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December 2022

A Nazarene


Jesus in Context

Either Way 

But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. - Matthew 2: 19-21

 Here is a principle that Herod did not understand at all:

Don’t entertain evil for a minute. It doesn’t want to visit. It wants to move in and take over.

So, the only cure for the evil in Herod’s life was the death of Herod. No one was safe until Herod was dead. It is a sad commentary, but true. For as long as Herod lived and carried out his rain of pain and reign of terror, the true King of Israel remained in Egypt. Good news was stifled by sound of hoof beats as soldiers scoured the land to snuff out the life of any baby that just might be the Messiah.

Something had to give; something had to die. Only when Herod was dead was it safe for Joseph to bring his family out of Egypt and into the land of Israel.

It was not time for Jesus to die. He still had to grow up and live a redemptive life before He died a redemptive death It was time for evil to die and Herod had so immersed himself in evil that he had begun to personify it within himself.

Yet, there remained a window of opportunity for Herod as there remains such an opportunity for each of us. We also must die. Evil knows no limits. It will not restrain itself. Therefore, we must die to evil thoughts, evil deeds, and evil intentions. Furthermore, we must deem every action that restricts the reign of Jesus, every thought that keeps Him in Egypt, and every intention that wars against Him as evil that must die inside of us.

Because of the cross, we can choose to die that we might live. We can reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God through Jesus Christ. We will die to sin or we will die in sin. Either way, The Son of God will not remain in Egypt. He shall reign.

A Nazarene 

“And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. “ - Matthew 2:23

Some would be happier with a Jesus with no context, culture, or humanity. But that would not be the true Jesus. Incarnation means that He came at a specific time, place, and crossroads of historical events. He lived as a man and faced the time-space limitations of any person on this earth. He had gender, nationality, a native language, talents, physical strengths and weaknesses, most likely sickness, certainly the capacity to grow weary, and a family.

He was the descendant of David with all the nobility that was due to such a line, but He was fully identified culturally with the least noble region for any Jew in the minds of other Jews. Born in Bethlehem, He was raised in Nazareth. Jews spoke of Nazarenes with a sneer in their voices. And He was one of them and never wore the label with shame.

He identifies with us as well, whatever our histories, cultures, or backgrounds. He refuses to acknowledge the shame that the world associates with people based upon human prejudices but elevates people of every race and nationality to a place of dignity. As a Nazarene, raised near a great road traveled by numerous peoples, He must have encountered great cultural diversity. Out of that context, God gave us His Son to create a new race of mankind.



Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1

Our God breaths upon time and space and enters into our sphere, moving with rhythmic precision and thoughtful order, shaping events, turning tides, and weaving the seasons into a tapestry of purpose. We respond either by riding the waves of His wonderful will or resisting the seasons in habitual stubbornness and rigid rebellion.

The antithesis to a celebration of God’s gracious seasons would be a life of compulsive habit – where every day is the same and every reaction on our part is predictable. We so often live in contradiction to the way God’s Spirit moves. When we do, we swim against the tide and deplete our energy and other resources in frivolous pursuit of what we think is an orderly and well-planned life. In reality, we are resisting God and His ways.

There are places in the scheme of things where seasons seem to meld into a seamless web of sameness, but they are part of a greater design and even in such places there are divinely ordained fluctuations in what might be considered “norm.”

There are lives that seem dull and redundant, but when God is having His way in the hearts of His people, there is adventure and newness every day.

We need to embrace the seasons of our lives with relish and wonder. They are indications of God’s creative love and graceful presence. All that men define as chaos in the universe may be that way from their limited perspectives – but it takes an eternal perspective to see that there is glorious pattern beyond our comprehension that we shall some day see unfolded before enlightened eyes in glory.

Whatever season you are in, physically, chronologically, developmentally, relationally, occupationally, emotionally, or spiritually, God knows and He is present. He is moving in the midst of your circumstances. Discover the current of His grace and ride through the storms. For everything, there is a season.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas


There is much to be said of this day, much more than we can or shall say. It is not for the faint of heart and never has been.

Giotto Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork

Is there anything you should add to history before midnight?

Wikipedia says of this day:

In the Gregorian calendarNew Year's Eve, also known as Old Year's Day or Saint Sylvester's Day in many countries, is the evening or the entire day of the last day of the year, on 31 December

Happy St. Sylvester's Day!

No photo description available.

Pope Sylvester I served as Pope of the Western Church from 314 to 335. Medieval legend made him responsible for the conversion of emperor Constantine and to have been instrumental in a healing in his life.

During his papacy, the Nicene Creed was formulated:

"We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all the world. Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made: who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man."

Saint Silvester's Day liturgically marks the seventh day of Christmastide.

So, we still say, "Merry Christmas!"

And we say, "Down with dragons!"

Pope Sylvester I portrayed slaying a dragon and resurrecting its victims, a fresco by Maso di Banco

It is also Old Year Day, so we say, "Good riddance" to 2020.

It is also New Year's Eve. So, we will greet each other with prayers and good wishes for a bright new year.

On this day in 1225 – The Lý dynasty of Vietnam ends after 216 years by the enthronement of the boy emperor Trần Thái Tông, husband of the last Lý monarch, Lý Chiêu Hoàng, starting the Trần dynasty.

No photo description available.

On this day in 1600, the British East India Company was chartered. It was a joint-stock company that was dissolved in 1874, chartered to trade in the Indian Ocean region, eventually reaching to East Asia. Beyond commerce, taht took control of large parts of the Indian subcontinent, colonized parts of Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. At one point, they were the world's largest company and a major factor in world economic and geo-political influence. They eventually took up rule over large portions of India/ Their influence is still felt today for good and for bad.
The East offering its riches to Britannia - Roma Spiridone, 1778 - BL Foster 245
On this day in 1687 – The first Huguenots set sail from France to the Cape of Good Hope.
13 years later another shipload of these Protestants would land up river on the James from Richmond carrying some members of the Guerrant family who were among my ancestors.
Huguenot Cross
We were pretty good at scattering ourselves.
On this day in 1879,ThomasEdison demonstrates incandescent lighting to the public for the first time.
First Bulb
Shine On!
Again, I ask:
Is there anything you should add to history before midnight?


Reconciliation Eyes

New eyes

Part of conversion, a big big part, is seeing people through different eyes.

We do not look at anyone the same way anymore.

We have redemption eyes and reconciliation bias.

Even Jesus looks different to us when we start following Jesus.

We are new people and we see people in new ways.

We cannot divide people into categories like friends and enemies. All are of profound value to God.

The old has past; the new has come. We are ambassadors of that message, emissaries of the King, bearers of a joyful mandate:

Be reconciled to God!

Jesus is example #1 and forerunner in this matter.

Vicariously, he became sin for us without entering into the process of sin. He represented sin and sinners that we might represent righteousness and God.

He stopped counting our sins.

Seventy times seven means, "Who is counting?"

No one.

Paul says it was all for our sake.

When you accept the grace of God, you take on the role of a messenger of peace.

Are you waiting for a good time?

Paul says, "Now is the time."

These are the eyes through which we see all people and all reality, reconciliation!

2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 

For he says, "At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you."

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!


Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.


Rembrandt’s “Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery” (1644). Wikimedia

Jesus asked the woman who had been caught in adultery who was left to condemn her.

She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. - John 8:11

Jesus said that wheat and tares would grow together until the end of time and that in the end, God Himself would sort them out.

Until that time, we are called to live without the burden of judging others, without condemnation, and with a solemn commitment not to destroy anything of God’s planting in the futile process of sorting our evil people from good people in this life.

Not everything that grows in a field is what we have planted. Not everything that we plant grows to maturity. Still we plant and water. Still we wait in expectation.

Many would have discarded the woman caught in adultery if they could have done so without condemning themselves. They would have relegated her to the trash heap of humanity as someone soiled, sullied, and unworthy of grace.

Not so, Jesus.

He refused to cast her away, but sent her away with mercy and hope.

“Go and sin no more,” He commanded her with the built-in hope instilled in her heart that such a life was now possible for her.
She had been redeemed.

Let us look unto the fields as they are white unto harvest and be ever so careful not to destroy any soul that God has planted through our own premature judgment of them.

Let us see every person as a potential part of God’s harvest of grace. Let us labor in His fields with love and hope.


Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and began to teach them. 

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and, making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 

They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 

And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 

She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” - John 7:53-8:11


Keeper of the Keys

And Grace, My Fears Relieved

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: - Revelation 1:17 

Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. – Romans 8:15

It is not enough to learn to fear. Once we have learned the hard lesson of reverence, grace relieves our fears and comforts our troubled, weary souls.

First, we fall as dead before His magnificence; then He touches us in compassion and commands us to fear not.

Then, we go down into Egypt and experience bondage. There we learn to know him, and, in the wilderness, we learn His Name. We are slaves to sin and then to the law, but we are redeemed and released. And we are adopted. And in that adoption, we learn to cry, “Abba.”

Bondage brings fear and God uses the bondage of the law as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Bondage informs us of what we are missing because our longings become the pangs of want. Somewhere in the process of learning fear, we come to grips with the deepest desire of our hearts. If we are honest and open, we realize that our desire is for God who alone can meet our needs and grant us redemption and freedom.

Grace taught my heart to fear and my fears relieved many years ago. Yet, I must return to that turning point again and again, sometimes in the singing of the song of Amazing Grace. There I remember. In that moment, I give thanks. In those chords I am realigned with his purposes communicated through His loving kindness which is better than life.

Grace, my fears relieved. I cannot begin to describe the relief, the pure, sure calm that has come over my soul. That can be yours as well.

His Right Hand

“And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead, and He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, ‘Fear not …” Revelation 1:17a

In a moment of profound confusion, possible terror, and overwhelming spiritual awe, for John, Jesus places His hand on him with reassuring intensity. All over the world where the gospel had been spread and believers gathered, there was severe persecution. Old now, John had been relegated to a place of exile. He was no stranger to trouble, no coward in the face of danger, and not a man to be shocked by anything God could or would do. However, this experience of seeing Jesus in all His glory was enough to knock Him over as a dead man.

It is not said, but one might wonder if John had grown dismayed, discouraged, or disillusioned amid suffering and seeming chaos. Had he grown weary in waiting for the promises of redemption from this world of sin? Certainly, he had remained faithful to his calling and steadfast in his faith, but had his confidence wavered? We may not know about John, but we can know about ourselves. Have you ever needed the boost that comes from a reminder of God’s presence? Have you ever been at that place where you just wanted to know that God had not abandoned you?

The whole church was there, and Jesus chose to speak to and through John and He placed his right hand upon him. Whatever John may have lacked in confidence, the right hand of fellowship restored. Whatever may have faded in faith was revived by His touch. Whatever seemed far removed and unapproachable in the vision of the exalted Christ was made intimately present through the personal reach of the crucified, risen Savior, who laid His hand upon an old friend with the compassion words, “Fear not.”

And so He comes to you and to me, dear friend, amid the noise of confusion and the beating waves of doubt an anxiety. His words speak truth and courage to our hearts, but it is His touch that is life giving and life affirming, Fear not!

Fear Not

“… Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold; I am alive forever more, Amen, and I have the keys of hell and death.” – Revelation 1:17b-18

At the start of Jesus’ earthly life, the angel brings the same message to the shepherds that the resurrected glorified Christ gives to John on the Isle of Patmos, “Fear not.” He, who is the first and last, has the first and last word in this matter. We are not called to fear, but to faith. We are not designed for timidity, but for courage. We are not relegated to lives of restless anxiety, but to confidence in a Lord who surrounds time and envelops space, One whose purposes are eternal and whose promises endure forever.

He is indeed the first and the last. Nothing preempts His preeminence in all things. In the beginning, He is God. In the end, He is God. He created history and He will sum it up in the final analysis.

It would be enough to know that He is eternal, but He became temporal flesh and blood for us. We can expel fear because He faced our deepest fears in His own body. Death, our old nemesis, has stalked us through all of our years. He turned to death as if to say, “Just try to take me. Give it your best shot.”

And He died – horribly, as hideously as possible, but even in death, He had the last word, “It is finished!”

Sometimes you feel locked in and the walls seem to cave in on you. Sometimes you feel locked out, unable to enter the place of security and joy. Whether you feel locked in or out, fearful of the unknown, apprehensive of the future, regretful of the past, I have good news for you. The keeper of the keys is extending one hand to you and dangling the keys to all the great mysteries and eternity itself in the other. Death and hell are in His hand. He has been there to release the captives and all we must do is follow Him.

But that is not all. He is alive forevermore demonstrating that death is not final for one who believes with heart and life in the Lord of life. But even that is not all – for even if we were to conquer the fear of death, there would be eternity to contend with.

And to that anxiety, Jesus exclaims, “Fear not … I have the keys.”

Alive Forevermore

“I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” – Revelation 1:18

See Jesus. He stands before you with outstretched, nail-pierced hands and declares, “I am alive,” and you know that His life is the most profound reality in the universe.

“I was dead,” He continues, and you know that it is over. Death has been stared down and has been the first to blink.

Been there; done that – as the colloquialism goes.

And death is done. You must choose death now to die forever. Yet, people choose death every day. They choose death by rejecting the life of grace that is freely offered. Through sin, we have all made the choice against life.

Sin is not defined by a list of unacceptable behaviors. Those are the symptoms of sin. Sin is staring at the One who is alive and was dead and then, turning away. It is trying to snatch the keys from His hand, to sneak in the back door, or to create our own religion of self-sufficiency. Sin is kidding ourselves by calling death, life. Sin is rejecting the One who holds the keys.

Easter is about Jesus standing before us still. He holds the keys in His wounded hands and rattles them as an invitation to life. They are engraved with the words, “Do not copy” and they cannot be copied. They are the originals no imitations will open the doors of death and hell. He is alive for evermore and deeply desires to make us alive with him.

Worship Him today by acknowledging His unique and exclusive right and power to bring life. Trust Him. Follow Him. Invite Him to rule within your heart. He is Lord.

God's Pattern

Photo by Dave Lowe on Unsplash
Isaiah 12:1-6, NRSVU

You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. 

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 

And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. 

Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. 

Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

This is God's pattern.

We experience, from God, what seems to us, to be God's anger.

What it is, at a deeper level, is God's resistance to our resistance.

When Isaiah says that God's anger turned away, he explains that he is beginning to experience God's comfort. How does this happen? Where is the turning?

There is no intervening action on Isaiah's part that he reports. He just notes that God breaks through. God overcomes the resistance. 

Isaiah's repentant change of heart and perspective is that process where he recognizes God becoming his salvation. He no longer experiences God as the angry judge, but as the One who rescues him and redeems him.

This is a joyful experience for Isaiah. It is one he desires to publish among the nations. It causes him to sing and shout.

It is not God who has changed, but the relationship. God is solid truth and when you bang your head against God, God does not budge.

God who revealed his glory in a pillar o cloud by day and one of fire by night, has many facets, but the face God shows us is love and mercy.

For followers of Jesus, it is reflected and experienced in his face.

John saw that face in a vision from the Island of Patmos. It was the context for the entire book of Revelation, the backdrop of all that is revealed in the visual disclosures of the book.

Revelation 1:1-8, NRSVU

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near. 

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.

Amen. Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.

So it is to be. Amen. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

God is your salvation.

God's heart for you is compassion.

Receive that compassion and show it to others.


A Few Reposts from Earlier Entries on Today's Scriptures

My Rock and Salvation - Psalm 18

Rock and fortress

"I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies." - Psalm 18:1-3 (ESV)

The editor observed in the introduction:

"To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said ..."

What is your battle?

Who is your strength?

"I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies."

"The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me."

"In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears." - Psalm 18:3-6 (ESV)


In distress we call ;
In reverence we fall;
In joy, in sorrow, all ...
We bring to Him and crawl
To be lifted. Enthrall ...
The nations. Install ...
His glory. Each wall ...
Collapse. Each hall ...
Be filled with wonder and praise!


"For I have kept the ways of the LORD,

and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all his rules were before me,
and his statutes I did not put away from me.
I was blameless before him,
and I kept myself from my guilt.
So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight." - Psalm 18:21-24 (ESV)

Poor David had a bit of a blind side in his self assessment.

Or did he?

If God forgets my sin and separates them from me as far as the east is from the west, why should I wallow in guilt of that which is forgiven.

God sees me through different eyes than I could ever see myself.

He see the future and the present me ... perfected in Christ, made complete by grace.

Only that which is Christ in me, the hope of glory, comes to His attention. He looks a my little, pitiful efforts to follow Him and calls the angels over so that He can brag about His child.

Maybe I can sing these verses in faith after all!!!!

It is all about GRACE!

I Can Run and Climb and Jump

Image result for i can run

God, make me merciful, for I need mercy.
God, cleanse me from blame that I might see Your holiness.
Purify me that I might melt away in the glory of Your purity.
May I ever be humble that I might know I need You.
Light my way. Enlighten my darkness.
Give me strength to run, to leap and to long ...
For Your perfection.
You are my shield.
I take refuge in You.

" With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down.
For it is you who light my lamp;
the LORD my God lightens my darkness.
For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him."

(Psalm 18:25-30 ESV)





This is me asking my friends for help.

That means you!

I think that we are producing messages via blogs, social media, TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube that can help people.

But they cannot help anyone if no one gets them. 

Help me get the word out. The algorithms work when there is critical mass.

You can be a part of the process by subscribing to my channels, "liking" my videos, and sharing them. It works the same with blogs and social media posts.

That is why I am asking for help.

Journal Entries


As you visit your journals through the years, what short paragraphs or phrases jump out at you?

These were a few from Christmas mornings through the years that popped up among my social media reminders:

And through it all, I say, Merry Christmas! Why ... because my faith ... our faith ... is an "in spite of" sort of faith that brings together "because of" and "in defiance of" to create something entirely new a celebration of life that is gigantic. We are not mandated to celebrate today; we are invited. We have no biblical orders, but we have infinite permission Let us CELEBRATE!

Let us not forget today, as we enjoy the wonders of this day, the others for whom Love has come into the world, the lowliest, the loneliest, the lost and poor. May we allow Him to touch us in those places where we are all of those things and may we be prompted to reach out in Love on these coming 364 days, to them for whom today is a burden almost too great to bear.

Happy-sad. That is what I am as I await the awakening of the house. There are many with whom I have not celebrated in person for years' there is one who is living in a box and all I can do for him is love him from afar; there are others who have lost their dearest ones and I cannot mend their pain ...

The youngsters in Bethlehem were homeless, cold, & tired. It was not a romantic, bucolic moment. It was a divine moment, the kind of moment that is so paradoxically odd as to redefine years of comfortable thinking and throw volumes of definitions into existential spasms. This Emmanuel moment defied everyone's expectations or sense of reality. It was not what anyone was looking or hoping for. It was more and it was less.

And yet ... and yet ... and yet ... moments come because the moment came. Because light is reality & darkness can only be defined by what it is not, because lasers are created by focused light & can cut away layers of layered resistance, because hope has a way of seeping in, because it really IS Christmas & God can reach anyone anywhere ... because of this, I'm not JUST sad... just enough sad to intensify the joy.
Today, I'm sad for the homeless, mentally ill, addicts on the streets, the parents and children in "the system" who can't be together, those whose lives are broken with grief, and others like these, some of whom are in my own family and cannot be with family. I am sad for them and breathe a prayer that they may find an Emmanuel moment in the midst of the intense loneliness and hear a whisper of love, "I am with you."

No Room for Hate

Annie-spratt-gq5PECP8pHE-unsplash (1)

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

We read of violence in the news daily - domestic violence, road rage, hate crimes, crimes of passion, crimes of greed.

We cringe and crumble under the news and our hearts may be filled with the same sort of rage that initiated those deeds.

There is no room in our world for hate.

There is no room for violence.

There is only room for love.

Love makes space for love.

If the perpetrators of violent deeds do not face the reality of their actions and the call to accountability, it will be very difficult for them to accept love, give love, and become a contributing part of any beloved community.

At the moment, they are at odds with a current of grace that always flows through a city when people of grace are standing in witness for love.

Of course, it makes me angry when people commit hate crimes.

I am angry at what they do; I am angry at them; and I am angry at what hate is doing to destroy them in an attempt to destroy us all.

Because I know the power of God's love so vigorously at work changing me, I know that the same love can change these hearts and even touch them deeply enough that they will turn themselves in and turn from this wickedness.

That is my prayer.

"Out of Egypt have I called my son."

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone (1304–1306, Scrovegni ChapelPadua)

God’s Postal System

Matthew 2:13-15 - And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

God’s Valentine has come to us through a circuitous route. It typically does. Such a route Joseph would take to protect his family. Such a journey would bring Jesus into Egypt along the paths of His ancestors. Such a path would bring Him out of the land of captivity into the land of the promise. Such would be the highway of love whereby God would deliver His greatest love letter to us, written upon the life of His Son, proclaimed by His death, and sounded forth with fury by the power of His resurrection.

God’s love letter, entrusted to the familial affection of a surrogate father’s devotion to his family traveled around the world to come home to those to whom it was addressed.

How far has His love letter to you traveled to arrive at your doorstep?

What was the chain of custody that the Word of God traversed before it came to rest upon your heart. Who told whom and who did they tell and on and on before you heard the Word and responded to the compelling love of Jesus?

God’s postal system never fails. Whatever route His message of love must take, it will arrive at its destination. So often, the first word of His love comes to us in the context of family. Sometimes it is a sure and certain word of clarity. Sometimes it is only a hint and foreshadowing of the message to come.

When our Jesus card first came to humanity, it was through a family comprised of two people who loved each other, one a mother, the other a stand-in dad. Before it could arrive, it would travel far out of its way, but it came to us in time. When we opened the card it said, “I love you” and it was signed, “Your Father.”

The Extent of Evil

 Matthew 2:16-18 - Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

How far will evil go to carry out its evil ends?

Moved by humiliation and anger, Herod’s insult was matched only by his wicked lust for power. Lashing out against the threat to his illegitimate monarchy, he flung his nation into a time of evil that was inconceivable in its sheer horror. Sanity questioned lunacy with the haunting cry, “Is there no limit to such evil?”

There is none.

Evil will not stop itself. It perpetuates its terrors. It knows no boundaries. It will progress and regress beyond any hint of decency as it grows immune to conscience and compassion.

That is the bad news. The good news is that there is, in fact a limit, but it is not pretty. Not until the death of Herod did the madness cease.

The good news is, furthermore, that God’s good is greater than man’s evil. He is monitoring the progress of wickedness and restraining its instinctive intrusion into the affairs of human history. A loving God allows us free will and its consequences because He does indeed love us, but He will only allow it to go on for so long. The length of its duration is a mystery to us. He will allow suffering to accomplish His purposes and, when they are complete, He will stop it.

When evil, which is not of God, ceases to work toward God’s redemptive purposes, it reaches its limit. We don’t understand it, nor can we predict its course, but we can trust in a God who is working all things out for our good and His glory.

When evil prevails, God weeps along with Rachel, but in the end, righteousness prevails and God says, “Enough!” Evil will not stop on its own. It is always brought to a stop by the intervention of God in history in one way or another.

That is the only limit that evil knows.

But it is solid.

Count on it!

On this day when the scriptures draw our attention to the massacre of the children, let us weep with Rachel and lament with those in Ramah and wherever the pain of loss is felt.

Jeremiah 31:15-17
Thus says the Lord: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. Thus says the Lord: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the Lord: they shall come back from the land of the enemy; there is hope for your future, says the Lord: your children shall come back to their own country.

Psalm 124
Nisi quia Dominus

If the Lord had not been on our side, *
let Israel now say;

If the Lord had not been on our side, *
when enemies rose up against us;

Then would they have swallowed us up alive *
in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us *
and the torrent gone over us;

Then would the raging waters *
have gone right over us.

Blessed be the Lord! *
he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler; *
the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the Lord, *
the maker of heaven and earth.

Revelation 21:1-7
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

Matthew 2:13-18
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son." When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more."

Back ad Forth in Time with Memories and Expectations


The Meeting of Our Lord (Russian icon, 15th century)


Simeon in the Temple, by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1631

When God Whispers in Our Ears

And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.– Luke 2:28

What has the Holy Spirit shown you?

Is it audacious to make claims of divine revelation? Is it theologically correct to do so?  Might it not be considered presumptuous?

In the first place, this was not general revelation for all people. It was personal disclosure for Simeon’s personal consumption and encouragement. The Holy Spirit had assured him of the promise and he had embraced it.

There is no indication that Simeon had gone about bragging on his “special revelation.” He had not used it to elevate his status or to appear hyper spiritual.

He had not developed and marketed a seminar entitled, “How I Received a Revelation from the Holy Ghost and How You Can Too.”

He simply received a promise through the still, small voice of God and he clung to it with all his might. He did so in complete trust and confidence that God would bring it to pass.

Perhaps you believe that the Holy Spirit has shown you something about your future. It is OK to entertain the thought. None of us is a perfect receptacle for words from God, but He does still whisper promises in our ears in the form of assurance, calling, and encouragement. Do not be afraid to receive these words.

Could you be wrong? You might, but if you are, God will clarify that for you and show you something better in due time.

You will most likely discover that God was indeed speaking to you, but that you did not fully understand what He was trying to say. It stretched you and challenged you and through the experience, you grew.

If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you, it is most likely about you. It was about Simeon that he would live to see the Lord’s Christ and it was about Christ Himself. There were many ways God could have chosen to fulfill those words, but the way He did turned into a blessing for all who believe. What is He whispering in your ear?

The S Factor

"And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him."– Luke 2:25

Simeon was in the right place, in the right frame of mind, living a righteous life, and doing so in right relationship with God.

He was a ready receptacle for God into which God could deposit a gift. He was also ready to be used to make a great declaration to the world.

The Holy Ghost was upon Him – what a magnificent state in which to be!

To be in Jerusalem, the city of God was the first of his blessings. That meant that he lived within eyesight of the temple and could go there regularly to worship, pray, and hear the Torah. Proximity to God and His people opens us to blessings beyond our imagination. Stay close.

He was just. When given a choice between doing the right thing and the wrong thing, he chose the right thing. He did not ask, “Which is easier or has a better payoff?” He asked, “What is right?”

He was devout. His heart was turned in the direction of God and He was an earnest God-seeker. Such a man or woman is ready for God to move.

He was waiting for the consolation of Israel. He was not a grumbler about the times, but he knew that something better was coming. He lived in anticipation, waiting for a great movement and intervention of God in history. So may we.

The Holy Ghost was upon him. Whatever else might be said of him, there was this invisible, unexplainable, beyond-the-ordinary dimension to his life that nothing could account for but the Holy Spirit. It was the S Factor – S for Spirit.

The Christian life is a spiritual life. It is to be lived spiritually in the power of the Holy Spirit and under His constant influence. When that is the case, whatever else might be said of us will not be enough to explain the extraordinary hope, confidence, insight, and authority of our lives.

The S Factor is available to each of us. Are we available to Him?

Hanging On

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation ... – Luke 2:29-30

Sometimes it seems that we are just hanging on, waiting for something big to happen.

We hang on to money because we know that either a great opportunity or a rainy day is on the way.

We hang on to an idea because we know that someday, it will be useful. Some day, other people will buy into it and come alongside of us.

We hang on to life because we know that God is not done with us and that all He has promised has not yet come to pass. We hang on because He is hanging on to us and because to shortcut the process would be to cheat Him and to cheat ourselves.

We hang on to hope because we believe that God is the God of hope and that everything He promises will come to pass. We know deeply that He is not forgetful, nor is He remiss. He will fulfill His Word.

Therefore we live on tiptoe. While resting in His promises, we do not entirely relax. We stay alert. We watch. We pray. We actively seek any sign of His coming, any indication of His acting out of His purposes in our time.

We may not know what our roles may be, but we stand at the ready to play them. If it is only to witness His power and trustworthiness, we will do so with joy and gratitude.

Simeon could not depart in peace until the moment came and when the moment came, he knew it.

“Any time now, Lord.  I have seen what you told me I’d see before I died. I’m ready now.”

There were no regrets in Simeon’s life, no unfinished business, no unfulfilled plans, no lost dreams. God had done the great thing for which he had been “hanging on.”

Maybe he lived many more years; maybe he died the next day; we don’t know. What we do know is that when the time came for him to make the final departure, he was ready. He was ready from that moment on.

A Strange Blessing

And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.  Luke 2:34-35

Simeon is an example of a biblical character who loved his country and prayed for its well being. He was devout and he was waiting for a promise that God would deliver to his people, Israel. He was a patriot.

He was also a man who understood that what his country needed most was a baptism of truth and righteousness and that only God’s Messiah could do for his nation what it really needed.

It must have seemed like a strange sort of blessing to Mary and Joseph as he spoke it. Many would rise. Many would fall. As a sign, the babe would be spoken against. He would bring out the best and worst in people as their very heart thoughts and motives were revealed. As parents, they would have their hearts pierced. It was a strange blessing indeed.

Freedom itself can be a mixed blessing. It comes at a price and required continuous vigilance and responsibility.

When Jesus comes, sweet and unassuming, precious, cute, and giggly as a little baby, it is hard to imagine that the planet has just been invaded by a force to contend with. He does not tread lightly. There will be no lasting indifference in His regard. He will not be non-controversial. He defines controversy. He confronts us, shattering our prejudices, exposing our biases, showing us what our religious hypocrisies really look like in the light of His truth.

And so He comes to you and to me, dear friend, amid the noise of confusion and the beating waves of doubt an anxiety. His words speak truth and courage to our hearts, but it is His touch that is life giving and life affirming, Fear not! He threatens our stasis. He shatters our well-formed opinions no matter how many proof-texts we have arranged to support them. He is Lord of all and every notion is subject to His interpretation.

We are not guaranteed safe passage through the sorting out process. We may well be sifted. Nor are those close to him guaranteed that we will not be broken on the wheel of pain and discomfort.

And yet, He is blessed and we will be blessed through Him. By being in His circle of relationships, the sifting experiences will be blessings and the piercings will be blessings too. We need His awful mercy and His harsh healing to be made whole. Strange as the blessing may be, a blessing it is. He is the blessing that our nation most needs today.


Borrowed Laughter

Laughter is everywhere
Laughter is everywhere.
Are you getting your share?
Laughter is from the heart.
Are you doing your part?
Laughter comes in giggles
And sometimes moves to wiggles.
Laughter can make us dance.
Would you like to have the chance?
Laughter shakes our anger loose too!
Watch out, it might come and goose you!
Laughter's great when you are tense
Releasing  need of recompense.
Let is turn you inside out.
Let it turn you all about.
If you'd like a happy jelly bath
Settle for a snappy belly laugh.
This was just a line or two
To drive this lesson home to you.
Laughing is a joyous thing.
Tomorrow, we will learn to sing.
A Couple of Mine
Not Sure Where to Give Credit for These
But if you cannot make a laugh, or buy a laugh, borrow one.
For Those Who Take Life Too Seriously
                        1. Save the whales. Collect the whole set
2. A day without sunshine is like, night.
3. On the other hand, you have different fingers.
4. I just got lost in thought. It was unfamiliar territory.
5. 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
6. 99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
7. I feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe.
8. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted, then used against you.
9. I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be without sponges
10. Honk if you love peace and quiet.
11. Remember half the people you know are below average.
12. Despite the cost of living, have you noticed how popular it remains?
13. Nothing is fool-proof to a talented fool.
14. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
15. He who laughs last thinks slowest.
16. Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
17. Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.
18. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
19. I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol.
20. I intend to live forever - so far so good.
21. Borrow money from a pessimist - they don't expect it back.
22. If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?
23. My mind is like a steel trap - rusty and illegal in 37 states.
24. Quantum mechanics: The dreams stuff is made of.
25. The only substitute for good manners is fast reflexes.
26. Support bacteria - they're the only culture some people have.
27. When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane and going the wrong way.
28. If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.
29. A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.
30. Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
31. For every action there is an equal and opposite criticism.
32. Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks
33. Never do card tricks for the group you play poker with.
34. No one is listening until you make a mistake.
35. Success always occurs in private and failure in full view.
36. The colder the x-ray table the more of your body is required on it.
37. The hardness of butter is directly proportional to the softness of the bread.
38. The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the ability to reach it.
39. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.
40. To succeed in politics, it is often necessary to rise above your principles.
41. Monday is an awful way to spend 1/7th of your life.
42. You never really learn to swear until you learn to drive.
43. Two wrongs are only the beginning.
44. The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.
45. The sooner you fall behind the more time you'll have to catch up.
46. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
47. Change is inevitable except from vending machines.
48. Get a new car for your spouse - it'll be a great trade!
49. Plan to be spontaneous - tomorrow.
50. Always try to be modest and be proud of it!
51. If you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of payments.
52. How many of you believe in telekinesis? Raise my hand...
53. Love may be blind but marriage is a real eye-opener.
54. If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving isn't for you.

You really do need to take a break from serious thoughts from time to time and laugh at absurdity if you intend to survive with a sound mind.

I'm serious. Humor is no laughing matter.

I am not talking about derision, mocking, or humiliating people. Rather, the need is to create space where people are free to laugh.

Lead by example. Learn to laugh at yourself and with others.

You will find that you are developing a team that enjoys working together, is more creative, and is more willing to go the extra mile. They get connected through the common thread of laughter.

Here are some suggestions (from me) for embracing the HUMOR in life:


The essence of humor is the ability to laugh at oneself. It is not self-deprecation; it is simply humility and the self-esteem and security necessary to be humble. It is the kind of humility that breaks down barriers and disarms.

Lincoln, when accused of being two-faced, responded that if he had another face, he certainly would not show the one that was on display.


It is necessary to have some insight into humanity in order to fully appreciate how silly we must look from the outside. The best humor of all actually loves and empathizes with humanity while appreciating its foibles and flaws.

Humor acknowledges the absurdities and creates an arena of agreement on our common experiences.


As you grow older, wiser, looser, and better informed, you have more of a smorgasbord of humorous material. Life itself becomes your best source of intelligent humor. The better your command of language, the keener your capacity for wit.

The broader your experiences, the deeper your belly laugh. Maturity frees us to enjoy more of what is best about laughter - not at the expense of others, but with them.

Obvious and Ordinary

Humor takes what is obvious and allows it to entertain deeper or alternate meanings. If you want to enjoy the laughter of life, keep your eyes and ears open and be ready for those moments of serendipity when everything comes together, when timing is, indeed, everything.

Rip and Relax 

Let it rip!

Get over it.

Let go of it. Relax.

Give yourself permission to take a short vacation into the realm of the absurd. You will create a healthier life and a healthier team.


Hearts in Lockstep

Jesus rio
When we analyze the program of Jesus, set forth in Luke 4, we find:
1. Good news to the poor -- the economically disinherited.
2. Release to the captives -- the socially and politically disinherited.
3. The opening of the eyes of the blind -- the physically disinherited.
4. The setting at liberty the bruised -- the morally and spiritually disinherited.
5. The Lord's Year of Jubilee -- a new beginning on a world scale.
6. The Spirit of the Lord upon me -- the dynamic behind it all.
From "Christ's Alternative to Communism" by E. Stanley Jones
Jones gives us a wonderful reminder of what it means to align with the child in the manger on Christmas morning.
To follow this man, Jesus, means to adopt His program, to enter His kingdom as a child by turning from everything else (repentance). When we make that turn, grace and mercy cover every failed attempt we have ever made to make life meaningful or bearable. Every sin is obliterated because He carried this entire program to the final degree of obedience unto death.
Following him  is freedom to bring this same good news of release, sight, liberty, and Jubilee to all for, as the Spirit was upon him, he is with us and within us to accomplish these purposes.
Our hearts and our lives are in lockstep with His heart and life for the poor, the captive, the blind, and the bruised.
We can change things.
We can make a difference.
It is not all on any of us, but it is upon us all as one people with Him. We will have multiple failures, disappointments, and quite a few successes .... but the walk behind Him is a walk of grace and joy and peace.
Welcome, Jesus!
We shall follow you!

God in the Moment


The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined. - Isaiah 9:2-7

Message - The Emmanuel Moment


God Is.

The God who is defies definition. The God who is and self-describes as the "I Am." This God is the "Other" and the Wholly Holy Other, the first and the Eternal Thou.  God is Father and more. God is Creator, Sustainer, and Logos. God Is and, if God was not, nothing would be.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. - John 1:1

God Speaks.

The God who is, desires, longs, and intends to be known. Therefore God is Logos Word that speaks in every language and in deed to make Himself known to all.

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. -Hebrews 1:1-2

God Seeks.

Jesus, who came to seek and to save the lost, manifests God's seeking heart. God does not just wait for seeks to find, God does the seeking We are the "Sought Out."

They shall be called, "The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD"; and you shall be called, "Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken." - Isaiah 62:12

God Saves.

As his name explicitly says, Jesus is the reminder that YHWH is our Savior. God saves.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all ... - Titus 2:11

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus ... But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." - Luke 2:1a, 10-12

God Sends.

God appoints the people who hear and receive the good news to tell that gospel among the nations, to speak of the goodness and grace of God. We are sent out to love, to openly worship, to serve, and the announce the Kingdom of God even as the angels did, and then, the shepherds.

 O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.  Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. - Psalm 96:1-2

This is who God is and what God is saying to us through this Emmanuel Moment, that moment when we come to know that God is with us. This is the message to us this Christmas. The God who Is, who speaks, who seeks, who saves, and who sends, has met us in Jesus, in a manger, whimpering and cooing. He is the manifestation of God's presence and the precise resemblance of who God is, at least all we can grasp.

This God, who inhabits and transcends all things, is wrapped up in humanity.

Let us rejoice!

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.  This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. - Titus 3:4-7

Vulnerable God


In the babyhood of God, God meets us as vulnerable in our own vulnerability.

Photo by Isaac Quesada on Unsplash

" all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old." - Isaiah 63:9 (NRSV)

This is the personal involvement of God in the distress of His people.

We continue to celebrate Christmas on the Christian calendar and in life, the message of the incarnation is one of God's personal involvement in the pain and passion of people.

It is our clarion call to be personally involved, with passion in the pain around us ... present.

We must be present for God is present.

We cannot stand back and gaze upon suffering and injustice with nods and sneers and detached prayers. Our prayers must to attached to our lives and the lives of others.

Wrapped in vulnerability,
Love descended ...
exposed to the elements ...
exposed to threat 
and danger ...
human ...
Incarnate ...
invisible divinity and
visible humanity.
Love ...
an open target ...
a viable opportunity
to align or malign and yet
Very Alive!
Present with us,
Among us,
One of us,
Like us ...
in all our infirmity ...
every temptation,
every disease,
every emotion,
every pain and passion,
poured upon Love!
Welcome, Jesus!
Welcome, Spirit!
Welcome, Presence and Power of God,
Emptied and embodied in
a body.
We are your body now.
All that you were among us,
We are called to be.
Let us be who you were and let us
give as you gave and let us
speak as you spoke and let us
love as you loved.
You, who are the Prince of Peace have made us ...
Peacemakers and called us ...
And we are ...
Welcome, Lord Jesus.
Welcome to our hearts and lives and 
Joy to the World!
The Lord has come.
Let earth receive her King! 

The Babyhood of God -- a reflection by Oswald Chambers. 

"The tremendous revelation of Christianity is not the Fatherhood of God, but the Babyhood of God—God became the weakest thing in His own creation, and in flesh and blood He levered it back to where it was intended to be. No one helped Him; it was done absolutely by God manifest in human flesh. God has undertaken not only to repair the damage, but in Jesus Christ the human race is put in a better condition than when it was originally designed." --Oswald Chambers, in The Shadow of an Agony from the Quotable Oswald Chambers.


A wonderful reminder of what it means to align with the child in the manger on Christmas morning.

To follow this man, Jesus, means to adopt His program, to enter His kingdom as a child by turning from everything else (repentance). When we make that turn, grace and mercy cover every failed attempt we have ever made to make life meaningful or bearable. Every sin is obliterated because he carried this entire program to the final degree of obedience unto death.

Following Jesus is freedom to bring this same good news of release, sight, liberty, and Jubilee to all forth as the Spirit was upon him, he is with us and within us to accomplish these purposes.

Our hearts and our lives are in lockstep with his heart and life for the poor, the captive, the blind, and the bruised.

We can change things. We can make a difference.

It is not all on any of us, but it is upon us all as one people with him. We will have multiple failures, disappointments, and quite a few successes .... but the walk behind him is a walk of grace and joy and peace.

Welcome, Jesus!

We shall follow you!

Christmas in Polecat Hollow


A Short Story

Read by the Author, Tom Sims

Photo by Dea Andreea on Unsplash

Christmas in Polecat Hollow

By Tom Sims

The first significant snows of winter came last week to Polecat Hollow and carpeted the ground with layer upon layer of white silk. The mounds of cotton through ice stained windows launched the children of the village into their yards with such urgency that mothers and fathers all over town stood sentry in doorways inspecting coats, gloves, and caps.

With precision and predictability, but no prior planning, Buster, Sally, Spike, Mahilda, Elmo, and Igmund G. Goodfellow, III gathered at their rustic clubhouse within 15 minutes of each other. It was to be a busy day. Their covenant was clear. Snow was a signal to come together for a day of serious play and creative expression. Each child brought a bucket of supplies: pine cones, wearing apparel, carefully carved sticks, tools – and a camera – everything necessary for building the best snow man the town had ever seen – and preserving it on film to prove to later generations.

The kids wondered what it must be like to live in a community without winter snow, like Fresno or San Diego. They paused for a few seconds of reflection and gratitude and then busied themselves rolling balls of snow, stopping only briefly to form an occasional snowball and toss it at one of their unsuspecting friends. They labored for what seemed hours – but was really only about 45 minutes – before Mrs. Browning arrived with a kettle of hot chocolate and a hot plate of cookies straight from the oven.

The refreshments tasted like home-baked love and they warmed their souls even as they warmed their bodies. All of the good things of life belonged to these children as they fashioned this symbol the season. They were well-loved children of God, their families, and their community. They were the very future of Polecat Hollow. As they built their snowman, he took on the qualities that they cherished most in themselves, their loved ones, and each other.

He was strong and noble, built from tightly compressed snow. But he had a kind and understanding smile made from fragments of branches and patterned after the expression on Mrs. Browning’s face as she distributed the cookies. He was wise for he wore Uncle Hinkey’s old glasses. The lenses as been broken out for 39 years and the frames were bent, but he couldn’t bear to throw them away and was delighted to donate them to the cause. He was compassionate because he was draped in Miss Prudence P. Love’s scarf, which, after four years, still smelled of her perfume – Fragrance Le’Skunk. As each child contributed something of themselves or some special person in their life, a distinct personality began to emerge and they decided to name him, Oscar. It just sounded right and everyone needs a name. They stood back for a moment and began to spontaneously sing their favorite Christmas carols. It was a good day.    

Oscar was changing day by day. On sunny days, he would melt a little. On snowy days, he would grow. On freezing nights, he would change form and grow brittle around the edges. Every day, the children visited him to behold the changes and make necessary repairs, improvements, and adjustments to his persona.

Like human beings, Oscar was predominately made of water – only more so. Did that make him more human? Like humans, he was inhabited by millions of microorganisms that love to swim in water – so tiny that we cannot see them without the aid of magnification or imagination. Did that make Oscar alive?

Yes, Oscar had a personality – or so it seemed – because he was one of a kind and reflected the image of his creators. He was a bit of Buster and a bit of Sally and of all the club members who had contributed something of themselves to his design and formation. So, children are products of their parents, families, friends, and communities. So they reflect the image of these and, especially of God, their creator.

There were many similarities, but still, Oscar was not a person. He was not alive even though there was a lot of life swimming around in him. There were some key elements of personhood missing from Oscar. The children sat around the clubhouse and pondered these together.

For one Thing, Oscar could not move – at least not on his own. He was not an independent soul who could determine his own destiny. He relied upon his creators or outside forces, not by choice, but by the limitations of his existence for everything. To be a person, one must be able to move on one’s own and even to defy one’s maker. That understanding helped Buster see something of himself and answered one of his long-standing questions about why God allows us, as people, to disobey him. It is because we are people and we have to choose to love, serve, and follow him. Otherwise, we are no more than snowmen. It would have been fun to have a snowman with whom they could converse, who could love them back, and who stayed with them by choice. But he was, after all, only a snowman and they were real people.

Oscar was not aware of himself; he did not think; he had no emotions; and there was no unifying life that tied him together. He was just packed snow, formed to look like a funny man. He could not worship in the sense that people worship (although the Bible says that all creation praises God). He was not conscious, whatever that meant. He could not know God.

On the other hand, Oscar was a lot like the children – changing every day, being formed and re-formed by a God who cared for them. They thought about these things deeply, for they are very deep thinkers in Polecat Hollow. They were amazed at what a wonderful thing it was to consider that God loves people and became a human being Himself.  Oscar may not have been a real person, but he was a great teacher.

The blizzard arrived unannounced two days ago and covered the valley with three feet of snow. Nothing moved for hours. Eventually, the snowplows and shovels were activated and the citizens of Polecat Hollow began to dig themselves out of their homes and driveways.

The children were cloistered inside their various houses, safely protected from the new terrain created by the blanket of white precipitation. They nervously awaited the “all clear” from their mothers so that they could eat their breakfasts, do their snow chores, and  leave their houses to check on Oscar. Nothing looks familiar after a snowstorm. Landmarks are obscured, trees take on odd shapes, and the normal twists and turns of the streets of the town are smoothed over by the glossy glitter of silk from the sky. For that reason, moms and dads are reluctant to fling open the doors and release their children into the wilds of Snowville.

Even among folks who face such weather year in and year out, each blizzard is a brand new experience. They embrace the moment with a combination of caution and expectancy. For those with predefined and rigid schedules, there is a mixture of annoyance and relief. For teachers and others whose professions are flexible, there is a day off the stay at home and sip coffee beside a warm fire while snuggled up with a blanket and a novel.

Chief John Riley Laws of the Polecat Hollow Consolidated Fire and Police Departments, it was a day of work when he could anticipate emergencies. He would have no relief and would have to find away to emerge from the snow pack and navigate the town in his patrol car. Even Mayor Byron T. Simpleton knew that he would be expected around town and made an early effort to find his way to Mabel’s TeaCup.  There a fresh pot of coffee was on the stove and Uncle Hinkey was already sitting at his usual table waiting for his municipal nephew’s morning “briefing.”

The members of the Loyal Order of the Goobers had already come and gone from Mable’s having ordered their usual fare of grits and toast. By 6:00 A.M. they were out offering their backs and shovels to widow ladies to clear sidewalks, empty trashcans, and run errands. At 8:00 A.M., they would enlist some Junior Goobies to assist them.

Buster, Sally, Spike, Mahilda, Elmo, and Iggy knew this and hurried to do whatever was necessary to get to the clubhouse before the Goobers arrived. They would need at least an hour to do what needed to be done.

When they arrived at the clubhouse, they could not locate Oscar. They knew where the house itself was because the roofline was somewhat visible. But Oscar, the snowman was completely immersed in new snow – thirty-six inches of it. How would they find him under it all? How would they know when they had found him and avoid disfiguring him by digging deeper than they should? Perhaps his distinguishing features, such as his carrot nose would alert them when they were close. All of these questions and concerns were so active that they forgot it was Christmas Eve.

It was a new and improved Oscar that emerged from the blizzard. He was larger in some places and leaner in others. He took on a new air of nobility and some of his features were refined. The children added features to his character and appreciated him more than ever. Oscar’s time on this planet had been extended through another storm. His purpose, though not precisely defined, was a continuing reality. He stood as a symbol of winter in general and of Christmas and New Year’s specifically.

On Christmas Day, the townspeople of Polecat Hollow have a habit of strolling. They deposit their turkeys and hams in the oven and leave their homes and gifts for an hour or two of walking about. They stagger this activity so that some folks are always home to be called upon while others are doing the calling. At some places they simply wave. At others, they visit on the door stoop. It is not uncommon, however, for a family to actually enter four or five homes for a cup of eggnog and a cookie followed by a tour of the various rooms of the house with an annotated display of the gifts each family member received.

Families stroll together and they always meander through town, pausing at the foot of the statue of Colonel Thaddeus T. Hinklebeiner and listening to the bells from the church chime out Christmas Carols. Usually, there are clusters of folks milling about in Town Square. The Loyal Order of Goobers’ auxiliary: Thad’s Daughters always have a table set up with hot cider and fruitcake. The members take an hour each to serve during the day and look forward to the responsibility all year. Miss Pruduence P. Love was on duty as the Browning Family strolled by.

“How is Oscar?” Miss Prudence asked Buster and Sally with such sincerity that they knew she really wanted an answer.

“Better than ever,” blurted Buster. “I’m pretty surpirsed at how well he is looking after that awful blizzard. We thought we were going to lose him.”

“I’ve seen 93 Christmases come and go,” mused Miss P, “and between each of them, there have been storms. Some have been pretty devastating. There have been times when I just didn’t think I would make it. But the Good Lord has always seen me through and then, Christmas would come and after that, a brand new year and I’d go on. I suppose Oscar is a lot like the rest of us – adversity makes us stronger with the right kind of help.”

“What helped you get through the storms, Miss Love?” It was Sally’s turn to talk.

“Sweetheart, every time I felt discouraged to the point where I wanted to give up, I’d come here to center of town. I’d think about Christmas and all the people strolling by, looking at the lights, visiting one another. I’d look at the Colonel’s statue and remember the prairie dust storms our ancestors passed through and all the struggles to build this town. I’d listen the bells toll on the hour and think about time and how it passes. Then I’d be reminded that we are all, always just strolling through time with all its sights and sounds. And through it all, there is one constant: God is actively watching us and always remaking us for the better. His love, wrapped in swaddling clothes clothed me with the strength to go on and it still does.”  

That gave Buster and Sally something to think about … and that is, after all, what a story should do.                                   The End … for now


The Richest Lady in the World

Saint Nickolena of Polecat Hollow



A Radio Drama - KPUU

Photo by Mario Beqollari on Unsplash


The Richest Lady In The World
by Tom Sims
© copyright, 1998 and 2002, Thomas B. Sims, All Rights Reserved

We take you now … to some time in the future.

It was a cold December Saturday evening and the announcer's voice was heard all over the little village, "Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, KPUUU and the local merchants of Polecat Hollow are proud to present this premier dramatization of a local story, “The Richest Lady in the World.”

It would be the first time that the story had ever been told as a whole. Some thought it to be a legend, but those who had lived it knew it to be true. The broadcast was an annual event, as much a part of Christmas in our little town as stockings and carols. B. Haywood Browning, Buster to his friends, had seen to that. Along with his sister, Sallie Simpleton, they had written and produced a drama that captured forever, a moment that had changed their lives forever, the day she, Nickolena, Saint Nickolena visited Polecat Hollow.

Taped Music interrupted the announcer as the Marsupial Heights Community Church choir tolled out their own unique version of Silent Night, Holy Night.

After the music, the narrator's voice could again be heard. In fact, I think I will let his voice speak for me for it is the voice of all who experienced this amazing event:


Chapter 1

There had never been such a Christmas before, nor would there ever be again. Buster rubbed his chin and thought deeply about the wonderful things he had seen and heard in the last week, things that had happened to him, things that had happened in him.

Christmas had always been special, at least for as long as he could remember, which when he thought about it, was not long. He was only nine years old, but he couldn't even think about anymore time than that, for him, that was the entire history of the world.

He had lived a lot in these nine years, but he had lived even more in the last nine days. Nine days ago she came to town, Nickolena. She was older than Christmas, Buster had thought, and she was wiser than the wisest person in all Polecat Hollow. Wiser than Solomon, she must be. And lovely through her deep and many wrinkles. He old weak eyes could smile a smile that would light the darkness.

She spoke slowly and walked carefully always behind her shopping cart. Her clothes were well-worn and torn. Her shoes had holes big enough for her to stick her toes through.

Buster - Where are you from?

Nickolena- I come from all over, boy (abruptly, yet warmly.)

Buster - But where is your home?

Nickolena- Home? What's a home? Home is where you belong and I belong where I am.
Hmm, heh, heh, well........I guess this is my"

Narrator - But she had no home. Buster had first seen her at the park while he was taking his dog, Grover for a very important morning walk. She was just getting up off the bench, tossing off a thin dirty blanket.

Nickolena- Mornin' boy! "Whatcha doin' out this early on a December mornin'?"

Buster - Grover don't have manners, Ma'am', I've got to take him out first thing or he makes an awful mess. Then I get yelled at.

Nickolena- And where does Mr. Grover sleep?

Buster - With me, Ma'am'. He's a good dog, but he don't like sleeping outside in the winter.

Nickolena- Who does?

Narrator - Buster felt kind of ashamed. Grover had a warm place to sleep and this little lady had a cold park bench and a sheet-thick blanket.

Nickolena- I can hear your thoughts like they were common' over a loudspeaker, boy. Don't feel sorry for me. You take care of your dog. It's not that we need to love animals less, we just need to love folks more.

Buster - I guess you're right. How come you're sleeping out her anyhow?

Nickolena- Everybody's got to be somewhere. Ya can't very well disappear when ya don't have no where to go.

Narrator - Buster's mom would not have approved of her grammar, but his friend Spike would have.

Buster - Did you just get to town?

Nickolena- Yesterday. I've been in 7 towns and 3 states in ten days, just lookin' for a place to stay awhile, maybe for somebody who needs somebody like me, a place where I can do a little good, eat a little food, and get a little rest.

Buster - How do you get around?

Nickolena- Pushin' this cart everywhere I go, It's got most everything I own, but none of my treasures.

Buster - You have treasures?

Narrator - Buster's eyes widened.

Nickolena- I've got treasures a plenty. Why, I've got treasures and riches that I don't even know about.

Buster - But most of what you own is in the cart.

Nickolena- I'll tell you a secret if you'll keep it a secret. It's all part of the secret boy. Can you keep a secret?"

Buster - Well, uh, sure!

Nickolena- I think you are sure. First tell me your name."

Buster - Buster Browning, Ma'am

Nickolena- Buster Browning? What kind of name is that?

Buster - Mine ... It's my name.

Nickolena- Good answer! (chuckle) I 'spect you have other names you don't like near as well. a person ought to have a name they like. Well, here's the secret. Don't tell .... I am the richest lady in the world."

Buster - But you don't have a house or a car or even a warm blanket.

Nickolena- Don't matter. None of that matters a bit. By the way, I'm Nickolena. That's what you can call me. That's the name I like.

Buster - You gonna be around here a while, Miss Nickolena?

Nickolena - Not Miss Nickolena, just Nickolena. And I just I don't know. When you're as rich as me you go where ever ya feel ya gotta go when the spirit moves ya. I've got responsibilities you know, gotta share the wealth. When yer rich ya gotta share.

Narrator - Buster did not really believe she was rich. He couldn't tell if she believed it or not, but he didn't argue with her. He liked her. She was fascinating. She had seen the world, at least America and she would have stories to tell. He hoped that she would stay around a while.

Buster - I've gotta go home now Nickolena. It looks like Grover's done his business. Will you be here later today?

Nickolena - I will be if I can expect company.

Buster - Great, I'll be back after lunch. See ya then.

Narrator - Buster ran home to do his chores. School was out for the holidays and the Brownings thought that hard work built character and kept Buster and his sister, Sally out of trouble. They also knew that well-planned activities kept the kids from getting so excited that they couldn't live with themselves.

Commercial Break 

We will return to "The Richest Lady in the World" after these announcements.

Mabel's Teacup has a special on pumpkin pie with skunk sauce for the holidays. Drop by Mabel’s for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Remember, at Mabel’s teacup, the hot drink is coffee, but the tea’s not bad and its always the right time for pie.

Town Council Meeting is at 7:00 P.M. tonight. Dr. Micky McCarthy will be honored for fifty years of medical practice here in Polecat Hollow. Also on the agenda is a new skunk crossing for Stripe Ridge Road, a Christmas bonus for mayor Simpleton’s secretary, Miss. Priscilla Ludenberry and Henry Clepper, Director of Maintenance, as well as reports on progress toward acquiring a new stop light for Main Street and Third Street.

Polecat Hollow Skunkworks is hiring experienced extractors. If you have what it takes, you can have a rewarding career in musk.

The Christmas Cantata at First Baptist Church of, PH will be this Sunday at 6 PM. Come early for the best seats.

And now, hear this rendition of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas!"


Station Identification - This is KPUU in Polecat Hollow - Peeeeee Ueeew. And now we return to “The Richest Lady in the World.”

Narrator - The time just after lunch was Buster's to do with as he pleased. He usually took Grover for a long walk in the park. Grover seemed to need lots of walks, but this time Buster was anxious to take him. There was no snow on the ground, but it was cold and cloudy. Outside play wasn't much fun, but he couldn't wait to talk to Nickolena. He had this feeling about her that she was special. He had never met any like her before.

Narrator - Buster sat at the kitchen table a little later while she was fixing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?

Buster - Why are some people homeless, Mom?

Barbara Browning - Different reasons ....

Narrator - Barbara Browning was a good mother. She saw every question as a chance to teach.

Barbara Browning - Some people just seem to have bad luck. Some people have problems with drugs and drinking. Some don't, well, they just don't think right, they're mentally ill. Others lose their jobs and homes. Lots of reasons.

Buster - Why doesn't someone help them Mom?

Barbara Browning - It's hard to help. Sometimes the problem just seems so big. Your father and I give clothes and food to a homeless center in Skunkville and our church gives money, but more than that I don't know what we can do.

Narrator - At this point, Buster's sister, Sally joined the conversation.

Sally - Mr. Henderson says there ain't no homeless people, just bums.

Mrs. Browning - ARE not homeless people and there are .When were you talking to him?

Sally - I heard him down at the store talking to Mr. Richards. He said we ought-a round um all up and put um on a chain gang.

Barbara Browning - Some people just have a hard time understanding other people's troubles, Sally. Maybe some of them are bums, whatever bums are. Maybe some of them have helped cause there own problems, but God loves them anyway.

Sally - And he loves us even when we do wrong. Right Mom?

Barbara Browning - That's right honey. None of us is free of bad decisions and we've all made mistakes but God not only forgives us, but helps us and wants us to help others no matter how they've failed.

Buster - But Dad says we have to face the con ... con ... conse .. consequenc... con.... (sigh) consequences of our actions," Buster returned.

Barbara Browning - That's right, Son, but when you are ready for help, for change, we are always there to give you a hand aren't we?

Buster - Well, yeah. Right. And just cause someone's homeless doesn't give us a right to judge them either does it Mom? "Just thinkin' Mom. Could I eat my lunch at the park with Grover?

Barbara Browning - Sure.

Buster - Uh, Mom, do you suppose I could have an extra sandwich today?

Barbara Browning - I suppose so. You are a growing boy.

Narrator - Armed with two peanut butter sandwiches, Buster hurried to the park and on the bench sat Nickolena.

Buster - Hi Nickolena, I brought you a sandwich.

Nickolena - Well that's mighty neighborly of ya, Buster. Sit down here and lets have lunch together. We need to thank the Good Lord for this bounty and I thank you too.

Buster - That's all-right, Ma'am. Mom says we ought to help each other.

Nickolena - That's what I say too Buster. God's been so good to me, I just have to get around and give some of it away. Of course, sometimes I get awful cold and hungry. It's worse in the big cities. You're just one among many and everyone passes by. They keep hoping you'll be invisible but ya don't disappear. I've been beaten and robbed and called names I never learned from my Mama."

Buster - Why do people treat ya like that? (indignantly)

Nickolena - Some people are just in the way. We don't fit. We make people mad to look at us. I think they're scared of us. Scared that they could be like us. Scared that we know something they don't. Just scared. But my sweet Jesus ain't scared of them or me. They called him names too, beat him, robbed him, left him for dead.

Buster - Was he.......homeless?

Nickolena - You bet he was. He said that foxes had holes and birds had nests, but that the Son of Man had no where to rest his head. Sometimes I see him out in the cold. Sometimes I says, 'Come over here sweet Jesus and share my blanket.

Buster- Do you really see him, Jesus?

Nickolena - I see him lots. He comes to me ya know. Once he was a baby in Central Park and his mother too. Once he was hungry and I gave him some of my stale bread. I even went to see him in jail once and in the hospital.

Narrator - Buster remembered his Sunday School lessons where Jesus had said, "I was hungry and you fed me" and so on, that when we did it for him, we did it for them. He wondered if that was what Nickolena meant.

Buster - What does he look like, Nickolena?

Nickolena - Didn't you hear me, boy? He looks like you and He looks like me. He looks like people in need. It don't matter what He looks like. It's just knowin' He always here, ready to help, ready to be helped, but mostly helpin'. Sweet Jesus, (Smiling, sighing, and then, whispering) Sweet Jesus.

Narrator - Buster had never known any one who talked about Jesus like that before. He wondered if she were some kind of saint. To him, she was a mystery woman.

Nickolena - I tell ya Buster, I'm the richest woman in the world. Do you believe that?

Buster - I want to.

Nickolena - Well, that's a start. With eyes open like that, you will see. You will. Ya see, there are some things that you just can't spend right away and there are some things that were meant to be given away. What day is it?

Buster - Friday.

Nickolena - What day of the month?

Buster -December 16th.

Narrator - He knew that. Ordinarily he wouldn't, but he had a calendar on his wall now and was marking off every day until Christmas.

Nickolena - December 16th. ..... hmmmmm ..... hmmmmm ... Why, its almost Christmas, my favorite time of the year.

Narrator - Buster could not imagine why. In spite of what she said, she had nothing. There would be no presents for her, no tree, no turkey dinner, nothing but a cold park bench and her shopping cart full of junk.

Nickolena - I've had some wonderful Christmases. I've had Christmas in all fifty states, in grand houses and under train bridges. I've celebrated with children and by myself, but I've never been really by myself, Sweet Jesus is always with me.

Buster - When was your last REAL Christmas?

Nickolena - Whataya mean, Real Christmas, boy? What's a real Christmas? They're all real?

Buster - I mean in a house with a family and turkey and presents.

Nickolena - Oh, I see what you mean. You think all that glitter and all them purty presents is what makes Christmas real. Well, let's see. Hmmm, must've been 30 years ... no ... 31. It was the year before they all crossed over ... my mother, my husband, my children ... before the fire, before my call.

Narrator - Buster thought he saw tears in Nickolena's eyes and then a smile, of her special smiles.

Nickolena - I never wanted a call like that ya know. We was always a moving family, but we always had a roof if no roots. But this call was different. I heard the voice of Jesus, sweet Jesus, "follow me," said He. I had nothing; He made me rich and then He sent me out to give it all away. Except I can't seem to give it away and have it stay gone. He keeps given' it back."

Buster - You were called to be homeless?!

Nickolena - Land's no child, I was called to follow. I just don't have a regular place. I'm not homeless. Some day I'm goin' to a place where I'll stay forever, where they serve ice cream Sundaes everyday and it's always Summer .... except when it's Spring. I'll rest on feather beds there and walk on gold. That's what it's good for, ya know ... gold ... it's just pavement. Called to be homeless, (chuckle) whoever heard of such? Sweet Jesus don't want folks homeless but He needs folks like me to get around and help them what are.

Buster - How do you help, Nickolena?

Nickolena - Little ways, Sweet Jesus is with me. Shows me the way. He gives me the means. He takes care of me. Well, I've got things to do now. You run along home I've enjoyed your company, but I'm on a mission.

Buster -Will you come to my house for dinner?

Narrator - Buster blurted out the invitation without thinking about asking his Mom.

Buster - I live just down the street.

Nickolena - Well I don't know, what about your Mom and Daddy?

Buster - It'll be all right.

Narrator - Buster assumed. After all, his mom had said we ought to help people. Little did he know that Nickolena would give his family far more than they could ever give her. She really was, he would soon discover, the richest lady in the world.

Commercial Break 

We will return to "The Richest Lady in the World" after this.

Hank's Hack reminds you that its not safe to drink and drive. Too much partying? Call's Hank's Hack for your hangover needs.

We have a lost pet skunk - answers to the name of Petunia. Please call April Showers or May Flowers if you have information as to the where abouts of their pet..

The Loyal Order of the Goobers will be meeting this Monday night at the lodge. Wear your hats and skunk tails for the initiation of two new goobers. If you have any questions, call Igmund G. Goodfellow Senior at the Chamber of Commerce. Iggy One will fill you in on the details. The Junior Goobies will be meeting in the basement during the Goober meeting. Don’t be late. The skunk howl starts promptly at 7.

The Christmas Cantata at Marsupial Heights Community Church will be Sunday at 7:15 P.M. Come very early for the very best seats.

Station Identification - This is KPUU in Polecat Hollow - Peeeeee Ueeew. And now we return to “The Richest Lady in the World.”

Chapter 2

Narrator - Buster pondered for sometime how to tell his mother about Nickolena. As he pondered he fell off to sleep and found himself in a strange place, full of lights and colors and sweet soft music. Small children ran in front of him playfully and grandparents walked hand in hand as young lovers would. All was silver and gold and crystal and beautiful. Where there was grass, it was lush green. Where there were buildings they blended into their surroundings and there were no cracks.

Narrator - There were voices there and they were musical and rich. And there were smiles on the faces and in the voices. People were speaking to each other but none to Buster. They acted as if he were not there.

Narrator - Everyone was dressed in finery and walked with dignity. Each seemed happy and content, joking with one another, laughing freely. Some sang as they walked, no one limped and shuffled. There were spring in the steps of the young and the old.

Narrator - There were animals there, dogs and cats, and frogs and even bears, and all played gracefully together. The wild beasts roared but did not growl. The larger animals were gentle with the smaller.

Narrator - The people seemed wealthy with rings on their fingers and jewels around their necks. There was an air about them of riches and importance. Among the crowd walking upright and no longer slowly, smiling broadly, and with no shopping cart. She was dressed in silks of the finest kind and adorned with diamonds and emeralds. Her hair was bright and young. Her teeth were all present and her skin was clean and youthful.

Narrator - She appeared to be among the most admired of all present. Men and women, boys and girls came up to her from everywhere and she took them by the hand and kissed them on the cheek. Then each whispered something in her ear, said thank you and walked away. With each greeting she grew younger and more beautiful. She radiated joy and peace.

Narrator - His dream faded into another. He found himself in what seemed to be Jerusalem in AD 33 but must have been Washington DC or Chicago, or LA today. All was dark. Jesus was there bloody and bruised and carrying a cross through the streets of the city. Up and down streets and alleys and everywhere there were people, same faces as in the dream before, only dirty and sad and old and bitter.

Narrator - He carried a flax of water and bandages and oil. He stopped here and there to speak to a "bum" or give a drink of water or dress an open wound. Nickolena was with him, walking a few steps back, helping to attend to the sick and sad. She was smiling, but she was old and dirty. She carried bread which she gave away freely. The more she gave, the more she had. She did not run out.

Narrator - The dream troubled Buster because he could not understand where he was or what was happening. As wakefulness began to come he was left with one image. It was Jesus sitting beside Nickolena on a park bench, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Narrator - A timid knock at the door startled him to complete wakefulness and soon his Dad's voice,

Bill Browning - Buster, there's someone here who says she's a friend of yours. Could you come down here, Son?

Narrator - As he bounded down the stairs he saw her, Nickolena full of color and flair. Upon her head was a hat made of dried Autumn leaves. She wore the same coat from the park, but dotted with colored paper. She wore a pair of earrings that did not match and a necklace made of jelly beans. She smelled of too much cheap perfume and gas station soap. She was a sight to behold.

Buster - Dad, this is Nickolena. I invited her for dinner tonight. I forgot , uh, well, I forgot to tell Mom.

Bill Browning - Well, this is a surprise (grin) You better come in Madam. May I take your coat?

Nickolena - Never mind that. Show me to the bathroom so that I can powder my nose. Gotta keep up my image you know.

Bill Browning - In that case, it is at the top of the stairs and to the right. We will be eating in about 20 minutes and it is an honor to have you with us.

Narrator - At the table that night, Nickolena reigned as the queen of conversation. Her stories filled the moments during and between courses and no one was willing to leave the table. Buster, Sally, and their parents clung to her every word. It was as if she was taking them with her on her journeys. They were meeting the people she met and seeing the sights she had seen. She told about folks she had helped or had been helped by along the way and others she just happened to get to know. It seemed that Nickolena had always had a knack for being at the right place at the right time.

Nickolena - .... And while I was bending over that cold, sick little child on the capitol steps, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

Buster - Was it ... was it ...

Sally - Jesus???

Nickolena - (chuckles) No. Not this time, although I felt his presence. This time, it was the Governor. He had been out for a midnight walk and had seen the whole thing. He brought mother, child, and me over to the mansion, cooked a pot of soup all by himself and sat with us all night till that child’s fever broke. What a fine man - Governor Sam I’ve always called him. We still correspond.

Narrator - She dangled her listeners between laughter and tears as she described her life. The Brownings were spell-bound. In the space of about two hours, Nickolena had become a part of the family. They felt like they had walked with her through her mission. When they finally stood up from the table, they adjourned to the living room and Bill Browning built a fire in the fire place. Mrs. Browning served hot spice tea and the conversation took another turn.

Bill Browning - Nickolena, I hope I don’t offend you with what I am about to ask ...

Nickolena - Land’s sakes, young man, I’ve heard it all ... and you don’t have the time or the energy to do what it would take to offend me. If I don’t like what you have to say, I’ll just shake it off. So say it.

Bill Browning - Well, it’s just that it is cold ... and its Christmas ... and I know that you have been living outdoors all of these years and that you have a mission - but now we know you and it’s like we’ve always known you.

Nickolena - Go one, Son. You’re doing fine.

Barbara Browning - I think what my husband is getting at is that we have a big house and an extra room.

Bill Browning - That’s right. We don’t want to monopolize your time, but we would be so happy if you would come to stay with us for a while.

Sally - Oh, would you, Nickolena, would you? Please!

Buster - I’m sure that Grover would be extra polite for you.

Narrator - Buster’s heart was leaping. More stories. Stories at breakfast, lunch, and supper. It would be so wonderful.

Nickolena - Well, Mr. Bill, that is a mighty fine offer from a mighty fine family. I’d have to have some chores to do and I’d have to come and go. I’ve got riches to tend to and a mission to be about. If it's that’s OK with you, I’d love to plant my feet here for a spell until the Lord calls me elsewhere. I’m always moving you know.

Bill Browning - That settles it then. We’ll make the bed and we’ll park your cart in the garage for safe keeping. You can come and go as you please and call this home for as long as it suits you.

Nickolena - As long as it suits my precious Jesus. I am at His beckon call.

Narrator - And that was how Christmas started to shape up at the Browning house in Polecat Hollow. More after this.

Commercial Break 

We will return to "The Richest Lady in the World" in a moment.

Rick’s Rather Rickety Pizza Ranch reminds you to order your Christmas pizzas early. Mohammed is offering his famous Christmas tree pizza for your parties. It’s tree-shaped bread, sauce, and cheese sprinkled with brocolli cut to resemble fur trees and decorated with Christmas candy. You’ll love it.

S.B. Hammerwielder, principal of Polecat Hollow High School reminds all students that exams are next week. Study hard and get plenty of rest this weekend.

Town maintenance engineer, Henry Clepper would appreciate it, if whoever took the Christmas hat off the statue of Colonel Thadeous T. Hinklebeiner in town square last year, would return it before the annual statue decorating party next weekend.

Pick up your special Christmas shopping issue of “The Scent of Polecat Hollow” at news stands this week. It’s full of interesting stories like this one, ads for local sales, and reviews of the best Christmas programs on television this season. It’s still only fifty cents.

Hello, this is Chief John Law asking you to drive carefully this season.

Station Identification - This is .... KPUU in Polecat Hollow - Peeeeee Ueeew. It’s time to get back to our story, but first, a selection from the combined choirs of First Baptist Church of Polecat Hollow and Marupial Heights Community Church, brought to you by Billie’s House of Delectable Delicasies, where you can always getting a heaping plate of whatever rings your bell.

Chapter 3

Narrator - Nickolena moved into the spare room that very night. She parked her shopping cart in the garage and arranged some of her few possessions on the dresser. There was a family portrait, a bible, and some odds and ends. She was up each morning at 5:00 A.M. and took a long walk. She returned at seven for breakfast, showered, told a few stories, and went for a walk with Buster and Grover. Along the way, there were more stories. Then she went off on her own with a peanut butter sandwich from Mrs. Browning’s kitchen only to return shortly before dinner time. Where she went and what she did, she did not report. Nor was she asked. After all, she was on a mission and there was mission work to be done.

Narrator - On the third day of Nickolena’s visit, the Brownings had their annual Christmas gathering. Spike and Mahilda and their parents were present. Mr. Henderson came with his wife and the Mayor even made an appearance. Uncle Hinkey arrived late and left early and Miss. Prudence P. Love arrived early and left late. All of the leading citizens of Polecat Hollow were there because this was one party that everyone looked forward to year after year. Mrs. Browning had become known for her holiday cooking and there was always plenty of laughter and joyful sing-along around the piano as the night came to a close. This night, there was a new presence, the richest lady in the world.

Narrator - Nickolena was adorned in all of her fresh-washed finery. As colorful as a rainbow, and decorated with the most eclectic assortment of costume jewelry anyone had ever seen, she strode into the room and all heads turned.

Bill Browning - Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce a guest in our town and in out home, a new friend, a traveler, a missionary, Nickolena .... uh .... uh ... (whispering to Nickolena) You know, Nickolena, I never asked your last name.

Nickolena - (Whispering back) Just call me Nickolena Christmas. That will do nicely.

Bill Browning - That’s Nickolena Christmas. She has become a special friend of ours and will be of yours as well.

Narrator - Sally and Buster were standing in the corner with their friends Mahilda, Spike, Elmo, and Iggy Goodfellow.

Iggy - It must be really cool having your own bag lady, Buster.

Sally - She’s not a bag lady, Igmund G. Goodfellow the Third; she’s homeless.

Buster - She’s not that either. She’s , well, she’s a missionary.

Sally - Yeah , she travels from town to town helping people.

Spike - But who helps her?

Buster - Jesus does ... and people who love Jesus.

Mahilda - Like the Brownings?

Sally - Well, I guess so

Iggy - It’s still cool.

Mahilda - It sure is. I wish we had a bag lady at our house ... I mean, a missionary.

Narrator - Bill was still doing his introduction.

Bill Browning - We have enjoyed her company so much and I know you will as well.

Narrator - And they did. Oh, they did. Bill Browning then invited her to say a few words to the group, knowing that she would charm and fascinate them as she had his family.

Nickolena - It’s so nice to meet all of you, children. You all remind me of my children. I’m on a mission, you see, and all of god’s children are like my children and every friend of Jesus is a friend of mine. I have met the high and mighty and I have walked with the lowly and weak. All folks are really the same underneath their skin. We all got a heart to break and soul to shake. We laughs and we cries. When its cold, we sighs; when its hot we fries. And then, when its over, we dies. Hee ... Hee .. Hee. Life’s good and its got some hurdles, but we’re here to love each other and serve sweet Jesus.

Nickolena - I came to your town pushing a cart I’ve done pushed all over this great country. It was mighty cold and lonely till I met a young friend of Jesus who became a fast friend of mine. And his folks just took me in like I was their granny. Hee .. Hee ... Hee - set me up in a fine room and they feed me fine food. ‘Course I’ve got riches. Let me tell you, I am a very wealthy woman.

Buster - Nickolena, you said that was a secret and I couldn’t tell.

Nickolena - You couldn’t, but I could. Hee Hee. But its still a secret. I’m just telling a few of my close friends (chuckle). I am the richest lady in the whole wide world. (Chuckle)

Narrator - Every moment of the evening Nickolena was surrounded by people listening intently as she fountained with stories and wisdom. Some took her aside for advice. Others just seemed to want to be near her. And the strangest thing happened over and over. Silently, without fanfare, usually without anyone else knowing, people were slipping her money, five dollars here, ten there, some twenty, one fifty. Buster and Mrs. Browning noticed, but no one else did. She had not dwelt on her hardships or poverty, nor had she mentioned any need. In fact, she had been very specific about her assertion that she was wealthy. When she did, you could tell that people did not really believe her, but hesitated to hurt her feelings and supressed the urge to snicker or look upon her with pity. They could tell that she truly did possess a quality that was worth more than money or security. She was genuine, witty, wise, loving, blunt, and full of joy. Yet, when offered gifts, she neither refused nor blushed. She had the same response every time.

Nickolena - I thank you and Jesus thanks you..

Narrator - Then, she would sometimes add.

Nickolena - I’ll put this in my savings account.

Narrator - Only later was it estimated that she had received thousands of dollars just in Polecat Hollow over a period of only nine days. Yet, she did not seem to buy anything for herself. There were no new clothes. She wore the same old weathered, albeit stylish rags. She was not seen at any of the local restaraunts, not even for coffee - not at Mabel’s Tea Cup, not at Billie’s House of Delectable Delicasies. And she never visited the First National Bank of Polecat Hollow.

Narrator - Nickolena was receiving numerous dinner invitations however - more than she could keep - so she started scheduling lunches as well. Her calendar was busy, but each night she came back to the Browning’s and sipped spice tea till late at night, talking about her adventures, her mission, and her precious Jesus. Nickolena was in demand. And she didn’t do all the talking. She had a gift for listening not only to what people were saying, but to the way their hearts beat, to their hurts and dreams. Something strange and wonderful was happening in Polecat Hollow. People were talking about it on the streets.

April Showers - I declare May, there is a new spirit in town these days. Folks just seem happier, more generous, maybe even jolly.

May Flowers - You are so right, April. Ever since Nickolena started visiting in our homes, we have been more open to each other, more willing to share. It’s amazing.

Narrator - At first, Henderson suspected a scam and even talked to the Chief John Law about it, but later, after his wife had Nickolena to their home for dinner, he slipped her a hundred dollars and called the chief to straighten it all out.

Henderson - Chief, this is Henderson .... Yes. It is late .... I see ... Well, John, the reason I called is about Nickolena Christmas ... No. It’s not that. It’s just that, well, I was wrong about her. She’s on the up and up .... No. It’s just a felling that I have ... Right. I thought you’d understand ... Really? She’s coming to your house tomorrow night?

Narrator - Still, Buster and his Mom knew that Nickolena was getting a lot of money from people and they wondered what she was doing with it all. Maybe she was saving it to settle down at some point, get an apartment. Maybe with a small nest egg and social security, she could afford to live on her own in a small town like Polecat Hollow. And there was another question in their minds. When she wasn’t at someone’s house for lunch or dinner, where did she go? Whenever asked about her day she always responded the same way.

Nickolena - I’m on a mission. There’s work to be done, boy.

Narrator - A couple of days before Christmas, Buster sat alone with Nickolena on the park bench from which he had first seen her.

Buster - Nickolena, where will you go after this? What will you do? What will happen to you? Grover is kinda worried.

Nickolena - No point worrying about me, youngun. The Lord Jesus is my protector and guide. Hee Hee . He’s never let me town. I reckon I’ll stay here as long as He can use me here and then, I’ll go wherever He takes me. Can’t stay in one place too long. I’ve got richest to tend to and a mission to accomplish.

Buster - Will you at least be here for Christmas?

Nickolena - Boy, Christmas is what I’m here for. At least, I think so. You never can really say for sure. God knows these things more than we do. Sometimes He uses us in ways we don’t even realize while He is doin’ it.

Buster - It sounds pretty complicated. It’s like God has all kinds of surprises for us ... like the presents under our tree .. all wrapped up, but we don’t know what’s inside until Christmas.

Nickolena - And sometimes, we don’t fully know even after we’ve opened them. Oh, He’s a great God.

Buster - What is the most wonderful present you ever received for Christmas, Nickolena?

Nickolena - Oh, that would have to be the first Christmas ever - when God sent His Son to be our Savior, The present came all wrapped up in a baby and He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. Oh, there were lots of presents in that manger. every day, He shows me more of the gift. Money, power, houses, lands, they are small change compared to precious Jesus.

Buster - But Nickolena, your life has been so hard. You lost your family. That must have been awful. You’ve lived on the streets. Why has life been so hard.

Nickolena - I’m on a journey, Boy. Journey’s ain’t always easy, but there’s joy in the journey if you’re going somewhere and if you have good company. Oh, I’ve had sadness, deep tears flowing so hard and long they could’ve filled an ocean. I’ve shaken my fist at the Lord and asked “why?” I’ve even quit a time or two .... for a minute or two. Every time, sweet Jesus puts His hand on my shoulder and says,

Jesus - Nickolena. You are my child. You are my sister, my mother, and my daughter. But most of all, you are my friend. I know this is a hard road, but I promise that I am with you and I will never leave you or forsake you. And most of all, dear Nickolena, I love you and I know, you love me. Let’s walk together a little while longer and, when it is time, I will take you to my house. And for now, we are on mission.

Nickolena - Some day, I’m a gonna see that family of mine that got to Heaven before me. Hee ... Heee ... They’ve been there all these years, but when I get there, I'll be all caught up in a second. You can’t figure that one, Boy (chuckle). He sure is a good God.

Buster - Why don’t you get a motor home or something with all your riches, Nickolena? Take care of yourself? Buy some things for yourself?

Nickolena - (chuckle) Buster, my boy, I’ve gotta save that. It goes into a special account every time I get some. I’ll cash it all in some day - hee ... hee ... hee.

Narrator - And so, it all remained a mystery and the mystery would become even more mysterious as Christmas Eve approached. We will conclude our story after this.

Commercial Break

Polecat Hollow Skunkworks, in cooperation with local businesses and the Loyal Order of the Goobers have brought you this presentation of “The Richest Lady in the World” in hopes that you will experience the joy of the journey.

First Baptist Church of Polecat Hollow and Marsupial Heights Community Church invite you to join them tomorrow morning at 9:30 A.M. for Bible Study and at 11:00 A.M. for worship. There is something for the entire family. Come again tomorrow evening at 6:00 P.M. for a special time when the Pastor will present an epilogue to this story, “Nickolena’s First Christmas in Heaven.”

And now, the conclusion of “The Richest Lady in the World.”

Narrator -On Christmas Eve morning, Nickolena left the house early. She seemed to be in a hurry as she nearly skipped out of the house.

Nickolena - I may be very late tonight. Don’t wait dinner for me. I have a lot to do. I hope to see you in the morning for Christmas. Merry Christmas!

Narrator - And that was that. The Brownings had much to do. Barbara and Sally cooked all day and completed some last minute decorating. Bill still had some shopping to do - procrastinator that he was, and took Buster along. They wanted to find something special for all the women in their lives: Mom, Sally, Grandma, and Nickolena. Nickolena was the hardest to shop for. She needed everything, but nothing. Finally, they settled on a pair or gloves, a warm cap, and some leg warmers - all matching.

Narrator - At home, the day passed quickly. At dinner, there was no Nickolena, as she predicted, but Buster was not concerned. As the night wore on, she still did not come home. Home. Funny, but it seemed like this was her home, where she belonged, with people who loved her. At least ten families had wanted her to spend Christmas Eve with them. As far as Buster could tell, she had not accepted any of their invitations. Finally, the family went to bed. Buster was uneasy now. He feared that something had happened to his friend. He just knew it. He tossed and turned and finally fell asleep. In his dream, he was in a beautiful place, full of light and music and joy. There were people everywhere, happy people, smiling, laughing, and singing.

Narrator - There was a huddle with a great deal of commotion. In the circle there were some characters that he recognized even though he had never seen there faces. Suddenly, there was a gentle hand on his shoulder. He looked and it was Jesus. Jesus spoke to Buster.

Jesus - Welcome to my house, Buster. Some day, you will come to live with me here because one day you asked me to come live in your heart. When you get here, it will be more wonderful than what you can see now, but I thought you might be able to understand a tiny bit of the joy we have. Let me introduce you to some of my friends. This is my friend, St. Paul and this is St. Peter.

Narrator - Buster shook hands with the apostles and then with St. Lazarus, St. Jennifer the Cook and St. Bubba the Plumber. Then Jesus introduced him to one other person.

Jesus - Buster, I think you know my very dear friend, St. Nickolena. Did you know that she was the richest lady in the world?

Narrator - Buster woke up a little troubled, but feeling very warm and safe within. The last thing he saw before he awoke was the smiling face of Nickolena beside the loving and kind face of Jesus. He was starting to understand what Nickolena meant.

Buster - Dad, did Nickolena come home last night?

Bill Browning - No, son. She didn’t and I am a little worried.

Narrator - Before Buster could really worry, the phone started ringing.

Henderson - Browning, this is Henderson. Strangest thing. we needed a new toaster. The old one broke last week when Nickolena was here. Guess what’s under the tree .... That’s right ... with a note. It says, “Thank you for being a friend - Jesus.”

Narrator - They went on like that for an hour. Everyone Nickolena had met had received a gift from Jesus that morning with the same note. The needy of town had received complete Christmas dinners and toys for all the children. How they had been slipped through the door, no one knew. They were just there, under the tree, waiting for Christmas and Nickolena was nowhere to be found. Bill Browning called Chief Law and asked him to look and the family decided to go ahead and open presents. There was something from Jesus under the tree for everyone as well as from other members of the family.

Sally - Mom, this is from Nickolena. I know it. But when did she come and where is she?

Buster - Look, Mom, it’s a pair of hiking boots and a note .... It say’s “From Jesus. Thanks for being a friend. These are for the journey. Remember. you are not alone.”


Chief - Bill, this is John Law. We found Nickolena’s coat on a homeless woman downtown. She said that Nickolena was with her until almost dawn. I’m taking the woman to a shelter now and I’ll look for our friend after I drop her off. By the way, I got a full bottle of polish for my badge ... from Jesus.

Bill Browning - Thanks John. Keep us posted.

Narrator - The next call from the chief had the news they had all dreaded. They found Nickolena’s half frozen body in an alley off Main Street. She had no coat, but she had a bible open in her lap and her cold, lifeless finger was pointing to a passage in Matthew 25.
She had a smile on her face and her head was tilted back as if she were looking up toward Heaven. The passage read:

Jesus - When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Narrator - As the Browning family sat together and read these words, everyone’s eyes filled with tears, Nickolena was truly rich. Everything she had ever received had been saved in the bank of Heaven. In the end, she had inherited the Kingdom of God and she was with Jesus, her best friend. But Buster was so sad, because he would not see her again and she was his friend. He asked his Mom if he could take Grover for a walk to the park. He picked up Nickolena’s neatly wrapped present of gloves, leg warmers, and a cap. She wouldn’t need them now, but they helped him remember her and feel close to her. He remembered his dream, how Jesus had introduced him to His friend, Saint Nickolena. When he got to the park, he sat down on his bench. While he was looking in the other direction, someone sat down on the bench next to him. It was a younger woman - about 30. She was shivering from the cold.

Nikki Claus - Good morning and Merry Christmas. You look sad.

Buster - A friend of mine died this morning. I know she’s in Heaven, but I really miss her.

Nikki Claus - I know what you mean. I lost a friend once too. I have many friends. Wherever I go, I seem to make friends. It’s sort of a mission of mine. Sometimes, they make it their mission too. There are lots of us. I’m Nikki Claus. What’s your name?

Buster - My name is Buster. Forgive me for asking, but are you homeless?

Nikki Claus - Not yet, but I am poor. I lost the electricity and the gas yesterday and its pretty cold, but God provides for me. I just wanted come out and take a walk and thank Jesus for coming and loving me. I’m cold on the outside, but I’m warm on the inside. I guess I’m not all that poor when you come to think of it. I have treasures in Heaven and on earth I have peace, love, joy, and dear friends. The other stuff is small change. Somebody taught me that.

Buster - Nikki, can I give you something? This was for my friend, but she won’t be needing it anymore. It can help keep you warm on the outside while Jesus warms your insides.

Narrator - Nikki’s eyes lit up when she pulled the warm things from the box. Buster took his own scarf off and put it around her neck.

Nikki Claus - Buster, I did not know your friend. But she must have been a rich lady indeed to have a friend like Jesus and a friend like you. I thank you. and Jesus thanks you.

Buster - She said she was the richest lady in the world ... and she was.


The Waiting Room


Photo by kelvin balingit on Unsplash

While We Wait

We fidget

We fret.

We stare.

We tremble.

We try to distract ourselves.

We wait and wait and wait.

Titus 2:11-14
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds"

We have spent some time in waiting rooms.

Some of us have spent more than we have liked.

I have done some of my most memorable ministry in waiting rooms.

Sometimes, just sitting. Sitting with ...

Sally, Bob, Joaquin, Mary, Ahmed, George, Lilly.


We become symbols to ourselves and others, symbols of hope. Symbols of solidarity, reminders that we are not alone.

None of us is alone in the waiting room.

Grace has appeared.

We are being trained, not to wait, but, in our waiting to live in consecrated hope, faithfully.

" self-controlled, upright, and godly."

What is ahead when our names are called is "the manifestation of the glory."

It is Christmas Eve.

Blessed Hope.

Title: Difficult Journey - Transition to Bethlehem
[Click for larger image view]

Uhde, Fritz von, 1848-1911

The Waiting Room


Photo by kelvin balingit on Unsplash

While We Wait

We fidget

We fret.

We stare.

We tremble.

We try to distract ourselves.

We wait and wait and wait.

Titus 2:11-14
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds"

We have spent some time in waiting rooms.

Some of us have spent more than we have liked.

I have done some of my most memorable ministry in waiting rooms.

Sometimes, just sitting. Sitting with ...

Sally, Bob, Joaquin, Mary, Ahmed, George, Lilly.


We become symbols to ourselves and others, symbols of hope. Symbols of solidarity, reminders that we are not alone.

None of us is alone in the waiting room.

Grace has appeared.

We are being trained, not to wait, but, in our waiting to live in consecrated hope, faithfully.

" self-controlled, upright, and godly."

What is ahead when our names are called is "the manifestation of the glory."

It is Christmas Eve.

Blessed Hope.

Title: Difficult Journey - Transition to Bethlehem
[Click for larger image view]

Uhde, Fritz von, 1848-1911

And an highway shall be there, and a way ...


Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

“And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness ... make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” – Isaiah 35:8a and 40:3b

The way of holiness is a straight path. It does not veer to the right or the left. It is consecrated. It is not perverted by selfish interests or personal agendas. It is the highway of God.

Jesus traveled that highway and it passed through the desert.

Isaiah foretold a day when such a highway would be the path for each of us. Some characteristics of that day are profoundly appealing.
There will be great rejoicing.

Deserts will bloom and people will see the glory and excellence of God

Weak hands and feeble knees will be strengthened. The fearful will stop being terrified.
Justice will come to the earth.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the lame will leap. Those who are mute will sing.

There will be springs of water in dry places.

The way of holiness will be clear and available for all who are right with and redeemed by God, free of danger and threat.

“And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” - Isaiah 35:10


That is what it will be like when Jesus comes again. No wonder the early Christians would sigh and sing,

“Even so, come. Lord Jesus!”


Revelation 22:12-17,21

“See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone's work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. 

"It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star." 

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come."

And let everyone who hears say, "Come."

And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift. 

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints.


Luke 1:67-80

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." 

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

Joy of Every Longing Heart

Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us ... - Luke 1:78

I would nearly burst with excitement as I anticipated the visits of distant relatives. Their suitcases always contained gifts. Their stories always transported me to distant places. And their jokes always seemed funnier than any I had heard for a long time.

I remember the emotions of wonderment and joy and, at times, disappointment when our guests suddenly had a change of plans and could not come.

The waiting would start all over again.

God’s people had been waiting for a long, long time. Most had stopped watching – stopped believing that He would really come. Their hearts had grown cold, their hopes had dimmed or even died.

Still others prayed and remained alert. They knew the visitation would come, that the dayspring would spring forth and hope would arise on the earth. They were waiting for Jesus and knew it not. To such, He appeared in the fullness of time.

Such tender mercy that God shows toward those who toil through the night. Dayspring comes. It bursts forth in the darkness and illuminates every hidden thing. With Him are freedom, hope, consolation, and joy. In Him all of our longings are answered. Anticipation is rewarded and gifts are abundant.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us.
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s hope and consolation.
Hope of all the earth Thou art,
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Washington Resigns

General George Washington Resigning His Commission by John Trumbull
On this day in 1783 – George Washington resigns as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Maryland.
This is significant.
In doing this, he rejected the notion of military control over civilian government and paved the way for civilian control over the military.
At this, and at other times, he rejected the idea of perpetuity of his own power,. He did this as a general and as a President.
As a popular leader, he probably could have become king, but that was not the sort of government that Washington envisioned.
Here are his farewell remarks:
Happy in the confirmation of our Independence and Sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable Nation, I resign with satisfaction the Appointment I accepted with diffidence.
I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping.
Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.
— George Washington

Washington Resigns

General George Washington Resigning His Commission by John Trumbull
On this day in 1783 – George Washington resigns as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Maryland.
This is significant.
In doing this, he rejected the notion of military control over civilian government and paved the way for civilian control over the military.
At this, and at other times, he rejected the idea of perpetuity of his own power,. He did this as a general and as a President.
As a popular leader, he probably could have become king, but that was not the sort of government that Washington envisioned.
Here are his farewell remarks:
Happy in the confirmation of our Independence and Sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable Nation, I resign with satisfaction the Appointment I accepted with diffidence.
I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping.
Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.
— George Washington

If Only

JesusWeepsOverJerusalem (1)

The illumination is from the evangelistary of Otto III ca.1000 C.E.

Choose your regrets. Choose them wisely.

Do not allow them to accumulate because you have failed to embrace the opportunities that come your way.

Do not allow them to result from an unwillingness to encounter God's intervention in a moment of time and destiny.

“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” – Luke 19:41-41

Jesus regrets the failure of the people he came to save to welcome their moment in time.

Jesus wept over the city for what might have been. That indicates that He had a vision for what it could be. He never expected that His work would be completed during His earthly ministry but would continue through His church as His Holy Spirit indwells believers.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” – John 14:12

Regrets can be reclaimed and recycled and "If only we had," can become "if only, we will."

I have pastored several churches located in cities. God has placed us there. Jesus, I believe, weeps over our cities and invites us to join Him in both the heartbreak and hope for that weeping.

Years ago, we sought God for a vision of what our community might look like if it were transformed by God’s mighty power. What is your church’s vision for what God can do through you in your city?

Here is what we agreed upon at that time. We did not complete or fulfill the vision, but we remained faithful in it and pushed the dial a bit:

“We envision a community where men, women, and children are being touched by Jesus Christ in such a way that drug addiction, crime, violence, gangs, family breakups, abuse, neglect, and despair are becoming less relevant, and the worship of God is becoming more relevant. It is a community where people are being built up rather than torn down, where the members of this church are active in ministry to people throughout the neighborhoods, and where the gospel of Christ is being heard and received in homes, schools, marketplaces, and work environments. It is a community where our fellowship of joy is penetrating the lives of lost, lonely, and broken people infecting them with the joy of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. Such a community is the dynamic challenge of our church as it prepares for a new millennium.”

Did it happen?

It did not come to completeness, but it happened here and there and in pockets of humanity where the presence of God was welcomed.

And, the vision continues in the hearts and deeds of our successors.

It did not fail because we rejected the moment.

If I were to choose a regret and my choices would be between rejection and failure accompanied by not trying or trying and failing, I would choose failure.

We continue to pray for ourselves and the city to become the Beloved Community.

Psalm 20:1 - May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

In the spirit of blessing and benediction, we come to pray for a friend. Such a prayer blesses the giver, the receiver, and the heart of God. In this case, the intercessor is speaking to God on behalf of another but in doing so openly, is speaking also, to the other on behalf of God. It is a ministry of healing, grace, and love that encourages the head upon which the blessing is laid. It is priestly, and it is sacramental. Protection and deliverance come to the distressed often after the prayer of another. Who can you bless today?

Psalm 20:2 - May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.

In ministry, the help that we offer does not come from us. It proceeds directly from the presence of God. Our encouraging presence is not a gift of our own resources, but of the Master who fashioned us and sent us forth equipped to serve. We offer support by “being there,” but that support is the Christ within us who comes alongside. He is the Spirit, the Paraclete who lifts the broken and heals the wounded. We can withhold such a blessing to our detriment and that of others, but we cannot manufacture it. Stop withholding.

Psalm 20:3 - May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. Selah

This verse, interpreted in the light of the New Covenant lifts up the cross in the presence of God and the person we desire to bless. It is not our sacrifice, but that with which we identify in Christ that makes an offering of our lives acceptable to God. We can have confidence in such a sacramental act as was wrought in the passion of the Lamb of God. Into the malaise of our frail attempts to appease God, He entered with the perfect offering for sin and made this prayer possible.

Psalm 20:4 - May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

As astounding as it may sound, God desires to give us our desires, but only after He has transformed those desires and brought them into sync with His own. He wants our plans to succeed, but inasmuch as His Spirit has planted those plans in our hearts. The progression of the blessing is the prerequisite experience of the blanket prayer. First there is distress, then divine deliverance and protection, followed by help, support, sacrifice, and offering. The transforming power of these events paves the way for success.

Psalm 20:5 – We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests.

There have been many along the way that have cheered you on to spiritual success and growth. The have applauded God at your salvation, baptism, and first steps in discipleship. They have encouraged you and embraced you along your pilgrimage. It is your turn to do this for another. You are called to be an encourager or a mentor or even a cheerleader. You have the capacity to invest your life and prayers in someone other than yourself and to take great joy in his or her progress. Don’t let the opportunity slip away.

Psalm 20:6 - Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.

It is a serendipitous moment when we realize within ourselves that God does indeed save those upon whom His purposes rest. Jesus Christ is God’s anointed and all who are found in Him are heirs of God’s purposes, promises, and privileges. We suddenly discover that we can reinterpret every event in our lives in the newly discerned light of God’s eternal program in which we are included. Live each day in the light of His promises and in the confidence of your secure position in His eternal family.

Psalm 20:7 – Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

The difference between God’s anointed and the self-appointed is a matter of trust. We don’t need more insight as Brennan Manning has noted in “Ruthless Trust,” but more trust. We need to recklessly abandon our lives to God with such radical displacement of self and fleshly confidence that we will sink, or swim based only upon God’s truth, love, and faithfulness. It is the call of the Christian to climb as far out on a limb with God as possible and then, to live there in an ever-deepening reliance upon Him and Him alone.

Psalm 20:8 - They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.

Those who trust in the weapons and schemes of man are ultimately frustrated in every human effort. Often, the contrast is most pronounced in times of crisis, grief, or hardship. The countenance of the worldly falls with the loss of position, strength, prosperity, or self-confidence. The godly, though battered, bruised, broken, and besieged, will rise up and stand firm. Grief and sorrow befall every soul, but “that soul who on Jesus hath leaned for repose …” God “… will never, no never desert to his foes.”

Psalm 20:9 - O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call!

From the sanctuary of Israel rises up a song of prayer for the man who symbolized their security, well being, and success as a nation. God’s people had the impulse to pray for their nation and leaders in the days of the psalmist. They knew that no people and no potentate could stand apart from the awesome power of the King of the Universe. How seldom we pray for people in power, for decision makers, for the affairs of state and for people of note. How deeply they need our prayers. Let us commit to pray for the king.

Jeremiah wept.

He was the weeping prophet of Lamentations.

He entered and beheld the darkness, but always held, in his heart, the spark of light.

Jeremiah 31:15-22
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.
Thus says the Lord:
Keep your voice from weeping
and your eyes from tears,
for there is a reward for your work,
says the Lord:
they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
there is hope for your future,
says the Lord:
your children shall come back to their own country.

Indeed, I heard Ephraim pleading:
“You disciplined me, and I took the discipline;
I was like an untrained calf.
Bring me back; let me come back,
for you are the Lord my God.
For after I had turned away I repented,
and after I was discovered, I struck my thigh;
I was ashamed, and I was dismayed
because I bore the disgrace of my youth.”
Is Ephraim my dear son?
Is he the child in whom I delight?
As often as I speak against him,
I still remember him.
Therefore I am deeply moved for him;
I will surely have mercy on him,
says the Lord.

Set up road markers for yourself;
make yourself signposts;
consider well the highway,
the road by which you went.
Return, O virgin Israel,
return to these your cities.
How long will you waver,
O faithless daughter?
For the Lord has created a new thing on the earth:
a woman encompasses a man.

Matthew 2:16-18 - Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

How far will evil go to carry out its evil ends?

Evil has a life of its own. It perpetuates itself.

Moved by humiliation and anger, Herod’s insult was matched only by his wicked lust for power. Lashing out against the threat to his illegitimate monarchy, he flung his nation into a time of evil that was inconceivable in its sheer horror. Sanity questioned lunacy with the haunting cry, “Is there no limit to such evil?”

There is none.

Evil will not stop itself. It perpetuates its terrors. It knows no boundaries. It will progress and regress beyond any hint of decency as it grows immune to conscience and compassion.

That is the bad news. The good news is that there is, in fact a limit, but it is not pretty. Not until the death of Herod did the madness cease.

"If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace ..."

The good news is, furthermore, that God’s good is greater than man’s evil. He is monitoring the progress of wickedness and restraining its instinctive intrusion into the affairs of human history. A loving God allows us free will and its consequences because He does indeed love us, but He will only allow it to go on for so long. The length of its duration is a mystery to us. He will allow suffering to accomplish His purposes and, when they are complete, He will stop it.

When evil, which is not of God, ceases to work toward God’s redemptive purposes, it reaches its limit. We don’t understand it, nor can we predict its course, but we can trust in a God who is working all things out for our good and His glory.

When evil prevails, God weeps along with Rachel, but in the end, righteousness prevails and God says, “Enough!” Evil will not stop on its own. It is always brought to a stop by the intervention of God in history in one way or another.

That is the only limit that evil knows.

If only ...

If only we embrace the hope.
If only we embrace the message of grace.
If only, we choose love over hate.
If only we choose good over evil.
If only we choose engagement over retreat.

If only we will weep with Rachel and rejoice with Mary.

If only, these things were true and become true, "even thou, at least in this thy day," we may know, "the things which belong unto thy peace."

This is Christmastide

This is the coming of the Kingdom of God.

This is the day when, "If only" is transformed into what may be and shall be.

He Comes; We Come - Advent, Day 27

Come to the table manger
Come to the table

2 Samuel 7:18, 23-29 - New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

Who is like your people, like Israel? Is there another nation on earth whose God went to redeem it as a people and to make a name for himself, doing great and awesome things, driving out nations and their gods before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt? And you established your people Israel for yourself to be your people forever, and you, O Lord, became their God. And now, O Lord God, as for the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, confirm it forever; do as you have promised. Thus your name will be magnified forever in the saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is God over Israel,’ and the house of your servant David will be established before you. For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house’; therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant; now, therefore, may it please you to bless the house of your servant so that it may continue forever before you, for you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.”

Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would reckon as righteous the gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” Now it is evident that no one is reckoned as righteous before God by the law, for “the one who is righteous will live by faith.” But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Loose Strands of Wisdom

1024px-Shoelaces_20050719_001Take it or leave it.
Concerning shoelaces, a  sentence or two from Wikipedia:

"The Areni-1 shoe, which has been dated to around 3500 BC, is a simple leather "shoe" with leather "shoelaces" passing through slotted "eyelets" cut into the hide. The more complex shoes worn by Ötzi the Iceman, who lived around 3300 BC, were bound with "shoelaces" made of lime bark string."

"As for shoelaces in the sense that we know them in modern times, the Museum of London has documented examples of medieval footwear dating from as far back as the 12th century ..."

Aren't you glad that I cleared that up?

Speaking of all this, have yo checked your laces?

I am going to put some loose one here that have popped up among my memories.


Our perennial fear of bad news is unfounded to the extent that we are grounded. Steadiness comes with balance. It is an interweaving of trust in the mercy and grace of God with an ethic of obedience, generosity, peace, love, and justice played out in our choices.
The grace of God saves us. His Spirit empowers us. Our choices determine our steady steps in Him.
"He is not afraid of bad news;
his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever;
his horn is exalted in honor."
(Psalm 112:7-9 ESV)
There is a lot of "not getting it" going on around us. We cannot show anyone a god made of clay or any other earthly material and say, "Here it is!" Our God is beyond all of that. Our God dwells in eternity and infinity. Our God does whatever our God pleases. That is what defines God. That is what makes God God.
I am sure glad that it pleases God to love us and extend grace to us!
It is not a necessary part of the job description.
It is a choice He chooses.
"Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases."
(Psalm 115:2-3 ESV)
I must trust that which shall not rust.
I must not lust for that gust of dust.
Peace to You
Peace, Earthlings!
To all of you ....
Whatever you believe ...
From whatever direction you come ...
Right or left ...
North or south ...
East or west ...
Whoever you are ...
Good News has come!
May your day be bright ...
And merry ...
And joyful!
May your life be filled with all good things ...
Your table spread with bounty ...
Your home filled with love.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas!

Keeping Opinions to Myself

I do not know
26 Reasons
Sometimes I read the news and I have comments and I just decide to keep them to myself because:
A. Opinions are like eliminations systems. Everyone has one, but most produce undesirable ... well, you know.
B. It won't change anyone's mind.
C. Why should I let what is popular select what is most important for me and drive the agenda of my discourse?
D. I am tired of the subject.
E. Those who agree with me already agree and those who don't won't or may not have any idea what I am talking about or what paradigm I am using to formulate my views.
F. It plays into mass hysteria.
G. It is too easy to "label" a view and dismiss it.
H. I don't have enough information.
J. I am exhausted.
K. It goes without saying.
L. I have already addressed the subject repeatedly.
M. More from me and you get numb.
N. I am a wimp.
O. It is much ado about nothing.
P. I have some other reason.
Q. I don't have time.
R. I don't have enough words.
S. It is too complicated.
T. I did and you missed it.
U. I don't have an opinion, even though I said I did at first, upon reflection and internal dialogue, I realize that I am still arguing with myself.
V. Some combination of above.
W. I fell asleep.
X. I wrote 1000 words on it and my computer crashed and it takes 100 words.
Y. Why?
Z. I know that you do not care what I think.
Take your pick.

Saint Lottie Moon Day

Lottie moon
How many there are … who imagine that because Jesus paid it all, they need pay nothing, forgetting that the prime object of their salvation was that they should follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in bringing back a lost world to God. – September 15, 1887, Tungchow
I would I had a thousand lives that I might give them to … China! – August 27, 1888, Zhenjiang
On the Episcopal Christian calendar today, it is the Feast Day of Lottie Moon, a Southern Baptist missionary to China.
She was a pioneer through her work with women as well as men, her move to the interior of China, and her insistence on adopting Chinese culture and dress as she lived among and loved the people.
Charlotte Digges "Lottie" Moon, was actually born on December 12, 1840.
She died, essentially of starvation, on a ship that was bound for home. she had been carried aboard, thought she would have preferred to remain in China. It was during a famine and what food she had, she had shared with others. It was 1912, Christmas Eve.
Tom Nettles writes:
"The War with Japan (1894), the Boxer Rebellion (1900), and the Nationalist uprising (that overthrew the Qing Dynasty in 1911) all profoundly affected mission work. Famine and disease took their toll, as well. When Lottie returned from her second furlough in 1904, she agonized over the suffering of the people who were literally starving to death all around her. She pled for more money and more resources, but the mission board was heavily in debt and could send nothing. Mission salaries were voluntarily cut. Unknown to her fellow missionaries, Lottie Moon—the Southern belle who was once described as “overindulged and under-disciplined”—shared her own meager money and food with any and everyone around her, severely affecting both her physical and mental health. In 1912, she only weighed fifty pounds. Alarmed, fellow missionaries arranged for her to be sent back home to the United States with a missionary companion, but she died on Christmas Eve on board ship in Kobe Harbor, Japan. Her body was cremated and the remains returned to loved ones in Virginia for burial."
A point of some pride is that she attended college in Botetourt County, Virginia where I pastored my first two churches in the 1970s.: Hollins College.
Lottie's Tea Cake Recipe

Plain Tea Cake (As made by Lottie Moon)

  • 3 teacups of sugar
  • 1 teacup of butter
  • 1 teacup of sour milk
  • 4 pints flour
  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon of soda
  • Flavor to taste, roll thin, bake in a quick oven.



Even So, Come, Lord Jesus - Advent, Day 26


“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowly state of his servant.
Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name;
indeed, his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his child Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Isaiah 33:17-22
Your eyes will see the king in his beauty;

they will behold a land that stretches far away.
Your mind will muse on the terror:
“Where is the one who counted?
Where is the one who weighed the tribute?
Where is the one who counted the towers?”
No longer will you see the insolent people,
the people of an obscure speech that you cannot comprehend,
stammering in a language that you cannot understand.
Look on Zion, the city of our appointed festivals!
Your eyes will see Jerusalem,
a quiet habitation, an immovable tent
whose stakes will never be pulled up
and none of whose ropes will be broken.
But there the Lord in majesty will be for us
a place of broad rivers and streams
where no galley with oars can go
nor stately ship can pass.
For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our ruler;
the Lord is our king; he will save us.


The End of Fear


Photo by Susan Wilkinson on Unsplash

What stirs up fear in your soul?

One of our fears is seeing ourselves as we are or being seen as we are and judged.

Judgment and fear of judgment are symbiotic friends.

We can truly panic over that.

Judgment comes through the avoidance of judgment, but is distorted that way.

Light reveals; Fear conceals.

Denial retreats to the dank, dark hiding places of false refuge where we pretend to be what we are not and not to be all that we are.

Fear of failure, flaws, and frailty are allowed to sound our soul retreat from love and grace.

Light shines in the advent darkness to call us out of hiding into the realm of truth where we are embraced by the love of God manifested in Jesus.

"And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” - John 3:19-21 ESV

Fear Not

What stirred up fear in the shepherds?

Was it the great light?

What did they see in the light?

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings…” Luke 2:10 

We live in a generation beset with fear where security has assumed a greater value than freedom. We want secure stocks, secure airports, and secure streets. We seek out secure jobs, secure families, and homes so secure that no one can get in or out.  The same bars that lock burglars out, entrap residents in the even of a fire. We are obsessed with safety, security, and fear.

 It was an uneventful night when an angel invaded the darkness of complacency, security, and safety that defined the shepherds’ existence, Explosive light called them to attention. A voice they had never heard summoned them with these words, “Fear not!”

Their restless contentment had for too longed masked their anxious resignation that things would always continue as they had been. They rested secure in the routine existence to which they believed they had been assigned until they were disturbed by a great light and an authoritative voice that called them to revive their expectations and renew their hope.

 Life would become delightfully dangerous and spontaneous again as they redefined peace and realigned their hopes with a promise they could neither control nor verify. They were being called to a new kind of life where they would sneer at fear and move out in faith to a place they could never find on their own. In a few moments, they would receive all of the evidence they needed to say, 

“Let us go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”

 And so, they would move out with a new kind of urgent haste – unlike the haste of other days. This urgency would have no root in fear or distress. It would be the haste of child to the Christmas tree on Christmas morning, the hurried pace of a soldier returning home from battle to his loved ones, the sprint of an athlete in the last lap of a race for Olympic gold.

It would be the end of fear for the shepherds and for all who would embrace the promise given to them and to us that night: “Behold!”

How Do I Recognize Truth?

"Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. "-Job 42:3
Someone has said that ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice. That being the case, we say some pretty ridiculous things on the way to understanding. As a teenager, I once blurted out in church discussion led by my pastor that Paul had said, "To thine own self be true."
He very kindly informed me that I had just quoted Shakespeare.
There is nothing like a bright red face to put you in your place.
At some point, knowledge is better than ignorance and wisdom is far greater than foolishness. But both knowledge and wisdom come to us through a process of encounter with God. Though Job was humbled by the realization that He had known far less than he thought he had known, he rejoices in his new-found relationship with God and the unfolding clarity that is coming to his heart.
You can be embarrassed or instructed. Embarrassment will cripple you, but instruction will lead you on. My high school choir instructor taught us to make our mistakes blatant so that they could be corrected. He didn't want the bass section to whimper.
"If you are going to make a mistake, make a good one so we can fix it."
It is in seeking that we find.
"I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." -Job 42:5-6
Truth is personal. Job came to that place of understanding, and it filled His heart with joy.
Who am I before God that I can ever presume to tell Him anything? That is the proper stance for us to take. He is God; we are not. He knows everything; we know nothing. We can get thickheaded and haughty in our complex theologies, but when God really wants to tell us something that we need to understand well, He speaks very clearly and simply - in His Son.
Take heed of Him.
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;" -Hebrews 1:1-3

Homeward Bound - Advent, Day 25

Homeward bound advent

I will speak at a memorial service in a few hours for over 50 people who died homeless on the streets of our city in the last 11 months.

It makes this verse from our Advent readings sink into my soul.

Longing for Home

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. – Psalm 27:4

What is beauty?

What is a house that can house God and all of God's people?

Not everyone can fit in a box. Not everyone can squeeze into a mold.  Not everyone can comply with society's expectations. Not everyone is beautiful in our eyes.

But everyone longs for a place to belong.

The Greeks had a curious concept of beauty. It had to do with the relationship between the common word for beauty and the word for hour. Something truly beautiful had come to its hour much as the fruit is most fragrant and delectable at the hour of its ripeness.

The psalmist understood that the beauty of God was eternal. It transcended time and space. If he could linger in the presence of God all the days of his life, none of God’s beauty would diminish. There would be no decay.

God is consistently beautiful and is the very logos behind all beauty. All that we consider lovely in the arts and in nature finds its perfect form in Him.

For that reason every work of art or music that is offered to God is to be a reflection of His loveliness. Every edifice of architecture, every sonnet, every work of literature, every dramatic presentation or dance, all of these and more are to be the best we can give that He may be honored and His beauty, through us made manifest.

We are to give God our best and trust Him to supply the rest.

For David, beholding the beauty of God was a step toward inquiring of Him. He knew that he could gaze upon God in whatever way He disclosed Himself as a means of meditating upon His truth.

In doing so, the psalmist could meet God and so can we.

Yet, one thing David, the father of the psalm movement, could not do. David could not build a house for God. Solomon, his son, went as far as he could, but no house can accommodate God.

Perhaps, the closest we might come, is making room for those among us who cannot find a house or even a safe place under the stars, to dwell.

Who are they?

Maybe they do not fit in boxes we can make with our hands, but their hearts can accommodate God's presence

And God is preparing a place for them as well as for us.

God Is Getting a Big House Ready

“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven ... But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister, And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” – Matthew 18:1-4, 20:25-28

Who are the children among us? Are we among them?

The spirit of child-like wonder gave birth to the deep desire for liberty and freedom for our forefathers, but it was another quality that has helped to sustain us as a nation: service. What is best about our nation is exemplified when people serve each other and are not too proud to be good neighbors.

Choose your image: the child or the servant. Jesus exalts both. One is the very image of innocent, open, expectant faith without pretense, pride, or guile. The other is the portrait of Jesus Himself as He lived among and continues to live through His servants.

Pride is our enemy and service is our friend. How much power we wield or authority we gather to ourselves does not measure the value of our lives or a nation. As you examine your life, do so in this light: the image of the child full of wonder and hope and the servant, delighting to please His Master by ministering to others.

So, you will deal honestly with yourself.

So, you will be blessed.

As we take the pulse of our nation and our world, let us likewise examine these qualities in our communities and recommit ourselves to wonder and service.

Let us look to those we consider the least.

Have we made a place for them? Are we honoring them and their humanity as people made in God's image?

Grace Will Lead Me Home

“In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” – John 14:2

Home! Home, sweet, home! That’s where we are going. That is where we belong. Anything short of home is still part of the journey. Anything that is part of the journey is subject to dangers, toils, and snares. But after the journey is complete, those things will have no power at all.

Jesus went away to prepare a place for us, a place with plenty of room and place where He Himself will be present.

He promised to come to get us when He is ready for us to join Him. We don’t have to keep checking on our reservations and we don’t have to worry that we will miss the summons.

“Let not your hearts be troubled,” he said.

There is no room for fretting; just trusting. There is no way to become worthy; it’s all by grace.

I was lost once. I didn’t think I’d ever find my way home. I didn’t. Home found me. So, it is with grace leading us home. So, it is with Him coming for us. Wherever we are at the time, He will find us. We may feel we are buried under a mountain of ambiguity and complexity, but if we are His, He will find us. We may sense that we are not ready; our ducks are not neatly lined up in a row. Yet, if we are in the faith, it is not our preparation that counts, but his.

He prepares the place; we trust Him and follow Him wherever the journey leads, meandering through dangers, toils, and snares. We follow without certainty as to duration or difficulty. We follow and sometimes we get sidetracked, but He puts us back on the path.

Where we are, He is and where He is, we will be.

And grace will lead us home.

Meanwhile, God makes His home in us.

A House for the Spirit

“… he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” From John 14:17

God is whispering in our ears, “Give me your hands and let me move them in my rhythm.”

God thinks of everything. God's purposes are complex, but not complicated. God's plan is to work in and through believers to accomplish God's work in the world. To do this, the Holy One intends to inhabit us.

The Holy Spirit is the very presence of Jesus among us today. It is by the Holy Spirit that we become the Body of Christ in the world and that the world is convicted of sin, righteousness, and judgment and hears the message of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.

Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.” Knowing that they might consider that a once and for all filling and forget the need for constant refreshment and refilling, he told them to tarry in Jerusalem until they received power from on high. As we celebrate Pentecost this year, let us focus on the necessity of the Spirit-filled life if we are to see God accomplish great things in and through us.

When Jesus called Paul, He had a plan for Him. But Paul needed the power of the Holy Spirit in his life to realize his calling and act upon it.

When Jesus restored Peter after breathing the Spirit into him, He questioned him about his love. Three times, he commissioned Peter to feed His sheep knowing that if Peter were to act upon his love and follow the Master, he would need the power of the Holy Spirit in his life.

By faith, allow the Spirit of God who dwells in you to overflow within you and spill out His blessings to the world.

Today, God is calling us to the next level of following, serving, and bearing witness in the world.

We need the power of the Holy Spirit.

We need to be at home in the Spirit and allow the Spirit to be at home in us.

We have no choice but to rely on the Promise and Presence of the Spirit.

God is the source of our longing for home that only God can ultimately provide.

In the meantime, God's presence in us and in our communities of covenant faith can enable us to embrace the people of this planet who are longing for home.

As you light the Advent candle in your warm homes tonight, remember the one who made his home among us in a cold barn.



Other Readings for Today

Job 42:1-6

Then Job answered the Lord: "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.' I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."

1 Peter 1:3-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith-- being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire-- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Isaiah 43:8-13

Bring forth the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears! Let all the nations gather together, and let the peoples assemble. Who among them declared this, and foretold to us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to justify them, and let them hear and say, "It is true." You are my witnesses, says the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses, says the Lord. I am God, and also henceforth I am He; there is no one who can deliver from my hand; I work and who can hinder it?

John 14:1-7

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."

Psalm 148

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his host!

Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever;
he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike,
old and young together!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!

Isaiah 49:13-23
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people
and will have compassion on his suffering ones.

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a woman forget her nursing child
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these might forget,
yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
Your builders outdo your destroyers,
and those who laid you waste go away from you.
Lift up your eyes all around and see;
they all gather; they come to you.
As I live, says the Lord,
you shall put all of them on like an ornament,
and like a bride you shall bind them on.

For your wastelands, your desolate places,
and your devastated land—
now you will be too crowded for your inhabitants,
and those who swallowed you up will be far away.
The children born in the time of your bereavement
will yet say in your hearing:
“The place is too crowded for me;
make room for me to settle.”
Then you will say in your heart,
“Who has borne me these?
I was bereaved and barren,
exiled and put away—
so who has reared these?
I was left all alone—
where, then, have these come from?”

Thus says the Lord God:
I will soon lift up my hand to the nations
and raise my signal to the peoples,
and they shall bring your sons in their bosom,
and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.
Kings shall be your foster fathers
and their queens your nursing mothers.
With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you
and lick the dust of your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord;
those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition


Carried Away


“And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” - Revelation 21:10

Someone once said that no experience in his life was complete until he had shared it with His beloved.

As children, we rushed home to our moms and dads with every piece of good news from the day at school. As teens, we called our best friends as soon as possible. When God brought that special someone into our lives, if we have been so blessed, we desired nothing more than to disclose every wonderful event to him or her. Throughout our lives there have been people attached to us who were so precious that we wanted to share ourselves, our hopes, our dreams, our victories, and our sorrows with them.

In such a spirit, Jesus took some of his dearest friends to the mountain. Up until this point, they had seen him as a man – an extraordinary man. But now, he wanted to show a little more of himself to them – and what they would see would startle and amaze them.

When was the last time the Holy Spirit took you to a high mountain to see what He was bringing to pass in God’s purposes? Whatever God prepares, He does so according to His will in Heaven so that the sincerest and purest prayer of the believer may be, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Our God is at work and He is meeting with us in worship to give us a glimpse of His glory. He does this that we might join Him and be willingly led by His Spirit wherever His Spirit leads.

Announcing Freedom and Laughter - Advent, Day 24

The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 
Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” 
And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. 

So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” 

The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” 

So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.”

And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” 

Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

Paul spiritualizes the story, which is OK because the spiritual application is one of the reasons it was told in the first place and remembered by Israel. The details were incidental. The lessons are the key and the lessons do not come easily. They require refection and application over centuries of changing context.

Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by an enslaved woman and the other by a free woman. One, the child of the enslaved woman, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,

“Rejoice, you childless one, you who bear no children,
burst into song and shout, you who endure no birth pangs,
for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous
than the children of the one who is married.”

Now you, my brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, like Isaac. But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the scripture say? “Drive out the enslaved woman and her child, for the child of the enslaved woman will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman.” 

So then, brothers and sisters, we are children, not of an enslaved woman but of the free woman.

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Paul uses the story as an illustration of the truth he is teaching in the moment.

His message?

Don't be slaves.

You are free! Act like free people!

I know it is Advent and our minds are on Christmas, but I found this essay among my files. I had written it for America's Independence Day as i reflected upon why our desire for liberty might have its roots in spiritual truth and God's hard-wiring of our deepest yearnings.

 “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” – Galatians 5:1 KJV

On this July fourth, as I often do, I am thanking God for the freedom of religion that is guaranteed by our Bill of Rights. I am grateful for the Baptists of Virginia and Connecticut who lobbied for it and for the statement who championed its cause. But mostly, I am grateful to God for having the idea in the first place.

God created us in His own image with the freedom to choose Him or reject Him.  Otherwise, we could not have come by faith, in love, and through conversion. God’s design presupposes freedom. Salvation requires the work of the Holy Spirit regenerating the human heart that receives Him willingly. Coercive conversions are no conversions at all. State sponsored religion creates an unregenerate church membership.

God has given men and women a deep desire for freedom. True freedom is only realized fully in Christ. If the gospel is to be proclaimed freely, it must not be supervised by human agencies. Nor can man dictate the way that God will work with a human heart.

Jesus said, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:8

That is the essence of soul freedom and the best guarantee that government can give for such freedom is to stay out of the way. And that is what our Constitution does for us and for that I am grateful.

Let us honor those foresighted fathers of our country who respected the inherent dignity of each person before God and fashioned our national liberties on that basis. As we ring the bells of patriotism this Independence Day, let us sing with renewed zeal,

America, America,
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.
(Katharine Lee Bates, 1893)

I put this all together on the 24th Day of Advent.

What Is The Point!


This year, i am sensing a theme of Advent announcing universal liberation for the captive, release of the prisoners, freedom from slavery, rescue from sin, deliverance from evil, and anticipation of the great and coming Day of the LORD that has begun to unfold in the birth, life, passion, and exultation of God's Messiah and Son.

Be free and laugh a lot.

Don't be a Grinch!

By the way, neither Advent nor Christmas are mandated Christian celebrations! Those don't exist unless you include Communion! But celebration is permissible and encouraged daily - even baptizing secular holidays because we are free in Christ and called to live a life of freedom and celebration!


Praying through Advent, Day 23

We are praying through the Advent season.

Most High God, majestic and almighty, our beginning and our end: rule in our hearts and guide us to be faithful in our daily actions, worshiping the one who comes as Savior and Sovereign, and who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.

Our prayers are flavored with the ongoing wrestling matches we have with God over the affairs of our lives. They are seasoned with rejoicing and hope. They are mournful and expectant. 
They include a fair  share of prophetic declaration.
From Mary, we hear the theme of mothers in the Hebrew scriptures, the promise of a new day embodied in a baby.
The psalms give voice to the deepest pain, anguish, fear, despair, and sometimes, anger of the human soul, direct that voice God-ward where God seems to say, "I understand. It's OK to feel this way. It's OK to tell me. I hear you. We are going to get through this together.
Trust me. I love you."

It is all mixed together -- tears and laughter -- sorrow and joy. It is in the soil of sorrow that the shoots of hope blossom into the sunshine of joyful harvest and out of pain comes kind empathy which connects us with one another in love.

Here, our tug-of-war between fight and flight are met with a new option: flow.
" My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
yes, I would wander far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah
I would hurry to find a shelter
from the raging wind and tempest.”"
(Psalm 55:4-8 ESV)
This is prayer. It is gut-wrenching and honest. It is real. It is emotional. It is longing. It is hopeful.
Hannah also prays. Her prayer is hope beyond hope. It is new-day praying. It is the prayer that rejoices and prophecies deliverance. Hope is embodied in an event and a new life.
It is an Advent prayer!

“My heart exults in the Lord;
    my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies
    because I rejoice in your victory.

There is no Holy One like the Lord,
    no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly;
    let not arrogance come from your mouth,
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
    and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
    but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
    but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
    but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
    he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
    he brings low; he also exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
    he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
    and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
    and on them he has set the world.

He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
    but the wicked will perish in darkness,
    for not by might does one prevail.
The Lord! His adversaries will be shattered;
    the Most High will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
    he will give strength to his king
    and exalt the power of his anointed.”

Abraham prays as well. His prayer is both conversational and confrontational.
He must be convinced by God and that requires him getting all of his arguments out and his unbelief expressed beforehe can fully embrace God's promises for the Advent he is about to experience.
God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her and also give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 
Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 
And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live in your sight!” 
God said, “No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year.” 
And when he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.
Paul is not exactly praying in this monologue, but his admonitions are saturated with prayer. We know that because he expresses a longing, a desire, and a certain pathos in his voice. He understands the freedom and liberation of the gospel and he shutters at the notion of the Galatian believers accepting any sort of enslavement again.
The message and meaning of Advent sets us free.
The true God, revealed in Jesus, is a God of freedom, from sin and all forms of bondage.
Galatians 4:8-20
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental principles? How can you want to be enslaved to them again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid that my work for you may have been wasted.

Brothers and sisters, I beg you: become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong. You know that it was because of a physical infirmity that I first announced the gospel to you; though my condition put you to the test, you did not scorn or despise me but welcomed me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 

What has become of the goodwill you felt? For I testify that, had it been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you but for no good purpose; they want to exclude you, so that you may make much of them. It is good to be made much of for a good purpose at all times and not only when I am present with you. 

My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, I wish I were present with you now and could change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.


O God of the exiles and the lost,
you promise restoration and wholeness
through the power of Jesus Christ.
Give us faith to live joyfully,
sustained by your promises
as we eagerly await the day when they will be fulfilled
for all the world to see,
through the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Brothers and sisters,
as we joyfully await the glorious coming of the Christ,
let us pray for the needs of the church, our community, and the world.

Prayers of the People, concluding with:

God of joy and exultation,
you strengthen what is weak;
you enrich the poor
and give hope to those who live in fear.
Look upon our needs this day.
Make us grateful for the good news of salvation
and keep us faithful in your service
until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives for ever and ever. Amen.


Spiritual or Political?

Spiritual political

Am I going to be political or spiritual here?

You call it whatever you like.

What if we could divorce each issue, from the powers and people who support the various positions and assess each on principle?

Would it be easier not to dismiss an idea as belonging to a demon party or ideology?

"It is not well for a man to pray cream and live skim milk." - Henry Ward Beecher

Beecher was right and I want to apply it to the prayerful intersection of public and spiritual life, or politics and theology. Our problem is that we are a mile wide and an inch deep in so much of our thinking – especially integrating the spirit and the intellect.

Politics is about setting tables where people of differing perspectives come together to hear and be heard. How do we restore that?
We have too many established labels set in concrete.

Most labels we assign to others and to ourselves are grossly inaccurate and inadequate.

In civil society, the best politic is to treat each person and voice with respect and dignity, making the table big enough for all.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” - Zechariah 7:9-10 ESV

"As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God." Psalm 40:17 ESV

Take this application to heart.

Bold and willful:

It is a reflection on arrogance and sin. I need that sometimes because I am often in need of such correction and adjustment in attitude.

Did you ever notice the word "JUST" in "AdJUSTment?"

Some adjustments bring us into alignment with what is right.

Whose heart has not, at some time, been well described by Peter's words below?

" and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
"Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness." - 2 Peter 2:10-16 ESV

God grant that I might not be bold and willful in my opposition to truth and you, the God of truth today.

Adjust me God, that I might be more useful in your temple and in the public square.

And furthermore…

When will we get it? God does not like "iniquitous decrees," laws that inscribe injustice, rob the poor, deprive people of their rights, walk over the widows and orphans, and generally marginalize the powerless.

It evokes His wrath. He is the champion of the weak and the advocate for the poor.

If we read the scriptures without our filters, they are very clear about this.

"Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,
and the writers who keep writing oppression,
to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be their spoil,
and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
What will you do on the day of punishment,
in the ruin that will come from afar?
To whom will you flee for help,
and where will you leave your wealth?
Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners
or fall among the slain.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still."
-Isaiah 10:1-4 ESV

" The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine."
-Psalm 33:17-19 ESV

And even more …

The more powerful a nation is, the more it is in danger of being caught up in the arrogance of its own counsel. The more we accumulate and dominate, the more we risk being rebuked by time and the overriding plans of God. The more we exalt ourselves, the more likely we are to be brought low.

"The nation whose God is the LORD," refers to only one historical nation during one extended period of history. There has only been one God-ordained theocracy and that is a "type" of the Kingdom of God. However, there is a call to humility for all the nations -- a "knowing" that kings, courts, constitutions, and parliamentary bodies are not sovereign over history, over peoples, nor over other nations.

The "nations" need not be at odds with God's plans, but often are. What they must recognize is their limitations and that they are not divine. God is LORD of the nations and a first step toward God is always the recognition that, "I am not God."

Nationalism to the extreme will always counter God's purposes. Nations are under God and never given preferred status nor delegated with divine prerogatives. If nations usurp God's authority, position, or prerogatives, they will oppress people (even with religious language) and will offend God.

Who has He chosen for His heritage? He chose ancient Israel and the successors of Israel and He has invited all who will become subjects and citizens of His Kingdom to be blessed on one simple criteria: His Sovereignty and our acknowledgment of it.

We do not have to make this happen. The power is already in place. We do well not to fight it,

The oldest profession of faith in the early church was a confession of Lordship. It still is.

" The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing:

“… he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! "
-Psalm 33:10-12 ESV

" O my Strength, I will watch for you,
for you, O God, are my fortress.
My God in his steadfast love will meet me;
God will let me look in triumph on my enemies."
- Psalm 59:9-10 ESV

But to the wicked...

Here is what they do.

1. They talk God-talk, but hate discipline, letting truth roll off their backs.
2. They hang out with and celebrate thieves and adulterers.
3. They "talk smack" against people with evil, lying lips.

But God speaks truth into their context and to their hearts -- which they ignore or resist. Yet,

God reaches out with His voice of warning to rebuke and restore all who will have a change of mind and attitude.

" But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to recite my statutes
or take my covenant on your lips?
For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
and you keep company with adulterers.
“You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
You sit and speak against your brother;
you slander your own mother's son.
These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
“Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!” "
-Psalm 50:15-23 ESV

Call upon God in the day of trouble. He will deliver. We shall glorify Him.
We worship not because of God's need or ego, but out of gratitude.

1. We call.
2. He delivers.
3. We glorify Him.

That is the pattern set forth.

“If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
- Psalm 50:12-15 ESV

All of this was collected from over 15 years of social media posts. I asked, "Am I going to be political or spiritual here?" 

I do not think I can label it, but I need to go back and think about it.

God Is with Us - Advent - 4th Sunday, 22nd Day

'Joseph's_Dream' _painting_by_Gaetano_Gandolfi _c._1790

'Joseph's Dream', painting by Gaetano Gandolfi, c. 1790

Matthew 1:22-23 -Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,  Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

How lonely Joseph must have felt, not to mention Mary’s loneliness. God chose two lonely young people to use as a vehicle for the end of loneliness.

To be a virgin and conceive is an unparalleled experience. Conception always involves ensemble and grows out of a deep partnership. Mary’s only partnership in this conception was with the invisible God and it led to more isolation from humanity – even her betrothed.

Joseph was also isolated by this event.  Intimate trust had, in his mind, been betrayed. He could not receive counsel because there were none who could understand his mixed emotions.

Out of this loneliness would come a new partnership between God and this young couple and out of His work and their commitment would come a new reality – the persistent and consistent presence of God among people: Emmanuel.

Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 

At some point, prior to or during this encounter, Joseph has fallen asleep. God often speaks to us in the loneliness of slumber, but it is when we are awakened that we reveal the power of the encounter. Joseph believed and received the word and his solitude ended. He obeyed God.

 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Fulfillment involved restraint and rejection of superficial intimacy. The depths of what God was doing would require patient expectation. The honeymoon would wait because God had something marvelous in store for humanity through His Divine intervention in history and the commitment of two solitary youths, brought together by grace and empowered by the promise of the presence of God.

Are we as willing, as they were, to offer our lives to the purpose of Christmas, that the God of the Universe might be revealed to a lonely world? Are we willing to leave some of the gifts under the tree for a while that the Giver of all gifts might bestow the gift of His eternal presence in the temporal realm?

God is with us!

The extended Message

Joseph’s Side of the Story


Just and Compassionate 

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. - Matthew 1:18 -19

If you were about to send your only son to faraway place and could choose a family for him, you would be very careful. God was no less deliberate about His choice for who would raise His Son.

We celebrate Mary who conceived Him by the Holy Spirit and nurtured Him in her womb before giving birth. In Mary were the finest maternal qualities.

But Jesus needed a man to protect Him and guide Him as well and God chose Joseph. First, He arranged the betrothal of Mry and Joseph through Divine providence. Then He kept them apart until He could work a miracle.

Joseph did not live in an age of miracles. The truth is, there has seldom been such a time. Miracles always take people by surprise and require a mind/faith stretch to be embraced. What Joseph did possess was a wonderful combination of integrity and compassion.

He was a just man. It would be no small thing for him to believe that his betrothed wife had been unfaithful to him. He would have been devastated and offended. As a man of honor, he would know that he could not simply overlook such an offense.

But he was also a man of compassion and, while it might have soothed his bruised ego to do so, he was not willing to make a public example of her. By public example, Matthew might have meant anything from humiliation and banishment to death. No more could Joseph turn off his love and compassion than his sense of right and wrong.

Such a man was chosen by God the Father to be a father-figure in the life of His Son. Such a man would model the Law of God and the love of God for the Son of God. Such a man would figure prominently in God’s plan to fill the life and heart of the Holy One who emptied Himself by taking the form of a Servant. Such a man was Joseph.

Born of the Spirit

“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.“ – Matthew 1:20

It was the kind of conception that was hard to conceive of. Joseph is silent during this transaction with the angel. No words are recorded. If he spoke, he must have deemed anything he had to say unimportant, because he reported only God’s words through the angel.

For some reason, miracles often evoke fear, perhaps because God voice speaks so powerfully through them and we are overwhelmed by His glory. This was a miracle of reduction. All of God’s glory would be compressed into one tiny little baby and His developing body would be planted into the womb of Mary.

Joseph was asked to come along as a willing and faithful participant in this process, to take Mary as his wife, to exercise restraint and patience, to accept any shame, humiliation, and ridicule that might come his way, and to rejoice with her in what God was doing. He was asked to take a giant step of faith.

People raise their eyebrows at the notion of the Incarnation, but they also turn a skeptical eye toward testimonies of new birth. The church boldly declares that men and women can be born of the Spirit from above and that God can transform the life of the most miserable sinner into the most useful saint. The world scoffs, but the true believer keeps testifying to the power of the miracle.  That is because we know it is true. We have experienced it. Like Joseph, we are dumbfounded and receive the gift with joy.

Joy to the world! The Lord has come!

Let every heart prepare Him room.

(Isaac Watts, 1719)

Of the Holy Ghost 

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. – Matthew 1:20

Sometimes it takes a messenger from God, human or angelic to interrupt our thinking and redirect our beliefs so that we can see that the seemingly negative events in our lives are nothing less than something conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Joseph was thinking as a natural man with the information he had and the beliefs that focused his thinking. He was filtering reality through a mindset that had not even considered the possibilities that were about to be revealed to him. As a result, he had come to certain conclusions, made certain decisions, and experienced a range of emotions including fear.

The angel’s message suggests that he might have toyed with the idea of marrying Mary in spite of everything, but fear prevented him. He needed a word from God to give him courage and assurance.

Joseph was thinking. Perhaps he was brooding. He may have been playing various scenarios in his mind, rehearsing his speech, considering, and reconsidering his options. He must have been on an emotional roller coaster and had drifted into the oblivion of racing thoughts when waking or sleeping, he saw what he had never seen before – an angel.

Though startled at first, imagine how Joseph must have welcomed the message he received. He could never have hought of it himself. It was like a breath of fresh air, a reprieve from the nightmare of recent days. It was a word of hope. The angel gave him permission to love the girl of his dreams and take her as his wife because the one impossible scenario was actually the truth: God had done this thing.  It was all His doing and it was good.

Is that not what we need to hear in the midst of our despairing conundrums? We need to know that however convoluted the circumstances and what we believe about them, that the Spirit of the Living God is at work and is working out His eternal purposes. Embracing that word, we are set free from fear.

Call Him Jesus 

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. - Matthew 1:21

Call his name, “Jesus.”

It was the core of the angelic message that was delivered to Joseph. Mary would have a son. There were no ultrasound tests in those days that could have predicted gender. Only God could know.

Only God could know the meaning of that life. God knew and shared that knowledge with Joseph through His angel. You will call Him Jesus – not because it was a common name among the sons of Israel; such a designation was not unheard of, but neither was it common. Call Him Jesus – not because it was a family name or because it had a ring to it.

Call Him Jesus, because that name, like His life, like this great event of miraculous conception means something.  Of all those who have ever borne the name, He would most embody it and fulfill its promise.

Call Him Jesus because it means that God is Savior and God saves. Call Him Jesus because it for the purpose of saving His people from their sins that He came. Call Him Jesus and never forget that you are part of something greater than your own self interests.

There is no evidence that the angel shouted these words or sang them, but never has there been a more dramatic proclamation in the annals or oratory or a grander crescendo in the history choral repertoire. Thus, whenever we recall them theatrically, homiletically, or musically, it is almost impossible to restrain the enthusiasm.

What God spoke to the disoriented and discouraged Joseph in the dark quiet of that moment has resounded through the ages as great exclamation mark in salvation history.

He shall save His people from their sins!

The experience of Joseph has become our experience and the culmination of its advent, we have come to call, “Christmas.” Our sins, so profound and so hideous with their dire consequences in our lives have met their match in the One we call Jesus.


“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21

The name, Jesus means Yahweh Saves. In a wonderful application of that meaning, the angel informs Joseph of the role of this boy who Mary carried in her womb. His life would be the very saving presence of God among His people.

Let us meditate upon the significance of this coming. The Son of Mary, who is the Son of God, would bear a name that others had borne before. But He would bear it with authority and purpose. Others wore that name as a prophetic reminder, He would be the authentic fulfillment of the promise incarnate.

This salvation that He brings is not from the destructive power of armies or the oppressive arm of dictators. It is from ourselves, our sins, our choices. It is the offering that He brings with His life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus comes to save His people. Joseph, no doubt, heard this as the household of Israel, but God sent His Son to save the whole world. His saving arms are long enough to embrace all people and gather them to Himself. And so, His arms are open to you this day to rescue you from whatever wars against you and to deliver you from your sins.

God Is with Us

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,  Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. – Matthew 1:22-23

How lonely Joseph must have felt, not to mention Mary’s loneliness. God chose two lonely young people to use as a vehicle for the end of loneliness.

To be a virgin and conceive is an unparalleled experience. Conception always involves ensemble and grows out of a deep partnership. Mary’s only partnership in this conception was with the invisible God and it led to more isolation from humanity – even her betrothed.

Joseph was also isolated by this event.  Intimate trust had, in his mind, been betrayed. He could not receive counsel because there were none who could understand his mixed emotions.

Out of this loneliness would come a new partnership between God and this young couple and out of His work and their commitment would come a new reality – the persistent and consistent presence of God among people: Emmanuel.

Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife. – Matthew 1:24

At some point, prior to or during this encounter, Joseph has fallen asleep. God often speaks to us in the loneliness of slumber, but it is when we are awakened that we reveal the power of the encounter. Joseph believed and received the word and his solitude ended. He obeyed God.

 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. – Matthew 1:25

Fulfillment involved restraint and rejection of superficial intimacy. The depths of what God was doing would require patient expectation. The honeymoon would wait because God had something marvelous in store for humanity through His Divine intervention in history and the commitment of two solitary youths, brought together by grace and empowered by the promise of the presence of God.

Are we as willing, as they were, to offer our lives to the purpose of Christmas, that the God of the Universe might be revealed to a lonely world? Are we willing to leave some of the gifts under the tree for a while that the Giver of all gifts might bestow the gift of His eternal presence in the temporal realm?

God is with us!

Lectionary Readings

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

Psalm 80:1-7

To the leader: on Lilies, a Covenant. Of Asaph. A Psalm.

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
    before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
    and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Lord God of hosts,
    how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears
    and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
    our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.

But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
    the one whom you made strong for yourself.
Then we will never turn back from you;
    give us life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the gentiles for the sake of his name, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to divorce her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“Look, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a son,
    and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife but had no marital relations with her until she had given birth to a son, and he named him Jesus.

Hope Rise


Hope, like the sun, is surely rising.

Photo by Clicker Babu on Unsplash

"... as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.”- 2 Samuel 23:4.

Hope rises on the horizon.

Wait! Is it sunrise of is it sunset?

Tevya and his wife, in Fiddler on the Roof put them together to celebrate the passages and cycles of life.

“Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older.
When did they?” - Sheldon Harnick

Sunset reminds us that life is good and that the passages of time are purposeful. Sweet memories flood our souls through time, but time refuses to stand still.

“Sunrise sunset, sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly flow the days ...” - Sheldon Harnick

Moments turn to days. Days flow into weeks and months. Months accumulate into years, decades, and scores of years. With each passage, there is a sunset.

Then, there is a time of darkness, whether short or long. There are always times of darkness.

Sometimes, in the darkness, the moon and stars are brilliant in their light. Sometimes, they are obscured by clouds or by the position of the earth in its rotation.

But the light is always there and, when the morning comes, there is a sunrise and we remember that it is all a part of a cycle, a rhythm, and a musical movement that punctuates our times.

The light of God is always shining and it does not matter if we are gazing into a sunrise or a sunset. Either way, we are looking to a new day.

The poet, George Herbert, put it this way:

The Sun arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.

Neither Late Nor Early - Advent, Day 20


The Dayspring in the Fullness of Time

Luke 1:78
“Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us … “

God looks upon His people with tender mercy. Otherwise, we would perish in a lost and dark abyss of meaningless floundering. When He does intervene, he gives gifts to us and one great gift in particular, His Son.

This has been the season of gift giving and some of the gifts you have received required great time and thought. God’s gift in Jesus Christ required both. As the clock ticks and the calendar pages turn toward a New Year, we are lighted and enlightened by the great visitation of the Dayspring from on high!

He came at just the right time – not too early, not too late.

Galatians 4:3-4 puts it this way:

“… we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law … “

He came when we needed Him, into our darkness as a bright and shining new day.

Things happen on time and in time.

Eternity is outside of time, and yet, that is where the most important events of God’s purposes originate. He intervenes within our calendars, but in His perfect timing, to carry out those purposes.

When He does, it is as the Dayspring from on high! It is by His mercy and in His wisdom. He does it for this reason according to Ephesians 1:10:

“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him…”


Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said,

“Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God; you have spoken also of your servant’s house into the distant future.

May this be instruction for the people, O Lord GodAnd what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God

Because of your promise and according to your own heart, you have wrought all this greatness so that your servant may know it. 

Therefore you are great, O Lord God, for there is no one like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than those who are enslaved, though they are the owners of all the property, but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. 

So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 

And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir through God.

Meeting God in Random Recollections

These are all random thoughts.

Wall of the world

I do remember writing this. I do not remember when or why.

I must have been reflecting on those times when I was up against the wall.

I remember what and who I found there.

No photo description available.

We all like to share our opinions and it costs very little to extract one from most people.

Hopefully it comes seasoned with grace and humility.

image from

Answering Critics
Should a person always answer his or her critics?
It is our impulse.
We might feel that silence implies vacillation, lack of courage, or unwillingness to engage.
Perhaps, sometimes, it does. At other times, it merely indicates a feeling that all has been said and a confidence that one has considered all the arguments and others have had the same opportunity.
Our old seminary professor was facing a barrage of criticism at one point in the form of mass mailing campaigns. Asked if he would respond, he sort of yawned and said , "No. I don't think so. If you wrestle with a skunk, even if you win, you lose."
No photo description available.

Great Small Beginnings


Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Rejoicing in the Spoil before We See It

Isaiah 9:3 - “… they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil."

There are times in our lives when our “plates are full.” The responsibilities, cares, and worries of life occupy our thoughts and we are burdened.

There are other times in our lives when our “cups are full,” and we sense that the blessings of harvest are far greater than anything for which we might have hoped and our lives are truly rich in the good things of God. He has provided beyond our efforts and abilities.

These are times when the harvest is bountiful and the spoils of past warfare are abundant. These are days of rejoicing.

Yet, we are not sure they will ever arrive. Where we are seems so far from where we are going. What we have seems so much less than what we desire. What we have accomplished is so disappointing when compared with our hopes and dreams for our lives. We are despising the day of small beginnings. (See Zechariah 4:10)

"Things great have small beginnings. Every downpour is just a raindrop; every fire is just a spark; every harvest is just a seed; every journey is just a step because without that step there will be no journey; without that raindrop there can be no shower; without that seed there can be no harvest." - William Wilberforce

It is God who increases harvest. It is God who provides the spoil. We may not rejoice at first. We may despise the smallness of beginnings, the meagerness of initial efforts, and the long, long wait for something to happen. However, it is out of smallness that greatness comes and our harvest wagons are made full.

So, why postpone the rejoicing, anticipation, and giving of thanks until the actual harvest?

Why not start praising God now and living in an attitude of consistence and constant gratitude every day of our lives?

Why not?

Faith says, “Do it!”

Just in Time - Advent, Day 19


Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

Several of our readings have to do with God's timing.

I would like to meditate on one that is not included in the lectionary today.

God’s Timing

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven ..." Ecclesiastes 3:1

Everything has its proper time. There is a season for every purpose that God has ordained. God’s timing is perfect. We measure it, mark it, and celebrate it.

However, we also tend to get stuck in our anxiety over time. We grow impatient. We panic. We become frustrated that things are moving too slowly or are getting out of control. We are sometimes weary of the seasons of life.

In Matthew 2, after Jesus was born, there came a time for his parents to take him to Egypt. The circumstances were precarious and may have seemed hopeless, but God was working in them. Then, after a season, came the time for them to bring him out. This fulfilled God’s plan and prophesy.

Galatians 4:4-7 tells us that in the fullness of time, God sent His son, born of a virgin and under the law. He did so to fulfill His purpose and plan. He did it at the right time. The world was weary and dark, but He showed up in time.

Isaiah 63:9 tells how God enters into time and into our suffering to work out His purpose for our good and for His glory. “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.”

No matter how desperate we are, He always shows up just in time. “He is the God of just in time.”

Revelation 21 tells of a time, at the end of time, when all suffering shall cease.

That will be the Day of the Lord’s Redemption. It will be the time, at the end of time, when real time begins.

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. … And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away…”

It is always time to pray for restoration!

Psalm 80:1-7, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

To the leader: on Lilies, a Covenant. Of Asaph. A Psalm.
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Psalm 80:17-19. New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
the one whom you made strong for yourself.
Then we will never turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

It may not be time for all of your projects.

You have your own assignment!

2 Samuel 7:1-17, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

Now when the king was settled in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.”

Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind, for the Lord is with you.”

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David:

Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel, and I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you, and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place and be disturbed no more, and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel, and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.”

In accordance with all these words and with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

God will use you in your time for God's own purposes.

God is always at work.

Galatians 3:23-29, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be reckoned as righteous by faith.

But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise

Prayers, Scripture, Thoughts, Songs for advent, Day 18

Welcome to This Morning


Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

Faith embraces that which flickers
In the darkness far beyond our grasp
Whose enlightened silence whispers
In ears that hear with hands that clasp.

Welcome to the
Kyrie eleison!
Lord, have mercy!
Have mercy on me.
And grant that mercy and grace
Like soothing oil and
Refreshing water
Sweetened by Thy love
Shall flow through me into
The lives of all who come to drink,
Of all who come to be renewed.
May I be another light,
Another window, mirror, conduit,
Any metaphor that, materialized,
Brings this mercy to those
Who feel abandoned, lonely, discouraged, and alienated
From Thee, themselves, and others.
Thou who hast given me mercy
So freely and abundantly,
Show forth that same mercy in me
To all who are longing to receive.
I know not how to pray this other than
To offer myself as a receptor and reflector.
I who am needy, come.
I, who am filled and forgiven, go.
Kyrie eleison!

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever."
1 Chronicles 16:34 New King James Version

Zechariah 8:1-17  New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

The word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying: “Thus says the Lord of hosts:

I am zealous for Zion with great zeal, and I am zealous for her with great wrath. Thus says the Lord: I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts shall be called the holy mountain.

Thus says the Lord of hosts:

Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of this people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me, says the Lord of hosts?

Thus says the Lord of hosts:

I will save my people from the east country and from the west country, and I will bring them to live in Jerusalem. They shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.”

“Thus says the Lord of hosts:

Let your hands be strong—you who have recently been hearing these words from the mouths of the prophets who were present when the foundation was laid for the rebuilding of the temple, the house of the Lord of hosts. For before those days there were no wages for people or for animals, nor was there any safety from the foe for those who went out or came in, and I set them all against one another. But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, says the Lord of hosts.

For there shall be a sowing of peace; the vine shall yield its fruit, the ground shall give its produce, and the skies shall give their dew, and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. Just as you have been a cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you, and you shall be a blessing.

Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.”

“For thus says the Lord of hosts: Just as I purposed to bring disaster upon you when your ancestors provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the Lord of hosts, so again I have purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; do not be afraid. These are the things that you shall do: speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these are things that I hate, says the Lord.”

Oh, that my end, God of new beginnings,
God of origins,
God of grand conclusions,
Oh that my end
Might inform my thinking,
Might enliven my moments,
Might caution my movements,
Might guide my steps,
Might evoke reverence in my mediations,
Might amuse my musings with
Sacred music
That marinates my soul
In holiness,
In worship,
And in the quest for justice,
and Mercy.
May Thy presence,
Yesterday and Today,
Lead me toward that inevitable
When I shall draw my last breath
And awaken to life.

Matthew 8:14-17 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and cured all who were sick.

This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

Matthew 8:28-34 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

When he came to the other side, to the region of the Gadarenes, two men possessed by demons came out of the tombs and met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way.

Suddenly they shouted, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them.

The demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.”

And he said to them, “Go!”

So they came out and entered the swine, and suddenly, the whole herd stampeded down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the water. The swineherds ran off, and, going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the men possessed by demons. Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their region.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!  -Psalm 30:11-12, ESV

Glad Game

We are not blind to the complexities of our lives and surroundings. We are not naïve about how difficult this world and this life can be. I dislike the disrespect afforded Pollyana because she was not as pollyanaish as she has been characterized.

She was an optimist who played the "Glad game" until it was not game at all. It became a lens through which she interpreted her world.

The psalmist could see the crud and mud of life and still seek God and rejoice in hope.

Ezekiel knew the devastation of captivity and looked for the deliverance and restoration of the people. He was glad to serve a God who could both judge and forgive.

Paul knew degradation and imprisonment and understood that all people suffer. He was more than an optimist. He was an overcomer.

Pollyana was also an overcomer and wherever she went, people were infected with gladness.

So be it in and through our lives. Let us be glad in the Lord.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you. -Psalm 32:8-9, ESV

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. - Psalm 42:10-11, ESV

Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore. And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.”  -Ezekiel 39:28-29, ESV

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. -Philippians 4:13, ESV

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.  -Philippians 4:19-20, ESV

A Prayer for Those in Conflict

There are no adequate words, only silent prayers. God, help them. God help us all. Cradle the children. Comfort the afflicted. Paralyze the efforts of those with malicious intent. Bring forth shalom. See and our anger, our sadness, our fear, our tears, our sorrow, our shame, and our despair and speak and act in the midst of evil with mercy and grace.

In the name of the Prince of Shalom. Amen.

"God, to you all hearts are open, to you all longings speak, and to you no secret thing is hidden. I beg you – purify the intentions of my heart through the unspeakable gift of your grace, so I can love you with all I am and praise you for all you are."
Amen. - From “The Cloud of Unknowing”

Two Women Named "Mary"

It's Christmas; Happy Easter - A Tale of Two Women Named Mary
"And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying ... And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. ... And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word ... And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord ... " (Excerpted from Luke 1:28-46)
"Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? ... Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master."(Excerpted from John 20:15- 16)
Once, there were two Marys, one from Nazareth and one from Magdala, a Christmas Mary and an Easter Mary. There were actually three, but I am focused on two today.
Their lives and their journeys overlapped. Each found Jesus in the midst of crisis. Each submitted to the Master in humble consecration. Each loved Him with pure and sincere love.
Mary, the mother of Jesus received an angelic announcement of Jesus' coming. Mary Magdalene received such an announcement of His resurrection - and then, she saw Him! Mary of Nazareth submitted her life as the handmaid of the Lord; Mary of Magdala as a disciple.
Both Marys were shocked and dismayed by their circumstances. Both came to the place of rejoicing and praise through encounter with the Lord. It is always Easter at Christmas for the Christian and always Christmas at Easter. In our dismay and bewilderment with the circumstances of our lives, we receive the Jesus message as a whole package and we submit our lives to Him.
Mary of Nazareth began her journey with Jesus before He was born and followed Him to the cross and beyond to the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene joined Him later in the journey, but had the same quality of encounter with Him. It is the encounter that we must have.
Come to Mary's house today and let Jesus be conceived in your heart. Come to the manger and rejoice at His birth.
Come to the cross and let His blood wash away your sins.
Come to the empty tomb and receive His life eternal
Come to Jesus today, and worship Him.
It's Christmas! Happy Easter!

Rescue - Advent - Day 17


Photo by Matt C on Unsplash 

Deep calls to deep
    at the thunder of your torrents;
all your waves and your billows
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.

- from Psalm 42

Snatched from the Fire

And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire …. - Jude 1:23

We are on a rescue mission. We are commanded by God to snatch people out of the fire. He does not want them in the fire, and He has sent you to bring them out.

Read this admonition in context. It is sandwiched in a directive about how we are to deal with people in kindness, mercy, and love. It encourages us to be holy and to let our prayers be Spirit filled, to grow, and to be expectant of the Lord’s return. It reminds us that the Lord is able to keep us from falling. And in the midst of it all is this simple plea to rescue people who are being drawn deeper and deeper into the destructive consequences and choices that lead to a dead end.

Snatch them. It is not a passive activity. It is not something that we do casually or without passion. We snatch them because we can see their fate and we love them in Christ. We utilize whatever godly means are at our disposal and we employ all of our energy.

Have you ever been part of an addiction intervention? That is sort of an extreme version of "snatching."

If you saw a child in a burning car, analysis would be quick, and action would be primary. You would be calling for help even as you initiated efforts to do whatever it took to save that child. You might not even feel the burns on your own hands until later. There would be one primary objective on your mind: get the kid out alive!

Why not have such passion for spreading good news? Aren’t people dying of violence, addiction, and poor choices? Are they not headed on a path of ruin?

We have the means to bring them out entrusted to us – a message of grace and forgiveness, yet we sit by as spectators, observers, and critics.

Some try to proclaim Christ without living a Christian lifestyle or without love and compassion. Such folks will not have the energy, wisdom, or credibility to act when the time or snatching arrives.  Their words are not backed up by their lives. They say that they care, but they are really just trying to win an argument or assert themselves upon other people.

Some say, “I will let my life be my witness.”


Your life is what earns you the right to be heard. It gives you credibility. Your compassion moves you and smooths the path for your words, but without words, no one will ever know what your life is about. People might envy your life and try to imitate you, but they won’t get it because it is not your behavior that makes you different, it is your relationship with Jesus Christ and his power within.

You have the pinch of whatever spice your grandmother always left out when telling her recipe for whatever it was that everyone liked but nobody could duplicate. Jesus is the answer – nothing else. Christ in you is the hope of glory. You don’t have to be preachy or pushy, but at some point, you are going to have to tell if it is going to do anyone else any good.

For one thing, people will ask about your life, your motivation, and your perspective.

What do you do? Keep it a secret?

You can share without disrespecting the other person's perspective. Listen to theirs as well, but authentically and humbly share yours.

People may need the one secret ingredient that will make the recipe work. Don't be stifled just because there has been way too much obnoxious, prideful, and coercive evangelism. that is not what is being asked of you. What is being coaxed out of you is an honest and transparent sharing, the kind that is part of any relationship between two people

There is a fire engulfing the masses and you can snatch people from it if you will. Will you?

Wesley - brand plucked

A Brand Plucked out of the Fire

And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to be his adversary. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; yea, the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?—Zechariah 3:1-2.

 "Here lieth the Body of John Wesley, a Brand plucked out of the Burning: who died of a consumption in the fiftyfirst year of his age, not leaving after his debts are paid, ten pounds behind him: praying, God be merciful to me, an unprofitable servant" (Journal, IV, 90).

The rescue of the young John Wesley from the burning rectory. Mezzotint by Samuel William Reynolds.


Read more here and here.

Ezekiel 47:1-12 (NRSVU)


Photo by Slav Romanov on Unsplash

Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there water was flowing from below the entryway of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east), and the water was flowing down from below the south side of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east, and the water was trickling out on the south side.

Going on eastward with a cord in his hand, the man measured one thousand cubits and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured one thousand and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured one thousand and led me through the water, and it was up to the waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed.

He said to me, “Mortal, have you seen this?”

Then he led me back along the bank of the river. As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on the one side and on the other.

He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish once these waters reach there. It will become fresh, and everything will live where the river goes. People will stand fishing beside the sea from En-gedi to En-eglaim; it will be a place for the spreading of nets; its fish will be of a great many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt.

On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary.

Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.”

Jude 17-25 (NRSVU)

But you, beloved, must remember the words previously spoken by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, for they said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.” It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on some who are wavering; save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies.

Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Father of Lights - Advent Prayer for Monday


Photo by Husen Siraaj on Unsplash

Father of Lights,
Lord of Glory,
Master of the Universe,
Arbiter of Covenants,
Leader in Battle,
Thou Who stillest the storm and declares peace,
Giver of good gifts,
Creator of all,
God of Heaven Whose footstool is earth,
King of Glory, God of Peace in Whom is peace,
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Father, Son, Holy Spirit, to Thee we come ...
I come ..,
empty, troubled, wondering, wandering,
confounded, complicated, confused, committed to Thee,
waiting upon Thee,
ready to speak Thy Word and do Thy bidding ...
this day.
I come.
I stand.
I wait.
May I bring Thy Word of peace to troubled waters today that they may be stilled.
May Thy presence be in my presence and may that presence speak peace to a world at war with itself.
In Jesus' name. Amen.