Friday, May 31, 2024

Be an Elizabeth

This is what I did yesterday. It’s sort of a quirky crucifix but I wanted something that will look medieval and primitive. The strange characters on top is Yeshua in Aramaic. We will see how it turns out! 

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." Luke 1:45

Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, and cousin to Virgin Mary, proclaimed these words to Mary when Mary visited her to share with her the "good news" that she was with child.

Don't we all need Elizabeths in our life? Someone to share with, someone who will support us, walk with us, is interested in our personal life story and will love us in spite of our idiosyncracies or strange happenings in our life? Someone who will say, “Blessed are you!" 

We are truly blessed when we have people around us, family and friends, who will be the face of God for us, who want the best for us, and who will stand up for us. Life is not easy. It can get complicated, messy, when we navigate its rough roads. The namesake of Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth Taylor, once said, “You find out who your real friends are when you’re involved in a scandal.” Hopefully we never have to get involved in a scandal to find out who our real friends are. We need friends who are not fair weather friends, who will be around for us through thick and thin. We also need friends who will tell us the truth no matter how hard the truth is. Yes, we need Elizabeths around us and they are gifts from God. 

But even more important, are we Elizabeths to those who need an Elizabeth? 

Thursday, May 30, 2024

I Want To See

“Master, I want to see!" Mark 10:51

Sometimes when trying to understand a story in the Bible, I put myself in one of the character's shoes. This time I put on a blind man's clothes. It is probably filthy. Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, does not seem to have anyone with him, to guide him and take care of him. At this point in my life, I am just sitting by the roadside, just outside Jericho. I am probably begging for food, dependent on the kindness of strangers. What a lonely life, most would say! But being blind, my sense of hearing is acute. I can hear the chirping of birds, the little things no one notices. I am eager for any conversation and pay great attention to stories I hear as people pass me by. Recently there are a lot of stories of Jesus of Nazareth. Wonderful stories of how he touches people and they walk! My heart is full, and I am so eager to hear His stories, His parables, His teachings, but how can I if no one brings me to where He is? There is a little seed in my heart, a seed of yearning, a seed of hope!

Suddenly, there is a commotion. There is a sizable crowd approaching, a lot of shuffling feet. People speaking all at the same time, a lot of excitement. What is happening? I focus my attention so I can understand what is being said. I hear the name, "Jesus of Nazareth", and my heart quickens. Of course, I am not going to let this moment slip by! I shout as loud as I can, "JESUS, SON OF DAVID, HAVE PITY ON ME!" I try to get up awkwardly, but people push me. I almost fall backwards, but I do not care. I keep shouting. Many are telling me to keep quiet, to shut up, but I shout even louder so Jesus can hear. "JESUS, SON OF DAVID, HAVE PITY ON ME!"

Finally, I hear a quietness. Even if I have never seen Him, I know that voice. It is a compelling voice. "Call him over." Someone comes and guides me. This person says gruffly, "You have nothing whatever to fear from Him! Get up! He is calling you!" I throw aside my filthy rag of a cloak, get up, and can’t believe it. I am right beside Jesus! "What do you want me to do for you?" He asks. I knew I could ask anything, anything! I could ask for riches, for fame, for food, for new clothes, but I knew what I was going to ask! "Rabboni," I say in a trembling voice. "I want to see." Jesus lays a hand on me, "Be on your way! Your faith has healed you!" And then, miracle of miracles, I could see! I see Jesus' kind face and my heart is full! I start to follow Him and never look back.

Am I as eager to hear Jesus' teachings and stories so that my heart will be full of faith? Faith comes from hearing Jesus' words. (Romans 10:17) What do I ask from God? Are my prayers full of pleadings for this and that, and not for the most important prayer, to see? To have faith? We are all blind beggars in a way. We need the gift of faith so we can see God and all that we have in Him! Let us all pray like Bartimaeus, “JESUS, SON OF DAVID, HAVE PITY ON ME!"

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Whoever Wishes to be Great

“Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant.” Mark 10:43

Does this make any sense?

How can anybody who wants to be great apply to be a servant? Quite absurd in the world’s way of thinking! But no one can doubt that Jesus was great except perhaps some perverse people. And Jesus had the heart of a servant. A servant is not a slave by any means because a slave has to serve his master involuntarily most of the time. But a person with a servant heart has a purpose and a gift. And as St. Peter said in 1 Peter 4:10, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” 

I was impressed with the story of an usher. We do not know his name like many servants in history but God knows His name! In November 1934, two young boys came into a tent where a revival meeting was going on. The place was full, so they turned to leave. But an usher saw them, put his big arms around them and said, “I'll find you seats, boys! Follow me!" He led them to two seats with the choir. 

That was the night that one of the boys, Billy Graham, gave his life to Christ, after listening to the preaching of Mordecai Ham. What if the usher was more interested in ogling some giggling girls? What if he was daydreaming? What if he was seething with some imagined insult? 

How many times have I concentrated on myself and what I think I am entitled to,  rather than being present in the moment doing the job I am supposed to do?  If I value Jesus as my treasure, my heart will be in the right place of serving the people He loves. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Lord, forgive me. Teach me to be a servant like you. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Gird Up the Loins of Your Mind

“Gird up the loins of your mind...” 1 Peter 1:13

Back in Peter’s day, men wore flowing garments that they had to tuck into belts when they had work to do. The long garment could seriously impede them if they had to run or work fast, so it was necessary to tuck it in so they would not trip over them. But how do we follow Peter’s admonition to gird up in relation to our mind? This phrase “gird up the loins” comes from the Greek word anadzonnumi.

In our business, we have auditors who regularly visit our different branches and check up on the stores. They give good reports when they find the displays well arranged for the coming Father’s Day, and if they have enough stock. The staff has a lot of duties with regards to procedures about the money, receipts, etc., and they have a manual where this is described and all they need to do is to follow it. 

We too have a manual. If we want to do our job well, for our Father in our “family business” as I like to call it, we need to study it, and follow it. The Bible teaches us so much, especially how to gird up the loins of our mind. We have to be able to think clearly, to get rid of the loose ends that impede our walk with God. We need to exercise self-control, and live in the light of truth. In that way we can look forward to the special blessings and inheritance held in store for us! 

Father, help me make the deliberate choice to submit every area of my mind and emotions to Your Word and to the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. May I “gird up the loins of my mind” and get rid of any loose ends so I can run the race before me wholeheartedly. 

“Lion heart; let 'em hear you roar 

Show this world; what you're fighting for 

Courage comes; in the darkest storms

God gives you power and strength to endure

Don't give up, the prize is up ahead 

Don't loose hope, this is not the end 

You gotta remember

Deep in your soul, there is a fire 

And it's burning, through the rain 

Quiet the fear, focus your eyes 

Don't you know that, you were made To run the race”

Monday, May 27, 2024

Imperishable Inheritance

“ inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you...” 1 Peter 1:4

What would make someone do everything, even to giving his very life, so that another may have an immeasurable treasure? Only love. 

Danielle Green-Byrd was a young, beautiful African-American, one of the first women injured during the beginning of the war in Iraq. On May 25, 2004, she was on a rooftop guarding the two-story Iraqi police station when two rocket-propelled grenades hit a barrier on the ground and exploded. A third one hit and her left arm up to her shoulder went flying. As she was being brought to the ambulance, she was screaming. When asked, “Are you in pain?” She answered, “No! My ring! My wedding ring!” 

Against orders, two of her sergeants went back on the rooftop, retrieved her arm and placed her wedding ring on her right hand. Imagine what her husband Willie felt when he learned that her wedding ring was more precious to her than her left arm! 

The wedding ring was a symbol of her deep love and commitment to her husband. Jesus has an even deeper, more noble love and commitment to us. He willingly gave not only His arm or leg, but up to His last agonizing drop of life and strength. That is why we have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven! 

Sunday, May 26, 2024

A Thousand Hallelujahs

“By the WORD of the Lord the heavens were made, by the breath of His mouth all their stars." Psalm 33:6

When we lift up our eyes to the night sky, do we gaze up in awe at what God has made? He is a star breather, a galaxy making God! We can look up and imagine the size and breadth and depth of the God we worship!

I like listening to Louie Giglio expound on how great our God is. He talks about how big our sun is, Betelgeuse, M U Cephei the red giant star , and Canis Majoris, the hyperstar. Canis majoris, if placed at the center of our solar system would extend beyond the orbit of Jupiter!

But my absolute favorite is the beautiful Whirlpool Galaxy, which even if it is so far away, can sometimes be seen using binoculars. At the heart of its spiral is a super massive black hole in the shape of a cross!

But we don't have to look far to see the glory of God. St. Augustine wrote, "And men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.”

There is much to marvel at in our bodies. Just the DNA in each of our cells is mind boggling! If stretched out, it would form a very thin thread 2 meters long! But my absolute favorite is what connects each cell to the other cells. This cell adhesion molecule is called Laminin, and if we look at it through an electron microscope, it too is in the shape of a cross!

"For by Him all things were created...He is before all things, and in Him ALL things hold together." Colossians 1:15-17

Thank you Lord! No matter what difficult circumstances I face, You hold my life in Your hands. You are a big God, and You created the Universe, AND me, with the same care and attention to detail. It amazes me that You have put Your imprint in the very center of my being!

This is one of my favorite praise songs and these days, I like to start my prayer time singing this: 

“Who else would rocks cry out to worship?

Whose glory taught the stars to shine

Perhaps creation longs to have the words to sing

But this joy is mine

With a thousand hallelujahs

We magnify Your Name

You alone deserve the glory

The honor and the praise

Lord Jesus, this song is forever Yours

A thousand hallelujahs

A thousand more”

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Let the Children Come to Me

Yesterday I was able to use the two carved linoleum pieces to make my clay bird. I need to make another one as it did not turn out so well. Although it is super promising! 

“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Mark 10:14-15

My husband Luigi is very popular with children. When kids see him, they run to him,  eager to play, wanting to be hugged tight. What is it about children that delighted God? Jesus said in Mark 10, “Let the children come to me, do not stop them from approaching me for the Kingdom belongs to such as these." 

If only we could be more like little children and run to Him who loves us! Sometimes we hide from Him because we feel guilty, or because we disagreed with something we read in the Bible, or because we think we have all the time in the world. God can wait. But children, they don't like waiting, do they? Perhaps that's why God wants us to be like kids. 

Children are eager. They are persistent. They are teachable. They are waiting to be amazed, they want to be amazed. When was the last time we were amazed at what God has done? When was the last time we read something in the Bible and our heart leapt? If we are more childlike, less dependent on our own set ways, God will reveal the treasures in His Kingdom that He hides from those who are wise in their own eyes! 

Lord, may I be like a child, dependent on You! Eager to be fed from the Master's hand!

Friday, May 24, 2024

So Far

“As far as from the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

Every time I go to confession, it seems I confess the same sins over and over again. But in the same way that we should never give up on ourselves, we should never give up on others. God always gives, even the hardest criminal, the option for authentic conversion. 

It used to be that the Angola Prison in Louisiana was the bloodiest and most notorious prison in the whole of the United States. Blood on the wall, on the carpets, everywhere, and if one went in, they would give you a knife to defend yourself. There were 5300 inmates and 85% were on life sentence without parole. 45 inmates were on death row. Nathan Burl Cain agreed to take the job as warden if he could do it his way. He served for 21 years, from 1995 to 2016. He placed Bible verses every where and had inmates attend bible studies. There was a degree program for theology for former gangsters who wanted to be pastors. The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary put up a branch there and developed many faith leaders. If you visited the prison at that time, you wouldn’t even hear a word of profanity from the staff or the prisoners. There was a real spiritual atmosphere about the place. 

In the execution chamber, there were two pictures. One was a painting of Daniel in the lion’s den painted by one of the inmates. It signified that God can rescue you even in the direst of circumstances. The other picture was of Elijah rising to the heavens on a chariot of fire. If God won’t rescue you from the lion, He will rescue you in another way! 

Thank You Lord that You never give up on us! When we ask for forgiveness, You will put our transgressions as far as the east is from the west! 

Thursday, May 23, 2024

I Do!

Today I was busy carving linoleum to stamp on clay. I am excited to see what marks this will create. I can also use this for block printing and as it happens I have some fabric paint. But first things first. My first project will be a clay bird with two sides stamped. 🥰

‘Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my Blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”’ Mark 14:23-24

There is a short book written by Messianic Jew Jamie Lash, which speaks about the “Cup of the Covenant”. It is very interesting that in the first century, when a young Jewish man was of marriageable age, his family would choose his wife for him. After a “bride price” was agreed upon by both families, the young man’s father would pour out a cup of wine and present it to his son. This “Cup of the Covenant” was part of the engagement ceremony. The son would turn to the young woman and offer her the wine cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which I offer to you.” He was in effect saying, “I love you, and I’ll give you my life. Will you marry me?” Then it will be the woman’s choice whether to accept him as her husband or not. 

In the same way, Jesus is offering the “Cup of the Covenant” to us, saying, “I love you and I give you My life.” He is actually, literally, proposing to us. Do we accept His love and His sacrifice? Do we give Him our life in response? Jesus is the only one who can promise forever! 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Puff of Smoke

Today, I am starting to cut a design on linoleum to make a bird which will be for a mobile, a wind chime, a planter, and whatever else I can think of. 

“You have no idea what your life will be tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears.” James 4:14

Sad but true. A few years ago I was shocked and saddened to learn that one of our suppliers who came to deliver her jewelry to us weekly had passed away so suddenly. We had just seen her the week before but she delayed her dialysis treatment for a few days and she died suddenly. We just never know what happens in a day.

It seems to me that we should live our life so we make some difference in the world, and perhaps the only way to do that is to know what God’s purpose for us is and to live that purpose. It does not matter how young we are, how old, whether we are a President, or a janitor in a small school in the province. We have work to do that can give meaning to our life. 

John Bechtel was a missionary in Hong Kong and he had a dream to have a camp for the teenagers he saw loitering in the streets. He found a closed hotel and conference center that would be a perfect place but the only problem was it was being sold for $250,000.00. This was in 1971. 

His friend, Walter Meloon, an influential businessman, believed in his vision and promised to raise all the money he needed. 3 months later, Walter sent a note: “Dear John, I’m sorry. I tried my best. I couldn’t raise the funds. Only one person responded. I enclose it.” It was a note from a 14 year old girl named Belinda Holmes. “Dear Mr. Bechtel, I heard about your plan. I’ve been praying about it. I’d like to give you my pocket money. Here is $1. Please use it to buy the camp.”

John was really disappointed but his wife Donna said, “Follow what she says. Go buy the camp for $1.” So he goes off and shows the letter to the caretaker who laughed but reluctantly gave the offer to the Board. The Board prayed about it and agreed to sell the whole place to John for $1.00. Since its inception, Suen Douh Camp has had over 2,895,750 camper days and 156,552 young people have accepted Christ.

20 years later, John was speaking in a church in the States, and a woman approaches him after his talk. “Mr. Bechtel, I am Belinda Holmes.” That was the first time she heard what happened to her $1.00! 

When we pray each day about what we are to do, when we partner with God, we will never know what He can do with our smallness and our willingness to give what He wants us to give.