echoed through the pages of his mind. “When God blesses you with plenty, share it with someone who has little.” He smiled and said to the ragged couple,”please, would you join me for this evening meal? I caught extra fish today! Looking relieved, the man replied,”That is very kind of you. Yes, we would love to join you. We have some bread, dried fruit and olives we can add to the meal!.” He gave thanks for the food and for company of the travelers. Ester had taught him to always be very attentive to the ways of those around him because, as she would often state, “We live in perilous times!” He found that lesson in living to be quite helpful a number of times, often alerting him to the dishonest, harmful intentions of others.. As they enjoyed the meal together he assessed the man and his wife and came to the conclusion that they were honest in what they had told him earlier. He also sensed they had not been married very long for they were not all that familiar with each other’s mannerisms. Which puzzled him because the wife was most certainly ready to deliver this baby and she was obviously very uncomfortable and ready to find more accommodating quarters. Regardless, they had faith that Jehovah would see them safely to their destination. Their faith reminded him much of Esther’s. Once he felt he could trust them, he apologized for not introducing himself and said, “I am Amos.” “I am Joseph,” the man replied,” and this is my wife, Mary.” “Amos is a good Jewish name!” Joseph said, as he and Mary began preparing to leave. I was given that name after the Shepherd Prophet of old. Amos felt an uneasiness in the night air and something deep down told him to stay close to this couple. He had an eerie feeling, like there was some kind of evil struggle taking place out there in the blackness of the night. Amos spoke up just as the couple was ready to go,”Why don’t you stay here for the night? You are more than welcome, then you will be rested up for another day of travel.” Joseph and Mary conversed briefly, then Joseph replied, “We accept your gracious offer! The rest will do my wife good.” Without thinking, Joseph added,” the time is near for our son to be born.” Amos was puzzled,”how do you know this child is a boy? Oh! Thinking quickly, Joseph responded, Women have a way of knowing these things. To change the subject, he said,”we will sleep over there in front of the rocks, away from the fire a bit. Mary was feeling very warm today. Before Mary laid down to sleep, she walked over to Amos and for the first time spoke freely to him, expressing her gratitude for all he was doing for them and then she placed her hand on his shoulder, asking a blessing over him,” May the Lord of Heaven and Earth, reward you greatly for the kindness you you have shown us on this day.” Amos turned and attended the fire, not wanting to show his emotion. Mary was the first person to speak to him in that way since Esther had died.

The three of them settled in for the night.
With one last gaze at the night sky, before drifting off, Amos prayed silently,” Thank you Lord God for Esther. If not for her, I wouldn’t be alive today. And thank you for this couple from Nazareth to be my guests and keep me company. I ask your protection over them both and their child in the womb, till they reach Bethlehem.”

Before his eyes were closed, a movement in the nearby bushes alerted him. A quick glance at Joseph and Mary assured him they were already asleep. Taking his sling in one hand and his knife in the other, Amos quietly rolled out of the light of the campfire where his eyes could adjust to the darkness. He focused intently on the bushes where he had heard the stirring. He could faintly make out the silhouettes of two men moving toward Joseph and Mary. One man was holding a large stone over his shoulder and the other held out to his side what looked to be a long knife. Without making a sound, Amos reached to the ground, finding a stone to fit his sling. He stood and released it. The stone found it’s target, striking the first man in the side of his head! He groaned and feel to the ground. The second man turned to run as Amos threw another stone by hand, striking him in the middle of the back. The man staggered, dropped his knife, then caught his balance and disappeared into the night. The first man sprang to his feet and ran off the other direction. Joseph heard the commotion and awoke in time to see the men running off. “Robbers!” Amos said with disgust.” Then he asked Joseph,”is there any reason someone would not want you to reach Bethlehem or want to cause harm to you and your wife?” Shaking his head, Joseph responded,”Not that I am aware of, however, I will tell you this. “The child Mary is carrying is very important and must be protected at all cost.” Amos didn’t quite understand all that, but then, he supposed every child was important to their parents. The two agreed they would take turns keeping watch through the night. Amos said to Joseph,” I am traveling to the town just beyond Bethlehem. I will walk with you tomorrow, but a short distance ahead so I can alert you to any danger along the way. The two men shook hands. Joseph thought of how fortunate he and Mary were to have come across a man as trustworthy and capable as Amos.

Returning to the campsite, they found Mary still sleeping. Amos spoke softly, “She must be exhausted… She is so young.” Joseph nodded and replied,”Yes, but her unwavering faith and trust in the Lord God is well beyond her years. I am blessed to have her as my wife.” I learn much from her every day. I am humbled to have been chosen to be her husband. I will do whatever it takes to protect her and our child and provide for them as long as God allows me to live.” Amos was moved by the faith of this couple and their strong devotion to each other.

The bright morning sun brought promise of a new day away from the dangers of the night. Amos was on watch at sunrise so he gathered some berries to go with the food that Joseph and Mary had brought with them.

As Amos was putting the last of the fire out a poisonous viper suddenly emerged from the ashes, slithering directly toward Mary! “Joseph!” Amos cried out. With one strong swing of his walking stick Joseph slung the viper away from them. Amos quickly picked up the large stone the robber had dropped the night before and heaved it, crushing the viper’s head! Shaking, Mary asked,”Where did that come from?” “From out of the ashes!” Amos exclaimed, “I’ve never seen anything like that happen!” They were all silent for a few moments and Amos spoke up,”I think we need to keep moving until we reach Bethlehem.” “Mary, are you up to that?” Joseph asked. Mary nodded emotionally, in agreement.

A long day of travel would bring them to Bethlehem by nightfall. Not the best time to arrive in a town where you have no family or friends living there anymore to help you settle in, especially in Mary’s condition.
As they began their last day together, determined to reach Bethlehem, Amos felt a deep sense of responsibility to see this couple and their baby safely to Bethlehem. He believed there was some force much darker than anything he had experienced before trying to stop Mary from having this child. For the first time in his life he had a purpose that was worth dying for.

Amos walked ahead about twenty paces, but when there seemed to be no danger he would fall back and walk along side of Joseph and Mary. He knew them only one day, yet he felt he could trust them with anything. He shared with them how Esther had saved him from near death and taken him in, raising him and teaching him all she knew. Joseph in turn shared with Amos that Mary had become with child before they were married, so even though they knew this trip would be very difficult on Mary, it was somewhat of a relief to have left Nazareth, where they were looked down upon because of their situation.
The closer they were to Bethlehem, the more turbulent the atmosphere became. It was as if a mighty battle was taking place all around them. One they could not see or hear. Their legs became heavy as if someone was trying to pull them backwards. As the sun dropped out of sight, flickering lights came into view. “We are almost there”, said Amos, in hopes of encouraging Mary. “Joseph!” Cried Mary,”This baby is coming soon! You must find a room for me and someone to help with the birthing!” Amos ran toward Bethlehem. Yelling back,”I will find a place for you!”

Reluctantly, Amos met the couple at the edge of town and said to them, “Everything is full in town because of the census! No one will offer you any place to stay.” Mary began to weep. “There is a man, Amos added, not far up who said we could use his stable, down the hill behind his house. He has a lantern we can borrow and I found a woman who is warming some water for us and will give us some clean cloths. I’m so sorry I could not find a room.” Mary screamed! “There’s no time! Get me to the stable fast!” Amos led the couple to the stable then ran for the water and cloths and lantern. Arriving back at the stable he found Joseph cleaning a stall the best he could, looking frantic as he anticipated the arrival of the baby in such a dirty place. Mary was in much pain and Amos knew time was running out. Leaving the water and cloths by Mary’s side, he said reassuringly,”I will stand guard just outside the stable for the rest of the night… If you need anything, call me.”

The night air grew cold and the gentle breeze became gusts coming first from one direction and then another. to his left Amos heard a pack of wolves howling nearby that seemed to be drawing closer! To his right he heard a sound that he was certain came from a wild boar preparing to charge! He had two small stones in his sling and his knife in hand. He stood poised as a soldier on the front line of battle, ready for whatever comes next. Then suddenly the wind stopped and animals were silent. Amos held his breath, not knowing what to expect. Out of the silence came the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. The cry of a newborn baby! With his back against the post of the stable, he slide down to the ground and cried out,”Thank you Lord!” He listened to the sweet sounds of the baby and Joseph and Mary laughing and then crying and then laughing again. “It’s a boy, Amos!” Joseph shouted. “Imagine that!” Amos replied back with a laugh. “Come and see him, Amos.”Mary called out in a soft voice. “I’ll give you two some time. I’ll be there in a bit.”He answered emotionally.

Amos closed his eyes, remembering Esther’s words as she told him about when the great Esther of old was about to approach the King to ask him to save her people. Mordecai, who raised her, said to her,”Perhaps you were born for such a time as this.” Now, for the first time, Amos felt he could claim those words as his own!

He was startled by the sounds of footsteps and men’s voices approaching the stable! “Who goes there?” Asked Amos. One of men spoke,”We are shepherds from the field just outside of town.” They stopped when they saw Amos facing them with a weapon in each hand. Another man spoke up,”An angel appeared to us in the sky proclaiming a Savior is born tonight in the city of David and we would find him lying in a manger. We have come to see him! Is he in there?” Mary cried out,” Let them come in. It’s OK” One by one, with great reverence, the shepherds entered the stable. It was the most awesome sight Amos had ever seen. Some of the shepherds knelt before the child, heads bowed. Others stood back with hands raised, praising God! Mary spotted an older man who had not entered the stable. She motioned for him to come to her. In a broken voice he said,”I am not worthy to be here.” Fixing her eyes upon the man, Mary said gently,”Because of this child, all people can be worthy. Come and touch him.” With tears streaming down his face the old man shuffled slowly through the straw toward Mary. He reached down and softly touched the baby. He turned and fell into the straw, sobbing. Amos stood by, taking it all in. Hardly believing what he was seeing. The shepherds left the stable, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard! Amos brought his small leather bag into the stable and knelt in the straw before Mary, Joseph and the baby. He pulled out a strip of cloth that Esther had written on her favorite words from the ancient Prophets. Amos searched the small writing until he found what he was looking for. He stood in the light of the lantern and proclaimed,” From the words of the prophet, Isaiah, For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given. He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!”

Of course, this story of Amos is not found in the Bible. He lives only in my imagination. However, Joseph and Mary must have come in to contact with many people as they journeyed to Christmas. We know, as well, from the scripture that the angels of God were in a fierce battle with the forces of darkness as they attempted to kill the Christ child and stop the birth of Christ from taking place in Bethlehem. Glory be to God! For Satan was defeated and the prophecies of the birth of Christ stand fulfilled and the Christ child has become the Savior of the world! Hallelujah!

This Christmas season, just as Amos discovered his purpose in God’s sovereign plan, may we survey all the Lord has given us and the people he has placed in our lives and may we find that we also, have been born for such a time as this.

Merry Christmas! Bob

The Thunderstorm Friend

Posted on May 7, 2015

It was late afternoon, when the old man was walking slowly on a narrow path through his garden, giving thanks to God for the colorful flowers that grew there and at the same time thanking Him for the beautiful friendships that had grown in his garden of life. Sensing that the wind was about to change from the south to the east, he turned to his garden and proclaimed, “Rain is comin!” A quick glance at the darkening western sky with thunderheads boiling high, gave him the confidence to add to his prophecy, “And a storm with it!” Filled with enthusiasm, he thought to himself,”It’s time to get my house in order.” Stopping often to catch his breath, he eventually made it up to his house.

After taking care of what needed to be done, he looked out of his window at the approaching thunderstorm. With excitement and anticipation he hurried, the best he could, to his porch where he could be as close as possible to this tremendous display of God’s reoccurring, creative power. A cool breeze drew him to his favorite chair. As he nestled down, lightening illuminated the sky and thunder shook the very foundation of his house! A smile of amazement, along with a feeling of awe, slightly mixed with fright, ushered in the anticipated adrenaline rush! Eyes wide, he awaited the first drop of rain….. There it was! A pitter…and then a patter, growing and intensifying rapidly! The old man braced himself. Without warning, sounding like a stampede of wild horses racing toward him, blankets of rain drenched everything in sight!… His thoughts leaped centuries into the past. He wondered what it might have been like for Noah and his family. Did they peer out of small openings at the top of the Ark to see the waters falling from the heavens and shooting up from the earth like had never been seen before? Then a horrible thought entered his mind. Did they hear the screams of people perishing as the raging flood waters took them down? What about their friends? Surely they had a few friends that didn’t dessert them? If so, they didn’t believe and they were lost…. As quickly as it came, the rain slowed it’s pace to a gentle rhythmic beat.

Now in a dreamy state, the man sat back to relax and just listen to God as long as natures melody would last. With the night air now filled with a freshness left behind by the rain, he spoke toward Heaven, as if he were addressing a great cloud of witnesses, “What a blessed man I am!” The rain reminded him of his friend who loved thunderstorms as much as he did. He began asking God to bless his friend by meeting the needs in his life and he thanked Him for causing their paths to cross. This was no ordinary friend. He only had one friend like this in all his years. Through the storms of life, this friend was there for him. Standing strong, as an anchor on a ship that is buffeted by violent winds. His friend had  been a constant in his chaotic life, providing a safe harbor in this turbulent world. One who he could come to whether he was happy or sad or anywhere in between. Some suggested that this person was an unlikely friend for him. But the old man just thanked God all the more for the privilege of loving one so rare. When others were judgmental, pointing fingers to blame and find fault, his friend stood ready to forgive, love and encourage. When the world caused him to feel small and useless, just talking to his friend gave him a renewed sense of self worth. Just thinking of his friend lifted his spirits. What joy it brought him to send his friend a happy birthday note or text him with an occasional,”How are you doing today?” Oh, if they only could be together now, side by side, witnessing this reminder of God’s activity on earth. It was like there was a chord attached between their hearts that could never be broken no matter how long or how far they were apart. When his friend’s heart ached, he hurt. When his friend was happy, he was satisfied. His friend had a way of speaking to him so honestly and openly about what was going on inside, not hiding it as some have a habit of doing. He was honored and humbled to be trusted in such a way. What a joy it was to lift up his friend to the throne of God in prayer and through faith, he knew that God was touching his friend’s life in some big or small way. They seemed to understand each other in such a simple and straight forwardness. No matter what events may befall either of them in the uncertainty of life, their hearts were inseparable…. The old man’s thoughts drifted back to when they first met. He admitted, they were an unlikely pair. Some would call it chance, but no, it was God. It was obvious that the Lord knew they needed each other in this world. The man felt sorry for those who would never know this kind of friendship.

As the last rain drop fell, he reflected on how he was a better person just by knowing his friend. Their friendship had energized his purpose in life and gave him confidence that the Lord could still use him. Circumstances had become such, that they seldom saw one another anymore, yet somehow, they were never really apart. In a feeble manner, the old man walked back into his house with the awareness that this was the last thunderstorm that he would ever witness on earth. He wondered what his friend was doing and was so thankful  they both knew Jesus and they would, one day, be serving the Lord together, forever. Surrounded by darkness, he offered up one last prayer. “Oh Lord, take care of my friend. Who will be here to encourage or just listen? Please send someone.” As he faded off, he whispered, ” God, if for nothing else… but to know the love… of such a friend… it was all worth it.”…

Perhaps you have such a friend. Or, do you long for a friendship like this? Possibly you once had this kind of friend, but they are gone now. Maybe you are this kind of friend to someone? I wonder if David and Jonathan, from the Old Testament, had a friendship like this? What about Ruth and Naomi? Or maybe Paul and one of his traveling companions?

Isn’t it true that friendships like this are nothing short of awesome? We may do some cultivating, but isn’t it our sovereign God, in His wisdom, who brings two people together in one place, at one moment, in one lifetime? In our little garden of life, how true is Proverbs, 17:17. “A friend loves at all times.” Think about it. We may disappoint or even let down a friend, but a true friend, no matter what we look like or what they know about us, will always love us unconditionally, even as they draw their last breath.

A few years ago a study was done on friendships, showing that most of us have many casual friends, but only a small percentage of people have more than one close, intimate friend. The kind of friend they could trust with anything. Sadly, the study also revealed that some people have never had one close, intimate friend in all their years of living. I can’t help but wonder, is that in part, because we are sometimes not willing to put our selves out there for some one who God has placed along our pathway? If that is so, then many blessings are missed.

There is one, who with His last breath, spoke with you on His mind. Dying on the the cross, Jesus spoke these last words. “It is finished.” What was finished? Everything that you and I need to have a relationship with the living God. Your redemption, my redemption. Forgiveness of our sins. Power to live beyond our weakness and even beyond our own strength. If we are only willing to put ourselves out there for the friend of all friends and accept what He has to offer us.

Jesus said in John, 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” We can apply this truth in  a number of ways in our own lives, can’t we? Recently as I was speaking to the residents of a local nursing home about the meaning of the cross, I asked this question,”Has anyone here ever had someone give up their life for them?” No one said anything for a few moments. Then slowly, a man toward the back of the room raised his hand. I asked him if he would like to share anything about that experience. He didn’t say much, except that it was during the war and that his friend took the hit for him. It was obviously very emotional for him to speak about what his friend did for him. We learn the full implication of John, 15:13 as we read on. Jesus begins to tell his followers that if they obey His commands and because He had revealed to them all that was important, “everything I have learned from my Father”, He now called them His friends and the cross was drawing nearer. Remember that the words Jesus spoke to His followers are timeless. If you are a true follower of Jesus, today, then He acknowledges  you as His friend for life. The Son of God calls you His friend! You can have no greater friend than this, for He has given His life for you and He has given new life to you. He is our Lord, yet He is our friend and to his followers He also gives the Holy Spirit, a spiritual cord, connecting us to Him. It’s a cord that can never be cut, no matter what dark forces attack us in this life.

Maybe you find that you are living in a somewhat friendless environment. Remember that Jesus knows what it’s like to be alone, deserted and hurting. Pray and ask Him to bring a good friend into your life. You may find that friend to be closer than you think. If you have a friend like the man in the story had, don’t forget to let them know how special they are to you. You never know how long you will have them.

… As the old man’s family was going through his house, they discovered that in every room, he had posted written prayers for his family and friends on the walls. It seems that when he first noticed  he was loosing his memory, he began writing out his prayers for the people who held a special place in his heart. Then he taped  them to the walls in his house so he wouldn’t forget any of the people he loved. During his last days, he would walk from room to room, reading those prayers. One of the man’s daughters discovered a  prayer that her father had written over and over and had placed it throughout the house. It began like this, “My Lord and my God, thank you for my thunderstorm friend.”

At the old man’s funeral and family visitation time, many came to express to the family and give thanks to God for how the man’s friendship  had touched their lives. The thunderstorm friend was there as well, testifying of how God had brought the two of them together. ” From the day we first met, my life has never been the same. He introduced me to Christ. He helped me see the potential that was within me. He encouraged me always. He was there in my darkest hours. It was like he was always thinking of me, always praying for me.”

What is the moral of this story? You decide how it applies to you. But, maybe it has something to do with not underestimating how God can use the friends that He places along our way, to give us encouragement and purpose in this life.

OK, enjoy the next thunderstorm!  (safely)  Giving thanks for your friends.


An Early Morning Walk

Posted on April 3, 2015

It was an uphill walk from town to where they buried him. Any other time, the sight of the field lilies would have caused her to stop and admire them. But not this morning. She found herself trying to make some sense of all that had transpired over the past week. He had been her best friend.  She had endured rude comments, scornful looks as well as jealousy and lies from those she once thought were her friends. ….But, it all was worth it…. In what short time she knew him, he had turned her life around and given her hope, for the first time. He had forgiven her and actually loved her just the way she was. He had loved her more than anyone ever had before. Unlike so many who said they loved her and then when they got what they were after, were gone. He simply loved her for who she was, never demanding anything in return. And now, she wanted to love others that same way. If he touched her at all, it was a gentle touch of friendship or the touch of healing or forgiveness or one of compassion, assuring her that he understood. He had taught her so much about God. Now, she had purpose in living.  She was even beginning to respect herself again. …Would it ever be the same with him gone?… Could it be?

It was easier to see the path now with the sun climbing above the horizon. Although, the warmth from it shining on her did little to remove the chill of grief and confusion that had set in over the past few days. Oddly, she found herself being thankful, at a time like this. She felt ashamed that she could be thankful for anything, when this was only the third day since he had died. But she couldn’t help it. He had taught her to give thanks in all circumstances. So, she thanked God for Joseph and Nicodemus, who had buried her friend in Joe’s new tomb. If they hadn’t come and taken him down from that awful place and given him a proper burial, his body would have been thrown out with all the unclaimed bodies at the edge of town. Now, she was thanking God for her friends, she referred to as her sisters, who were walking with her. She kept hearing his voice, “Blessed are you, when people insult you, persecute you and  falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad! Great is your reward in Heaven.” Oh, if only he was standing in front of them now, speaking, instead of just in her mind. After seeing what she had seen what was done to him, how could she rejoice and be glad?

As they drew closer to the the place where he was buried, she was thinking of how precious her sisters were to her. Her first real friends. They could not have made it through the last few days without each others support. Her thoughts danced from place to place. Her memories flashed back to the day she first met…. “Jesus” …. Suddenly she realized she had spoken his name out loud.  Her sisters stopped and turned to look at her and asked, “Are you OK? Do you want to go back?” “No!” She answered. “We have to do this,” glancing at the spices in their baskets. This was the first time she had spoken his name since his death. Just speaking his name,”Jesus”, sent a rush of peace over her. He had freed her from those hideous demons. Seven of them! She often wondered how she ever survived before she meet Jesus. Only by the grace of God was she here today. She had been a vessel for the demons to do with whatever they desired…. She shook her head, trying to forget that dark period of her life.  Jesus had miraculously brought her out of the darkness and into the light. And now, she was a new creation! Jesus had filled her heart and mind with good things that she had never enjoyed before and somehow, he had given her the strength and resolve to make it through whatever difficulties she would face.” Those terrible demons were out there somewhere, but they will never live here again!”

Her thoughts dashed back to the previous week. The air was alive with excitement and expectations.”We all felt that something amazing was about to happen. We didn’t understand everything Jesus had told us about the order of events that were going to take place, but that was OK because he could do anything! We believed he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God! We had seen him heal the sick, even leapers and then we saw him raise the dead back to life! The men often spoke about a time when they were all on a boat together on the Sea of Galilee. A violent storm arose and with only a few words, Jesus turned the storm into peace and calmness. He saw through the plots of the religious teachers trying to trap him and find reason to turn him into the Roman authorities. He loved the children like no one I have ever  seen. He taught the men how to catch fish and he was teaching them to be fishers of men. …And, he saw into my heart. He knew me better than anyone. He was so good. All good. There was no bad in him. But now, he was dead. Why? How can it be?”

She couldn’t remember when she had slept last. Questions floated through her head like rain clouds that refused to open. She had heard the men vow to follow Jesus to their death. Why then, did they deny him and leave him alone in his darkest hour? She wondered what had hurt Jesus more, the physical torture he was put through or having his closest friends desert him at a time like that? How lonely it must have been for him. Why had she not run through the crowds, screaming at the top of her lungs, “You can’t do that to him! He’s my friend! He’s the Son of God!” Then at the cross, she stood back with the other women, just watching him die. …What could they have done anyway?” We all were waiting for him to call down the angels to take him from that bloody cross and crown him King”. …the image in her head of him being nailed to the sinners cross, brought her to the ground, striking her knee on a stone. As her sisters helped her up, pain shot through her body. But, this was nothing compared to what her friend went through, because of her.” Because of her?” She thought. “Where had that come from? Could it really be her fault that he died like that?”

As they entered the garden of the tombs, they began to talk. “Do you think someone will be there to help us move the stone?” One of the sisters turned to Mary, who had been walking a few steps behind them and said, “Mary, we are almost there.” The women shaded their eyes with one hand and looked up. Something was wrong! The stone was rolled away! Dropping their baskets, they ran to the tomb and found it empty. “Oh no!” They cried. “How could they do this?Why would they steal his body? Where could they have taken him?” From that point on, everything became a blur to her. The women ran the best they could to tell the disciples. Together, they quickly made their way back to the tomb. Arriving, they found it empty with only the linens inside, folded neatly. The disciples and the other women, trying to understand it all, began walking back to town. But Mary could not pull herself away. With her spirit in turmoil, she wept bitterly.  The Gardner was nearby. He asked her why she was crying? She explained what had happened and then He spoke to her again. This time He called her by name.”Mary.” She froze. She knew that voice! She turned to see Jesus, standing there in front of her! Alive! Struggling with disbelief, she fell at his feet. Her tears, flowing over the scars left from the nails. Jesus said to her,”Mary, do not hold on to me for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go! Tell the others that I am alive!”

Running with all her might and a with a joy she could not contain, she exclaimed, “I have seen the Lord, He is alive!”

From that moment on, Mary’s life would never be the same. She not only had been healed and freed by Jesus and walked and talked with Him, but now, she knew the Risen Lord!

This may not be exactly how it was for Mary Magdalene on that early walk on the first Easter morning. Regardless, once we meet Jesus, our lives are never the same. Can you relate to some aspect of Mary’s experience? One thing is certain. In Christ, we are freed and healed just as Mary was and we can walk with and talk with Jesus as well. His triumph over sin and death and Hell can give us victory in our lives everyday that we live, whatever we may face. Just as it was with Mary, Jesus can be our King, our Lord, our Savior. Hallelujah! He is Risen!

Take an early morning walk and listen for the Lord to speak to you.


Loneliness Anyone?

Posted on March 15, 2015

Loneliness was sad. He was not allowed in Paradise Garden. It was the most  beautiful place ever. But was he able to even catch a glimpse of this lush and pure and innocent natural resort that was almost Heaven on earth? No. Loneliness had to stay in his cave. Day after day after day he would dream of what it might be like if he could only get past those, those things that were guarding the entrance to the garden. Oh, he had tried sneaking in before, but the mysterious winged guards, who had eyesight more keen than that of an eagle, made it perfectly clear that he was not welcome and there was no dwelling place for him in the garden.  You see, it wasn’t as much the garden, as breath taking as it must have been, that he longed to see, as it was to be part of a family and what better  place to start than with the perfect couple that lived in the garden. One of the most intriguing things about the couple was there close and flawless relationship with their Father.

Then one day the unimaginable happened. The perfect couple was put out of Paradise Garden, because of something …. something they did,  and they would never, ever be allowed to return. As the man and woman ran in shame from the garden, they passed directly in front of isolation cave, which happened to be the home of loneliness. At that moment it became most obvious to loneliness that he now had an open invitation to be a part of this family. With one instantaneous, giant leap he landed soundly in the arms of the fleeing couple. The man and woman felt pain moving through their chests, for they had never experienced this emotion before. As they ran further and further from the garden, with every step, loneliness could feel the beating of their hearts. He said to himself,”This is where I want to spend all my days on earth. Near the heart.  He would dwell with the man and with the woman as long as  they should live and when they, in time, had children, loneliness would spend a lifetime with them as well. Loneliness was happy……

When was last time someone asked you how you were doing and you replied,” I’m feeling rather lonely and blue today?” Chances are, you haven’t responded with those words very often, if ever. It’s not usually something we talk about, but yet, we all know what loneliness feels like don’t we? “Lonely”, can refer to the state of being alone, with no one else around. It can also refer to a solitary place, such as where Jesus withdrew to in Mark, ch. 1 and in Luke ,ch. 5. We might visit a lonely island and then we may, from time to time, find ourselves driving on a lonely stretch of highway or walking down a lonely path. Each of these descriptive phrases can also be used at times in illustrating a particular period of our lives. But most often when we feel lonely it is because we miss someone we once knew or we long to be near someone we love. Or maybe when we are waiting for someone we haven’t met yet to come into our life. Loneliness is there when we have to go through something in life alone. It’s there when we can’t see the people we used to see or go to places we once went. It’s hard to explain that tearing apart of your heart, but yet, it’s a real hurt that flows from our chest throughout our whole body, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Loneliness is a peculiar emotion, isn’t it? We can be in a crowded room and still feel lonely. We can be in a sanctuary, worshiping the Lord with other believers when even there the sensation of loneliness can flood through us. Sometimes we may not even be aware that it has crept in and then suddenly,  we are singing a song or reading scripture or maybe standing beside a friend who turns and gives us a hug and we realize the Lord has just meet a need in our life. He has filled the cave where loneliness lives, with His presence, His truth, His light or with the love of someone who cares about us.  But it is so hard to put our finger on it. We can’t explain it. Where does it come from? Why is it there? It is an emotion that is elusive. We can’t say to it, “Go away!” You can try to ignore it or deny it, without success. No, loneliness has to be replaced by something that you long for deep down inside.

….. Loneliness stayed close to the heart of his new family and as they multiplied, he did the same. It was really quite remarkable how he adapted to every culture and people group on earth. And since no one could go back into Paradise Garden, everyone was fair game for loneliness. Oddly, he noticed, the longer time went on and the more people filled their lives with activities and things, the more room they had for him. This was quite puzzling ….

Do you think Loneliness has made a fairly accurate observation of us all? It is an interesting point he has brought up, huh?

We can’t see loneliness, but we see his reflection everyday. We see it in the eyes of the woman behind the counter. In the spirit of the child who doesn’t fit in at school. In the face of a mother as she watches her young child walk through the doors and disappear on the first day of school. We hear it in the voice of the man and the woman in prison. You may see the shadow of loneliness in the waitress, or your co worker, or your neighbor, or your boss. I have heard the sound of loneliness in a customer’s voice, who has recently lost her husband. It is obvious in the person who has lived alone for years. You can feel it in the college student, away from home for the first time and it is there in the father, giving away his daughter in marriage.

Tom was a friend of mine who lived alone in the later years of his life. I knew Tom for about thirty years. As time passed, due to brain tumors and surgeries, he had to put a great deal of thought into what he wanted to say, before he spoke.  His glasses were thick and his speech was slow. To the person who didn’t take the time to listen to Tom, they may have thought that he didn’t have much to offer. I found that because of the cautiousness in which Tom spoke, if I would be still and listen, what he had to say was quite insightful. Tom was very faithful in church attendance and involvement. He was in Sunday School and worship service every week. He would make all the fellowship meetings and was at choir rehearsal every Wednesday night and sang with the choir every Sunday morning. Tom didn’t sing on pitch, but he was always welcome in the choir. One night after choir practice, Tom and I were talking in the parking lot. He said, “Bob, I live a lonely life. But, when I sing with the choir, I don’t feel lonely. In the choir we are all a part of something bigger than any one of us. When I start feeling down, I use that as a reminder to spend time with my Lord, praying, reading my Bible or just listening for His voice. ” Tom went on to say that he thought Jesus allowed us to be lonely in this life so that we don’t forget how much we need Him. The last time I saw Tom, he was lying on a hospital bed that had been set up the middle of his living room.

At a Christmas party a few years ago, There were two teenagers who had been born with only a small percentage of their hearing. As we drove away, my wife, Becky, commented that it must be lonely, not being able to hear what people are saying around you or what they are laughing about.

I prayed with a woman once who struggled with memories from her past. She said it was so lonely not being able to talk about it with anyone. She longed for someone, who understood,  to come along side her.

I knew a man who, from childhood, had very low self esteem. Due to that he endured periods of incredible loneliness. He lived in denial that he had a problem.

We can’t escape loneliness. It is part of the world we live in.  It is common to think that no one understands what we are going through. Many times that is true. However, there is one who always understands. He has experienced more loneliness and hurt and temptation than we will ever know. He is working all things together to give us victory over all this stuff that can drag us down. He is the Lord, Jesus Christ, Our Savior and our God. If you are one who loves Him, then He is constantly doing this for you. Romans 8:28 is clear. If you are one who loves God, then you have been called according to His purpose and He is constantly working for good in your life. Even though we can’t escape it as long as we live on this earth, do you think God wants us to allow loneliness to have power over us? No He doesn’t! In John 10:10, Jesus said that he had come so that we may have life and life abundant or to the fullest. The Lord never will force Himself upon us nor will He force us to take what he has to offer us. But He is always there for us and what He has to offer us is always there for us to accept as well.

Of course, the Lord brings many people across our pathway to minimize the lonely feelings we encounter. But, there will always be a certain emptiness inside that can only be filled by the physical presence of God. Much like the perfect couple experienced with the Father while they lived in Paradise Garden, before the fall. Remarkably, through the Holy Spirit  we can know His presence here on earth. One day, we will no longer even know the meaning of the word, lonely, but until then God has left us a wonderful fruit to enjoy. We read about it in Galatians chapter five. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” Ironically, if we give away this fruit to others, we will find for ourselves, whatever it is that our soul is longing for.

At times it may be tempting to crawl back in the cave where loneliness and all his cousins dwell, come out every now and then, smile and wave and then go back in. But that’s not the abundant life that our Lord desires for us. He died and was raised to life again so that we may know victory.

My prayer for you, is that if you have one or more of these dark caves in your life, that you will invite and allow God to transform them into lush orchards, overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit.

…… Down through the ages, Loneliness discovered that when someone invited Jesus to come and live in them, it didn’t leave a lot of room for him to roam. Then when that person died and went to Heaven, he had to go back into his cave. So, Loneliness had traveled 180 degrees. Once again he found that he was not allowed in Paradise.

OOOH! Doesn’t that fruit taste good! Have fun sharing it!


The Date

Posted on February 13, 2015

He had been planning it for weeks. This was going to be a very special night with his bride and he wanted everything to be perfect. He would prepare the main course himself. Careful to fix her favorite dish the way she would do it. He would walk out to the orchard and find just the right apple for her and then he would drive to the market and choose the best of the fruit and vegetables that she liked. Of course, on the way he would stop by to see the florist and look for something special to accent the romantic flare of the evening.  It all had to be a secret, though. He would surprise her by showing up at her place and they would have a night to remember!

The big day arrived. He began early in the morning working in the kitchen. Throughout the day he shuffled through photo’s, selecting the ones of places they had been together and of people you were very important to her. As he packed the picnic baskets, he dropped in a few extras. Fingernail polish, a hair brush, a small mirror and her favorite lotion. Pleased with all he had prepared for his bride, he knelt and prayed these words,”Dear Lord, thank you for this wonderful woman You have given me. I don’t deserve her or her love, but I am honored to be the one she has chosen to spend the rest of her life with. Amen.”

He arrived at her home and as he entered, baskets in hand, she acted as though it was nothing special, but he knew that inside she was delighted he was there. He proudly showed her everything that he had prepared for her. After dinner he pulled out the photos and held them up, one by one. When he came to special one, he laughed and said, ” Oh honey! Remember this? Wasn’t that the best time.” He reached over and held her hand as he came across a photo of someone whom she had loved very much. He quietly laid the photos aside, then in a determined but loving voice said to her,”Now, I’m gonna  do something for you that you like to do for yourself. Don’t say a word ’cause you can’t change my mind on this.” She was silent as he poured warm water into a bowl and began washing her hands and then her feet. Then gently he began painting her nails, first her fingers and then her toes. Bringing out the hairbrush, showing some emotion, he spoke softly,” I can’t do this as well as you, but don’t try to stop me.” After a few minutes he held up the mirror. Sounding a little surprised at his accomplishment, he said,” Not bad, huh? You are so beautiful!” Without another word, he finished by rubbing her arms and legs with lotion. After a few minutes of silent adoration, he read a poem he had written to express his love for her and then he kissed her goodnight.

As he was leaving the home, one of the night staff stopped and asked,”Mr. Allen, did your wife wake up tonight?” Trying hard to hide his disappointment, he hesitated briefly and then replied,”No… But I think she knew it was our anniversary. Take good care of my bride. I’m coming back for her!”…

I Corinthians, chapter 13, speaks of a love that is foreign to much of the world. It’s a love that gives itself away not expecting to receive any rewards. It’s a love that waits as long as it takes to receive a response and if the response never comes, it still loves. It’s a love that does not demand recognition. It’s a love that gives freely and is not contingent upon whether love is given back in the same measure. It’s a love that dances and sings when it discovers new opportunities to express itself . It’s a love that cuts the threads of selfishness so it’s heart can open up. It’s a love that does not give up. It’s a love that does not write down the faults of others and broadcast them about. It’s a love that refuses to become furious  when it doesn’t get it’s way. It’s a love that celebrates truth and light and will not allow it’s purpose to be compromised by the darkness. It’s a love you can count on when all other love leaves you forlorn. It’s a love that can break through barriers, tear down walls and at the same time be as gentle and tender as a mother with a newborn baby. It will not wait for a convenient time but will express itself deliberately even when it is unpopular to do so. It is a love that can awaken feelings that lie in slumber.  It is a love that will always see the beauty in you and declare your value in the face of a million votes cast against you! It is a love that will cross a raging sea in the darkest night just to reach you. It is a love that will climb up onto a cross to suffer and then breathe it’s last breath, just for you.

….. A heavy fog was setting in as he drove home.  By the time he reached his house he was feeling the effects of a full day. After brewing a cup of hot tea, he sat down with his devotion book and Bible. His dog wasted no time in finding a comfy spot on his lap. He began reading the devotion for the day, but he could not get the love chapter out of his mind, so he turned to I Corinthians ch. 13 instead. He read out loud. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self seeking.” Before he could go any further, he paused for a prayer. “My God,  how much I have to learn about love. And I only have a lifetime in which to do it. Lord, please teach me to love others as You have loved me. Amen.”  He went on reading,”It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…. Love never fails.”….

The Bible is clear. Love must accompany all that we do. Otherwise it is meaningless. This section of scripture ends with a reminder to us that these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. As believers, one day we will see the object of our faith. All of our hopes will become reality. But love will go on and on and on without end. The love of God is and always will be the reason for our very existence.  I guess the man in our story is right. We only  have a lifetime to learn how to love.

…. He awoke the next morning ready for a new day. He quickly checked the calender. ” Ahah!” He exclaimed. “Just what I thought. Twenty seven days until my brides birthday! I’ve got lots of planning to do. And then there is Valentines day. Oh, we are going to have so much fun!” Just then the phone rang. A woman on the other end spoke softly but with excitement in her voice, “Good morning Mr. Allen. I wanted to let you know that your wife is awake this morning and she is asking for you!” She went on, sounding somewhat puzzled.” And she is saying something about her fingernails and her hair?” Before the woman could finish, Mr. Allen said,”I’ll be right there! Thank you for calling me!”

For certain, the love spoken of here and that Jesus exemplified is not always easy for us to express and put into practice. But when we hold that kind of love up before us as a model and fix our eyes upon it as a goal for our daily lives, can life be anything but exciting, promising and rewarding?

Enjoy loving!


What is it???

Posted on February 8, 2015

From as far back as he could remember, he had always heard of it.  It was something that, for the most part, he just took for granted. It was never really close up. It was just out there. He guessed it had always been around and he supposed it always would be. He thought of it as mysterious and was somewhat leery of it. As he grew, be became aware that for some people, it was like a necessity in their life. He was somewhat puzzled over that assumption. His casual observation of it, delivered him to the  point of limited understanding on the matter. His concluding position for a number of years to come would be that it was a good thing for those who needed it. ” What kind of person needed it?” He wondered. After giving it much thought, he determined that those who had big problems were the ones who most needed it.  As he evaluated all of his thoughts concerning it, he didn’t feel like he would have much use for it in his own life. But as he approached manhood, he would encounter it over and over again. Then, when he was a young man in his early twenties, something happened that caused him to rethink all that had been settled in his mind as a boy. Unexpectedly, he became exposed to it! ……..

What is it?… It is living. It is colorful. It is very old but at the same time it is new. It’s like a big puzzle, made up of many small individual pieces . It is hated by some and loved by others. There are those who claim to have been hurt by it and yet others will testify that it has promoted healing for them. Some fear it and some are comforted by it.

What is it?… It is the same year after year but it’s rapidly changing. It is one, yet it is many. Some will do everything they can to stay away from it, while others will give up much to be near it and to watch what it does. At times it is very powerful. Other times, pitifully  weak. It was very expensive. Now it is free! Some will search for it in vain, while others will stumble over it.

What is it?… You can find it in the city and in the country as well. It can be seen growing in some of the most remote areas of the world. It can be damaged, beaten and struck down, but never destroyed. Despite it’s many blemishes, it is perfect. It once was contaminated but now it is pure! Some pass it by, claiming it is useless to them, while others view it as being essential for healthy living.

What is it? … It has a temporary shell, but is most effective when it breaks through it’s shell into the surrounding area. It is called by many names and yet it can be defined by one word. Some view it as being small and insignificant.  In truth, it’s presence is felt worldwide. Because of it, the world is a much safer place. When it is healthy, a small part of it can be planted with remarkable results.

What is it? … Sometimes it remains in one spot. However, it seems to have been designed to branch out. You may never see it climb, although when the son is close to the earth, it will rise. It’s origin is recorded in history. Not only has it survived for centuries, it has thrived! Many will observe it from a distance while some are brave enough to walk in it.

What is it? …  Now it is quite visible. One day it will not be seen. Then it will be seen again, but it will look different.

Well, I’ve given you a lot of clues here, so you have probably guessed “it”. What’s that you say?… YES! It is the “church.” Made up of multitudes of people commonly referred to as “Christians”, mentioned in the Bible one time in Acts,11:26, or “believers”, mentioned 49 times in the New Testament. Sinners who have been forgiven and saved. The Bible speaks of the church as the bride of Christ and as the redeemed of the ages, past, present and future. All those who have repented and been captured by the grace of God. Women, men and children who have been washed and purified in the crucified blood of Jesus.  Purchased by the greatest and only sufficient sacrifice ever offered. The sinless and perfect Lamb of God. His Son, Jesus Christ.. Rescued from the darkness, thanks to the mercy of God, and spared from the clutches of our own sin and Satan himself to rise in victory and become a new creation. A new creation that is peculiar to the world. A new creation that loves God and is committed to following Him and learning His ways. A new creation that attempts to love others as God has loved them. All this is not done because we, the church of God, feel like a new creation. No, it’s because of the faith and understanding that He has given us so we can trust our lives to Him, no matter how we feel, and stand strong on the promises He has given us through the Word. In II Corinthians, 5:17, He promises us that we ARE a new creation. Destined for great things, not because of who we are, but because of who He is!

The Scriptures inform us in the Book of Acts that the early church was persecuted. As a result the church began to spread around the world. That persecution has never stopped. Although most of the news media does not report it, today it continues to increase, year by year. However, we have another promise in II Corinthians, chapter 4, that assures us that no matter what happens to us in this life, we, the church, can never be destroyed and will never be abandoned by God. Jesus spoke of this as well.  We read in Matthew, 16:18, when Jesus was speaking to the Apostle, Peter, He said,”…On this rock I will build my church and not even the gates of Hades will overcome it.” What the Apostle, Paul, instructed the elders at Ephesus to do, as he was saying goodbye to them for the last time, may be good practice for us all, regardless if we are an overseer or if we consider ourselves just a brother or sister in Christ. Paul said to them in Acts, 20:28, ” Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.

…….. He had always thought of it as a noun. An object in one place. To his surprise, he discovered that it was steadily being transformed into a verb! It was anything but an object in one place. It was always on the move. It would begin wherever it was at and branch out as far as it’s abilities and resources  could carry it. It would reach out to that which was unlovely, poor, broken in body and spirit. When all hope was gone, it would find ways to encourage and build back that which had been carelessly destroyed. When it would find that which was lost and had been thrown away, it would, by example, show how something could be saved and remade into a thing of great value. He also discovered that it had a unique ability to feed the hungry with a food more nutritious than anything grown on the earth.

Decades passed and now he was on the other end of life. One day, while crossing a river by walking on the large flat rocks that formed a waterfall, he stopped in the middle of the river. For a few minutes he just stood there, watching all that was being carried by the current around his feet and over the falls. Relating it to his life, remembering all that he could of what and who had touched his life from his beginning to the present time. He laughed.”How ironic,” he thought. As a young boy, he was often curious why people felt they needed ” it” in their life and what was so special about it? Now, he couldn’t imagine living a fulfilling life without it. And wasn’t it odd how he had stumbled across it those many years before? Walking on across the river, he continued thinking about it,” Do you suppose that it could have been planted in his pathway at a strategic point where he couldn’t miss it?” He smiled.

Lingering, to catch one more sunset, he reflected on how blessed he was to have found it years ago. More importantly, how thankful he was to now know in a personal way, the designer and creator of “it” and everything else.

What is it to you?


The Master Craftsman

Posted on January 25, 2015

Some have called him an artist. The Great Painter, who could take an empty page of existence and suddenly fill it with a breathtaking sunset using only a few strokes of his brush and able to mix colors so alive and rich that all attempts to duplicate them have fallen short. Others consider him a sculpture,  capable of bringing his subjects to life.  Without a doubt he was creator of the most beautiful objects in the world. Some knew him as a farmer, preparing the soil, planting, nurturing and harvesting all that is good and tasty. Still others will always see him as a craftsman. the Master Craftsman. For he mastered and worked wonders with everything he chose to put his mind and hands to. As we look back we regard him as one, but he was more than one. He was a potter, a mason. a carpenter, a silversmith, a designer and builder, a poet, a composer, a gardner and landscaper and the list goes on. He built vessels that could withstand  storms on a raging sea and dwellings with foundations that would  stand up to any weapon hurled at them and remain strong even when surrounded by all the shaded violence that the world could conjure up. It was obvious from the beginning that his creativity was unlimited as he dipped his hands into every medium. One of his favorite hobbys was to search for that which had been broken and battered, deliberately lost and written off as worthless. Then he would do his miraculous work of salvaging and restoring in plain view of all who followed his footsteps. Now, the short fall in assigning a title to a person, is that no single descriptive word or phrase can accurately nor completely describe any of us. However, for the purpose of this story I will refer to him as the Master Craftsman. In all that he did, his workmanship was unequaled. Even by today’s standards, he continues to stand alone in his field and his many remarkable attainments inspire others to rise above mediocrity.

Of course, as with anyone who is successful at what they do, there are those who will try to minimize their accomplishments, slander their name, doubt their capabilities and even deny their very existence in order to elevate themselves in the eyes of others. To the value of us all, the Master Craftsman was never swayed by the critics, skeptics and doubters who refused to acknowledge his unique abilities. Instead, with a keen awareness of truth and a commitment to excellence, this one of a kind artisan moved forward, executing his mission with an undying love. As time went on, his project activity was so widely spread that you could sense his presence just about anywhere.

One day, as he was resting, the Master pondered his accomplishments. He was well pleased with the results of his efforts, although, deep inside he knew that his greatest work was yet to be done.  He contemplated everything that it would entail. His emotions raged within him as he considered the great  personal cost that this work would demand of him. He was faced with a delima…. If he chose not to move forward with his plan, the heartbeat of all he had created previously would be lost forever…. If he did pursue it, for everything that would be bound up in this project to be effective, it would have to be given away to the people of the land. He was not so naive to assume that everyone would appreciate the sweat drops of blood that would be an integral part of this project. On the contrary, he was deeply saddened by the thought that some may refuse his gift, laugh and scoff and turn away…. But he was certain there would be a remnant who would believe in him, understanding the purpose of what he was about to do and with open hearts accept it as the perfect masterpiece, given away out of the Master Craftsman’s love for the people….. Consumed with compassion, he decided the people would be worth his sacrifice.

One early morning in the springtime when a rain shower was just ending, after gazing at a rainbow of promise, the Craftsman strolled through his garden and there he selected one tree from all the others. He watered it, nurtured it and guarded it until it grew strong and true. One day he said to the tree, “your wood will become famous and it will be able to support an enormous burden.”  Then he  went on a search for a particular metal that he would need for this project. When he had selected just the right metal for the job, he crafted three fragments of it down to a fine point at one end and cut the other end off leaving it thick and blunt. Then he set them aside until the proper time.

As with any fine artist or craftsman, a strong passion for what they do drives them to reveal their heart and soul as they pour themselves into every detail of their work. And so it was with this ingenious creator. To him, timing was everything.  The people were longing and waiting with anticipation to see what he was up to. The need was undeniably desperate. The Master Craftsman was aware more than anyone that what he was about to do had never successfully been done before and would never be done again. Oh, there were many temporary imitations, but once he had completed this work, they would be obsolete. He would have one chance and nothing less than perfection would be acceptable. The craftsman was about to present to the people a masterpiece so amazing, that all who dared to gaze upon it would experience at least a hint of the resolve, purpose and heartfelt love that stirred it’s creator in the beginning. The result would be a work of art that was priceless.

Being the author and perfecter of his greatest work, the Master was fully capable of completing every detail on his own. However, in his wisdom and in good faith, he chose to enlist others to play some of the important roles. “This,” he said,” will add a personal touch to my work so that my reason for doing this can be comprehended by everyone.”

Now, the Master Craftsman had a son who had always worked along side of his father. As a matter of fact, they were inseparable. The son was often quoted as saying,”I must be about my fathers work!” Much of the time, those who knew them well referred to the two of them as,”one”, for it was evident that they were of one spirit. One day, as the they were recounting all that they had done together and finalizing their plans for the masterpiece, the Craftsman said to his son, “I have considered all the options and there is only one way this will work. You alone will be the deliverer of this finest gift of all time. Although, for the people to accept it, you will have to live among them for a while. Actually, you will need to become one of them by being part of a family that lives in the land. There is a young couple who will be getting married soon. I have watched them closely and I am convinced that they will be the perfect family for you to stay with. As we speak, I am sending a messenger to inform them of your arrival. One more thing my son, you will have to finish this precious work on your own. I must stay here and watch over things, but we will be in touch daily. While you are living there, you will be put through many tests. You will be tempted in ways that no one person has ever been before. You will carry a burden heavier than any man has ever been able to carry. There will be dark opposition to our work as this world has never seen. And son, there will come a moment when you will ask me why I have forsaken you. Remember this always; when you hurt, I will hurt. When you are lonely, I will be lonely. But, when you rise to victory, we will be victorious together. You will know when our masterpiece is finished. After you have announced it’s completion to all the people and presented it to them as a free gift, then it will be time for you to come back here with me. In the years that follow, many of the men, women and children who accept the gift you offer them will be coming here to live with us. So, we must be busy preparing places for them to stay.”

Moved deeply with love, in a way that could only be defined through the ages of eternity, the Master Craftsman sent his Son away. The rest is divine history, written by the hand of God to offer to the world His greatest work. Giving us His only Son, Jesus,  who was perfect, blameless and without sin. He would take your sin and my sin upon Himself to become, The Lamb of God. Making us, when we accept this gift, holy and acceptable in the presence of The Father and The Son and The Spirit.

The Bible states in John 3:16 – 17 , ” For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” How easy is our part, huh? To believe, to trust, to accept. I don’t pretend to know what it was actually like for God to plan and bring to fulfillment all that was necessary for us to enjoy the gift of salvation, but at the same time, I never want to forget that my redemption was much more than a casual thought in the mind of God. The Bible is clear. From the time sin entered the picture, God began planning a way for you and I to escape the penalty and wrath of our sin and be delivered safely into the arms of Grace and Mercy. These verses in John, chapter 3, are so beautifully and simply worded that it can be easy to miss what the two words, “so loved”, encompass within the realm of God’s compassion for you and me.

If you can find a few quiet minutes alone, try this experiment. In your own handwriting, paraphrase John 3:16 something like this: For God so loved me, (insert your name here) that He gave His only Son, so that if I believe in Him, I will never perish but I will have everlasting life. Then pray. Thanking God for what He did to provide salvation for you and for the faith He gives you to believe and trust in His Word. Do you think, if you were the only person on earth that needed salvation,  God would have done all this just for you? The answer is YES! That’s how personal His love for us is. In chapter 14 of John, Jesus is promising that he is going to the Fathers house to prepare a place for us so that one day, where He is, we may also be. Can you imagine, knowing the abilities, workmanship and the creativity of God, what our home in Heaven will be like? Have fun dreaming about it and looking forward to your new home!

Oh by the way, for the sake of the story it is written in past tense, but let that fool you. The master Craftsman is still in business today. Creating, planing, designing, restoring and of course, a couple of His specialties; finding that which was lost and mending broken things. As a matter of fact, I just saw Him the other day in a prison, doing some of His great work of salvaging for that which, by popular vote, was believed to have been of little value.

What kind of work do you need The Master Craftsman to do for you today? Desire all that He has in His tool box for you.


Girl In The Stairwell

Posted on January 15, 2015

It was a number of years back. A cold and snowy winter night, as I recall. My wife and I and our four daughters were enjoying a warm, cozy evening in our home. The girls were sprawled out on the living room floor leisurely multitasking. Playing a games, reading, drawing, eating popcorn and watching a Disney movie. my wife and I were relaxing in the easy chairs just taking it all in. As parents, we so enjoyed those Saturday evenings, unwinding from a busy week, everyone was happy and we were all together…..

Have you ever sensed the Holy Spirit tugging at your heart to do something out of your comfort zone, but you resisted? And then, after holding back with all your strength, you finally gave in? I’m afraid I  have to admit that most of my experiences with the Spirit leading me start out that way. Sadly, there have been those times when I have resisted Him and never took the next step to obey His call. I’ve regretted each of those times. But, when I have yielded to the drawing of the Holy Spirit, I have found that whatever it was He wanted me to do wasn’t so scary after all. And it feels so good to know that at that very moment, you are directly in the center of God’s will for your life. To someone who doesn’t know Christ and how His Spirit draws us, this seems ridiculous and  unimportant. The Apostle, Paul, explains it this way in I Corinthians, 2:14; “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them.” But to those of us who know Christ and trust in Him, It’s a big deal. In Galatians chapter 5, in speaking of the fruit of the Spirit, Paul reminds us that since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Now, remember, the Holy Spirit only moves according to the will of the Father. So, even if it seems like an insignificant thing to us, when the Spirit of God is tugging at our heart, He usually has a greater purpose than we can see from down here.

….. For me, as a father, those were special times, just to be at home with my family, all safe and warm.  If only Norman Rockwell could have visited us that night with his canvas and brushes in hand! I remember thinking, “it doesn’t get any better than this”. …. That’s about the time the phone rang. It was a local motel with a spa heater that was down and a full house of guests who were not happy campers after stepping into a spa full of cold water!  About the last thing I wanted to do at 9 o’clock on a snowy winter night was to leave our snug little refuge in the country and drive into town to work on a spa heater. But, the next day was Sunday and they were good customers, so off I went, complaining to my wife all the way out the door. “Why do motels always have breakdowns on weekends and holiday’s?” Looking back, I can see that my state of mind plunged from one of thankful bliss, into a pit of judgmental thougts and selfish desires. Needless to say, that wouldn’t have been a good time for a heart examination….. Or…. maybe it was???

Arriving at the motel, grumbling to myself, I gathered my tool bag and entered my usual way, through a side door that opened into a hallway that led to the pool room.  I stepped inside and was startled by the sound of sobbing! There on the back  stairway, was a young girl, who was obviously distressed over something. She sat, head in her hands, about six stairs up from where I was. With a glance, I estimated her to be about 14 years old. Denying that my heart ached for her, I quickly looked away and continued on with my mission. I thought to myself, “what a pitiful sight and sound”. She was crying so uncontrollably that she didn’t even stop when I walked in. Do you ever have a silent conversation with yourself? Don’t tell everyone, but I seem to do that quite often and that night was no exception. Well, maybe it was a conversation with God, but I was doing most of the talking… “That girl doesn’t want me to stop and talk to her…” I greeted the night desk clerk and made my way into the spa equipment room… “The stairway is poorly lit. I would scare her”… I checked out the heater. Found the problem… “What could I do to help her anyway?”… Walking out to my truck to search for the part I needed, I was wishfully wondering ; “maybe she’s gone by now?”… She was still there! Still crying… ” I found the part I needed and decided that I would enter through another door… “I have no idea what I would say to her?”… It took me 30 minutes to get the spa heater up and going. I told the thankful desk clerk, goodnight, and then said to myself,”get out of here!”  I turned, fully intending to exit through the “other door”, just as  a number of travelers from a small bus were struggling to get themselves and their luggage into the lobby. With no other option, I proceeded down the hall toward my usual door… “She has to be gone by now” I thought. … As I walked toward the door I could to hear the faint sounds of the “evening nightmare”, growing louder with each step I took. The young girl in distress was still sitting on the steps…. “Why hasn’t someone else heard that poor girl and stopped to help her?”… Holding back my emotions, most likely looking similar to a race horse wearing blinders, I burst through the door! I took a deep breath of cold night air and made a beeline to my truck. Once in my truck, I spoke out loud,”Wow! I’m glad that’s over.”… Or was it?

I pulled out my keys, but for some reason, I could not put them in the ignition. I starred at my hand,”Start the truck and let’s go!” Speaking as if my hand could actually hear me. I didn’t know anyone could cry for so long and so hard….”It’s just a girl crying, it happens everyday. NO!, I can’t go in there and talk to her! It’s not smart. All she has to do is scream and accuse me of something and then what defense would I have?”… I sat there, my breath fogging up the truck windows. With my hand I wiped a small opening and gazed out at the snow. It was like God placed in that opening, an image of the “Good Samaritan story”. Only I was the man in the story who refused to take a chance, instead, went out of my way to avoid helping the one in need. I had become the man with the hardened heart. God brought to mind my daughter, who was about the same age as the girl in the stairwell. I felt a pinch of guilt as I thought of my four daughters, home, safe, warm and happy. Was that all that mattered to me? I asked myself, ” What if this was my daughter in there? Would I not want someone to stop and try to comfort her?” I felt my resistance wearing thin. I was ready to switch roles. Softly, the Holy spirit spoke somewhere inside of me. ” Just go pray with the girl”.

Immediately, I got out of my truck and began walking with my eyes glued to the motel door. I began thinking, ” I hope she is still there.”  I didn’t have a clue how to approach her. ” God, tell me what to say!” As I opened the door, my questions were answered. I walked up to her and asked,”are you OK?” She looked up. Her hair was in disarray and her  eyes were red and saturated. Shaking her head, she responded,” I had a fight with my mom.” I asked her if there was anything I could do to help and she again shook her head. Then I asked,”would it be OK if I prayed with you?” She answered me in such a way that I caught a hint of pleading in her voice.”Yes”. We prayed. At this point it is somewhat puzzling to me. God has, for one reason or another, preserved the details of that night so clearly in my mind, yet I can’t remember much of my prayer? It was like the Holy Spirit took over at that point and said through me what needed to be said that night. I remember simply praying for her and her mother, and asking Jesus to make His love real to her. I trust the Spirit knew how to put the right words in the prayer when I could not do it…. You’ve probably already guessed that in the week that followed, I spent some extra time in the scriptures, especially Romans chapter 8. From that point on, I began to experience verse 26 in a more personal way. It reads,”The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The girl thanked me for praying with her and that was it. Suddenly I felt a release. A still small voice was saying to me,”you’re done. That’s all I asked you to do.”

I had lost track of time. Back in the truck I looked at my watch. I was only in there two minutes! All that resisting and God only wanted two minutes of my time. I prayed and wept for a while. Partly for the girl and her mother. Mostly because I was so ashamed of the way I had acted.  I had become more concerned about coming up with selfish excuses than stopping to check on the troubled girl. How quickly my heart had hardened. At that moment I saw the face flash through my head of someone who had once stopped to pray with me when I was hurting. I drove away, realizing The Lord had not brought me to the motel that night to merely fix a broken spa heater. He brought me there to fix my heart. At least for the time being. I wish I could say that I have never resisted His leading in my life since that night, but that wouldn’t be true. However, since that night He has given me many opportunities to pray with and share testimonies of His love with customers and others that I meet along the way. Maybe you have had experiences similar to mine where you have discovered that The Great Physician will make house calls, motel calls and anywhere calls just to do a heart examination at any time, 24/7.

Today, when I walk into that same motel to do a repair or just drive by. I pray for the girl. I often wonder where she lives? Is she married? Does she have children? Is she a believer? I don’t know her name, but God knows who she is… She would be in her late thirties now. Did those two minutes on that cold winter night, years ago, make any difference in her life? I don’t know if she even remembers. But I remember. I know those two minutes made a difference in my life. I came close to writing that night off to undesirable circumstances. At times like that it helps me take a look at Isaiah, chapter 55. It is an invitation to the thirsty. Check it out sometime when you feel like you need a heart check up. I love the way “The Message” translates the decree from God in verses 8 & 9. “I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work. For as high as the sky soars above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work and the way I think is beyond the way you think.” Another translation reads like this,” My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.”

Pulling in our drive, my headlights lit up up the freshly fallen snow like a Thomas Kinkade. The deer gracefully scampered across the drive and into the shadows as if to say,” the coast is clear! Drive on!” With the snow crunching under the tires, the truck rolled forward. I saw things in a different light than when I had left home earlier. Instead of looking like a square metal box with windows, our trailer house had now taken on a rather quaint appearance. Even the tires and concrete blocks that I had carefully placed on the roof, to keep the noise down when the wind blew, had become flowing drifts of snow.  I remember thinking, “inside that house lies my family. The perfect family.” Oh don’t get me wrong. We had our faults. We were the perfect family because God put us together and He doesn’t make mistakes. He knew we needed each other to love and to forgive and to laugh and cry with. Once inside, the only noise was that of the the furnace blowing it’s heat through the vents. A welcomed sound for I knew it was still working and keeping my family warm. My wife had left a single lamp burning for me with a note slid under it. Quietly, I tip toed into the girls rooms and watched them sleeping for a moment. I looked in to check on my wife, only to find that our Lab, Sandy, had assumed my position on the bed. She opened one eye briefly, before going back to chasing rabbits. She had that look that said,”I see you, but I’m NOT moving over.” …  ” What a blessed man I am,” I was thinking, as I carried my old guitar into the bathroom, so as not to wake anyone. I wrote the 1st verse of a song about being a father. This was a good day. One, I pray, that will always leave it’s imprint upon my heart.

Good Night & God’s Blessings Over You,


Pure & Lovely

Posted on January 5, 2015

Hey, do you have your 2015 calenders up? We have a school calender that rolls into the next year, so that’s an easy one. We have a couple of family photo calenders. We love those, so they go up quickly.  Then, we have another calender that is special as well. It was from a youth fundraiser and has scenic photos with a scripture verse on each page. Most importantly, the birthdays of family and friends are on this one, so until those dates are all transferred to a new calender, the 2014  stays up.

The other morning I was looking at the snow scene and scanning the January birthdays when I glanced over at the verse for that month in 2014. It was taken from Philippians, 4:8. Speckled with snowflakes, these words were written in black on the side of a red barn; “Whatever Is Pure, Whatever Is Lovely, Think Of Such Things.” I knew in an instant, that verse was meant for me. My mind had become full of everything except thoughts of the pure and lovely.  I thought hard for a moment, and then I said out loud, to no one there. “You know what? I live in the real world. I have to think these undesirable thoughts because this is what I have to deal with each day. I can’t just sweep them under the rug and pretend they aren’t there. Can I?” Then I muttered,”God, You know I can’t always have pretty thoughts.”

I left for work. Throughout the day that verse simmered on the back burner of my mind. It’s aroma drifted in and out and around all that was happening in my head, breaking down my resistance to the truth and importance of Philippians, 4:8. On the drive home, I evaluated my thoughts. ” Too much junk. Ugly stuff! Like worries, problems, doubts, selfish and judgmental thoughts. These were not my friends. No, they were the enemy! They had infiltrated My Space!”

Driving into the brilliant sunset, listening to one of my favorite songs, God gently reminded me that it was my choice. I could let the undesirables stay, or I could replace them with pure and lovely. … I chose to replace them! Within a few minutes of purposely focusing on the most pleasant, pure and beautiful images that had been lying on the shelves of my memory, collecting dust, a flood of peace came over me. I asked myself,”why don’t I do this more often?” Now, I was ready to ride on to my castle and rescue my bride from her day of toil!

That night at home, I read the rest of Philippians, 4:8. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” Verse 9 goes on to assure us that if we put into practice what we have just read, the Peace of God will be evident in our lives.

Just as I do, you live in the real world where there is no shortage of ugly thoughts. Of course, we cannot sweep all the unpleasant under a rug. However, I am learning that God’s plan on this is the best. Instead of allowing the ugly, the worst and things to curse to be in charge of who we are and how we act, if we invite the best, the beautiful and the things to praise into the forefront of our minds, they will help us deal with the undesirables in a way that honors God.

I urge you to try this experiment at home, but be forewarned, the results may be overwhelming! Have some fun, read this passage of scripture in it’s context and discover ways that you can apply it to your daily life.

The Lord spoke to me in a way I least expected Him to. From an outdated calender. Just imagine how He may choose to speak to you today, this week, this year? Be on guard for the undesirables who may be lurking in the shadows of your mind. If you detect them, blast them away with the pure and lovely!