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What Color Is Jesus?

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”                                                                                                                                                                                                            Isaiah 53:2

On my kitchen windowsill is a Christmas card I received a couple of years ago. It is a simple but colorful drawing of the Christ Child in the manger, with several shepherds kneeling in adoration. All the people in the picture are jet black.

Am I offended by the lack of historical accuracy? Not at all. Nor have I written back to the sender, saying “By the way, Jesus was Jewish, and the shepherds were Jewish, and that picture makes no sense.”

Nope. I love that card, because of who sent it and where it came from. The greeting inside is a hand-written note from one of my friends in Uganda – “To my favorite author.” Elsewhere in the note is written in big letters, “UGANDA LOVES YOU!”

Lately there has been some heated discussions regarding the question of “what color was Jesus?” This question was the basis for accusing whole cultures of racism, western European types in particular. It seems that some European paintings of Jesus show Him looking, well, like a European.

But then, why not?  I would expect pictures of Him in, say, a Mexican church to look more Hispanic. In Asia you can find pictures of Jesus looking Chinese or Indian.

There’s a reason for this, and I’m guessing those reasons were more theological than historical.

These artists were probably aware of where Jesus lived and died, and yet they decided to paint Him in a way that made Him more relatable to the people of their own culture. These artists weren’t ignorant. On the contrary, I would respectfully suggest that their critics are the ones who might be missing the point.

And what is the point? What is the message of the Incarnation?

The point is, the Son of God – God Himself – left His home in heaven to become one of us (“us” being Humanity).

As a Man, Jesus went through the same experiences we go through. He was hungry. He got thirsty. He experienced weariness and pain and loneliness. He knew fear and stress and the sting of other people’s hatred. He empathized, He grieved, He knew anger and frustration. These are things experienced by every person that ever lived, every color, in every era, and in every corner of the earth. He came for all of us – for black and white, Hispanic and Asian, Middle Eastern and Native American. And for every race, every nationality, every ethnic group, He took our sins upon Himself and took them to the Cross, where He died for the forgiveness of all of us.

One of my favorite outreaches, the Jesus Film Project has been showing the gospel in video form for decades. Their movie, “JESUS,” the dramatization of the gospel according to Luke, has been translated into more than 1800 languages! Until the pandemic shut down the world, small teams of technicians and evangelists would trek into the remotest places, set up their equipment, and show the film to whole villages at a time. The people would gather to watch and be mesmerized to see the gospel story played out in their language! Now of course when Jesus was on earth He didn’t speak in the tribal languages of these obscure groups, but that doesn’t matter to them. They watch, they listen, they understand – and they believe! 

SIDE NOTE: If you are a linguistics expert and want to get nitpicky about the language Jesus really spoke, you might want to rent “The Passion of the Christ,” where the dialogue is in the original Aramaic. (You might also want to make sure the subtitles are turned on.)

The Apostle John’s description of Heaven in Revelation describes a multitude of people that could not be counted, people “from every nation, tribe, people, and language.” (Revelation 7:9) I’m guessing none of those people got hung up what Jesus looked like when He walked the earth as one of us. Who knows? When we enter into eternity, He may show Himself to us in a glorious new color we have never seen before in this life! (Yes, my imagination can go wild when I think of entering eternity after leaving this finite world.)

The Incarnation is a profound reality, one well worth reflecting on.  John 1:14 says,     “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In these days of arguing about anything and everything, let’s focus less on the flesh and more on the Word.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for leaving the throne room of Heaven to live in this fallen world as one of us. Thank You for offering Your life for all of us as the perfect sacrifice. You paid the debt we could not afford, so our sins might be cancelled out and we might live with You forever. And now, as we place our faith in You, we can look forward to eternal life in Your glorious kingdom, along with Your children from every nation, tribe, people and tongue! What a glorious day that will be!  Lord, help us to focus less on the superficial and more on what’s truly important – how much You love us, how much we love You, and how much we should love one another in Your name. Amen.

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To Seniors and Others Missing Out

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.         Colossians 3:2

This piece, originally entitled “What Else Matters?” was posted May 3 of last year. I wanted to share it again, for all my readers who are or have seniors missing their prom, graduation, and other festivities they thought they would be enjoying now. Feel free to share this with them. I hope it encourages those who are feeling the loss.

It was the morning of the National Day of Prayer. I was sitting in the auditorium at City Hall, listening to my daughter’s school choir singing a goosebump-raising rendition of “You Are God Alone.” They were warming up for the city-wide prayer meeting that was starting in half an hour. And I was crying.

My daughter Kelly had been having a rough time in high school. The migraines that had first appeared when she was four years old had continued to plague her through grade school and middle school and had caused her record absences through high school, in spite of years of prayers and attempts to find a solution through medicine, both traditional and “alternative.”

But in spite of enduring more pain than some people suffer in a lifetime, Kelly had found a few sources of pleasure in her life. By far her greatest joy was singing, and her favorite part of school was choir. When the students performed, Kelly’s face radiated with unmistakable joy. She had looked forward to the national Day of Prayer and taking part, and as I had said goodbye to her that morning and she left for school, I had whispered a special prayer of thanks to God for this special day.

My optimism had been short-lived, however. Kelly had called me from the parking lot of a McDonald’s half a mile from school to tell me about the migraine that had assaulted her shortly after she had walked out the door. When I had suggested that she come home, take some medication, and rest until the assembly, she had sobbed that if she didn’t show up at 8:00 she wouldn’t be allowed to sing with the choir.

There are definite advantages to a small Christian school, one of them being teachers who know each student well and practice grace along with discipline. As I called the office to explain Kelly’s dilemma, the choir director, who “happened to be” right by the phone, responded with compassion. She said to let Kelly come home, take a pill and a nap, and meet the choir at City Hall at 11:30 if she was feeling better.

But the medication that knocked out the migraine had a way of knocking out the patient as well, and when I had tried to rouse Kelly for the prayer meeting, she had been hopelessly (and predictably) dead to the world. Now as the choir finished their warm-up and filed off the stage, there I sat, with nothing to do but feel sorry for Kelly, thinking of all the important high school events she had missed and would never again get a chance to do. And yes, I’ll admit I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, as well. (When “BabyBear” hurts, “MamaBear” hurts, too.) So in spite of my efforts to contain them, the tears flowed.

I was digging through my purse, looking for a tissue when I came across my small New Testament. Since the prayer meeting didn’t start until noon, I knew I had twenty minutes to kill, and the last thing I wanted to do was spend them wallowing in self-pity. So I pulled out the Bible and prayed.

Lord, Jesus, please encourage me. I don’t want to feel this way today!

I was not in the habit of looking for answers to problems by haphazardly opening the Bible; I hadn’t done that since college. But since I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, I opened the Book at random, planning just to read until I found something helpful, or until the prayer meeting started, whichever came first.

The scripture that first caught my eye was the last chapter of Mark:

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb, and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen!”                    (Mark 16: 1-6)

Something told me I had seen enough, so I stopped reading.

OK, what does that have to do with Kelly’s migraines? I wondered. But then I pondered the significance of the passage.

Jesus is alive … JESUS IS ALIVE! That means that death is not the end … for Him or for us! And it certainly means this life isn’t the be-all and end-all for those who trust in the Lord. – It’s barely the beginning!

Yes, my daughter had missed the National Day of Prayer, over a hundred days of high school, and numerous weekend festivities. She had missed Homecoming, but someday she would be at the greatest Homecoming in history. She had missed singing in the choir that day, but someday she would sing in heaven’s choir forever. Kelly loved Jesus, and she would get to spend forever with Him, at the never-ending, greatest celebration of all time. When one had that to look forward to … what else mattered?

What else matters? I asked myself, and I found that in spite of my pity-party, I was smiling. I decided that I would pour myself into the Day of Prayer and keep a better perspective on life from that day on, by remembering the one thing that really matters –

Jesus is alive!

Excerpted from BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?)                           c 2015 Ann Aschauer

Prayer: Lord, we rejoice that You are alive! Keep us mindful of what really matters. In Your name, amen

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On Being Transparent

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.     Isaiah 64:6a

I don’t do windows.

Well, every few years I try. There will be that bright sunny morning when the light was streaming in, and the need for cleaning was so obvious, I grab the window cleaner, spray bottle, rags, paper towels, and squeegee and get to work. Two or three hours later I throw in the towel (and everything on it) and once more promise myself, never again!

Every summer we go to the house in Michigan that my grandparents built it in the 1940s. It was elegant then and it is still elegant now. Forty-six years ago my husband Marty and I got married there, and two years ago our youngest daughter married the love of her life there. The house has French provincial architecture, fireplaces, a bay window, and French doors that open onto a patio overlooking the lake.

It also has windows that have had a curse put on them. Or maybe it’s just the paint on the frames that dissolves every time any liquid touches it… Each magical little pane is specially made to get dirtier the more it’s wiped. After several attempts at cleaning, the glass will go from mildly dirty to ridiculously streaked on the outside – when you’re looking out. Of course, when you’re outside looking in, all you see are the streaks that are inside. I have on occasion treated the job like an Olympic event, “the Window Sprint” – Can I run outside and get that streak off before I forget where it is? Pretty soon I’m streaked too, with sweat and dirt, and breathless with exasperation. No gold medal here.

(Now please don’t write and tell me how you clean your windows. Believe me, I’ve heard the advice, all about vinegar and newspapers and yada-yadda-yadda… I’ve tried it all.)

A few years ago we put our house in Port Huron up for sale, and one of the many jobs that needed to be done was … clean the windows. [Insert scary horror movie music here.] When a perfectly gorgeous day came up and I had absolutely nothing on my schedule, there was no excuse to put off the job, however desperately I wished for one.

I was delightfully surprised to find the job was not only effective but surprisingly fun when it actually worked! I found myself singing as I got into the rhythm -squirt-squeegee-wipe, squirt-squeegee-wipe – and pretty soon I was looking around for more windows to clean. At the end of the day I was standing in the living room, gazing out at the Lake Huron, relishing the fact that the windows were virtually invisible and I may as well have been standing outside. >Eureka!<

For some reason I took this to mean I now knew how to clean windows, so when we later went to Portage Lake, one bright, sunny day I confidently grabbed my trusty squeegee and began to make the dining room gorgeous, one little pane at a time, forgetting that these windows were cursed… Two hours, one roll of paper towels, one bottle of Windex, and one tantrum later, there was not one pane that was totally clean. I threw up my hands and yelled “I GIVE UP!” followed by a few other things that were probably inappropriate for a Christian to be saying.

Have you been there? I don’t mean just with windows, but anything that you’ve tried to “fix,” that only gets worse the more you try? As I stood there that day, hot and exhausted, scowling at the streaks blocking the view of the beautiful lake, I figured the only way to get a clear view would be just to break the windows. That’s it! Just take out the pains – er, panes – completely, and the view would be great. Of course, that would have made the house a bit drafty and buggy, so Marty didn’t go for that idea.

It occurred to me that I was looking at a picture of sin. The Bible tells us that ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, all of Mankind has been under the curse of sin. For many people, their lives may seem “good enough.” But then the light of God’s truth shines through, and it becomes painfully obvious that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 6:23) The more we look at our sin, the more it bothers us.

So, what do some of us do? We try to clean up our act. Somehow we think we can make it right on our own, although it should soon be apparent that if we were so capable of doing good, our lives wouldn’t be such a mess in the first place. After trying to make things right, we see that we have failed, and more often than not, our feeble attempts have made the situation worse than ever. At this point we should see that we can’t do this ourselves. But some of us refuse to believe we’re that helpless. So we try harder, thinking if we could just try hard enough, we’ll finally clean up our lives.

The bottom line is, we can’t fix the mess ourselves. We have only two choices. We can avoid the Light and hope nobody notices the dirt, or we can go to God and ask Him to help us. Fortunately, He can. In fact, He sent His Son, Jesus, to take all our dirt onto Himself. When He died for us, He was taking our sin and nailing it to the Cross, and we never have to be enslaved by it again. He can make our lives clean, and He can shine His light through us. Isn’t it a relief to know we don’t have to try to clean ourselves up?

I haven’t yet figured out how to get Jesus to do my windows for me, but two years ago before our daughter Kelly married the love of her life on the lawn at that house, we did hire a professional exorcist – er, window cleaning service. Now when I look out through the crystal clear glass and remember how it used to be, I know what a mess I would be without Jesus. I’m just grateful that I’m not without Him, and that He was willing to do what was necessary to make me clean, so He could shine His light through me.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in ourselves we are powerless to clean up our own lives. Thank You that You have not left us on our own, but You have shed Your blood to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, that we can live the lives You want us to live – the lives we truly want. We choose to trust You to shine through us today, in Your power, in Your name. Amen

Prayers and the ADD Mind

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (Romans 8: 26, 27)

A fellow blogger wrote recently about things to do during the seemingly imminent second lockdown. He suggested that one of them might be, “write silly blog posts.” Indeed, as we get into that “quarantine” state of mind, those may be the only ones we’re capable of writing.

If you’re like me and have a touch of ADD, the struggle to stay focused and coherent may be a lot more common than the occasional lockdown.

So, for those of us that need a little comic relief, here’s my “stream-of-consciousness” meditation on the important topic of prayer:

Prayer and the ADD Mind

Aren’t you glad God loves everybody, even people with ADD? I was actually relieved when I found out there was such a thing as adult ADD. I remember thinking, “Well, that sure explains a lot…” before my mind was off and running to another subject.

ADD stands for “Attention Deficit…” Have you seen the movie “Up”? Remember the dog in that movie that obviously had ADD? He’d be running along with the others, right on board, and suddenly, – “SQUIRREL!” and he’d be gone. Wasn’t he cute? So was that little fish in “Finding Nemo,” who definitely had a problem with short-term memory. What was her name? I forgot …

Anyway …

When you actually do have these personality traits, it’s not always cute or funny. When it comes to prayer, it can be a real guilt trip. I hear about these people who can pray for six hours straight. These super-saints get up around 4 AM, and they not only pray, they fast and pray … I’m pretty sure that means no coffee. How do they do that? I’m lucky if I can go from one end of the house to the other and have any recollection what I came for.

When I talk to someone I don’t know very well, I can usually stick to a logical sequence of questions and information, but with certain friends, one thing will remind me of something else, which will remind me of something else, and by the time it’s my turn to say something, I seem to be totally changing the subject. I have one or two friends who won’t even flinch when I do that. We’ll just keep on the same train of thought going full speed down the track while our husbands look at each other with eyes glazed over, obviously still at the station. They say men’s and women’s minds work completely differently, but I digress. (So what else is new?)

Back to prayer … I know it’s crucial. What’s a relationship without communication? And what relationship is more important than a relationship with God?

For some reason, when I’m talking to God, my mind is even more random. Even my best girlfriend probably couldn’t follow my train of thought sometimes when I’m praying for someone and suddenly I’m asking God questions like “How come the prodigal son’s older brother wasn’t invited to the party? They just left him out in the field working! And then we criticize him for having a bad attitude! I’d have an attitude problem, too, if my younger brother had been missing for years and finally came back and nobody even told me there was a party going on!”

Have you ever tried to be really organized in your prayer time? Have you ever had everything written down in a nice, neat list that you can check off one at a time after you’ve prayed for each item? I have those lists, and I really should date them, because they are all over the house, and when I come across one marked “URGENT!” it’d be nice to know if that’s a request from yesterday’s Bible study or last year’s Christmas get-together. Putting things on computer is supposed to cut down on paper, but I’m always thinking, “What if the computer crashes?” so I make hard copies of everything, and then forget where I’ve filed them, or that they even exist.

Oh yeah, prayer … I sometimes wonder if my apparent ADD (I have to say “apparent,” otherwise I’m making a negative confession, and that drives certain Christians crazy and makes them think I’m guilty of negative thinking, and I’ve got enough to feel guilty about, thank you.) … I sometimes wonder if my apparent ADD is a tool of the devil to keep me from praying, so any time I hear about a new gimmick – a new method of prayer that comes on the scene – I grab hold of it and try it to see if it’ll help me get my devotional act together.

Come before his presence with singing! (Psalm 100: 2a, RSV) OK, I should sing first. So I get out my guitar and start praising God, but once I get started, I could sing to Him for hours, so there were days I never got around to the prayer and Bible reading, and I’ve got two more reasons to feel guilty …

You need to thank God before you ask Him for anything new. Otherwise, you’re being ungrateful! OK, I don’t want to be ungrateful, but I’m one of the most blessed people in the world, so that could take days, too. Besides, once I start thanking Him for my children and grandchildren, I always think of a reason I should call one of them … next thing you know, I’m on the phone, and I’m not talking to God…*

(Am I the only one who has these problems?)

Prayer: Lord, thank You for understanding our groans when we can’t put our longings into words. Thank You that we can trust You to meet our needs, even when we don’t know what they are. Thank You for loving us, even when we are hard to love. (Thank You for GRACE.) In Jesus’ name, amen.

*[Excerpted from my book BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?) ]

How Would Jesus Pray?

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…”

Matthew 5:43-44

Lately social media (and society in general) has been crawling with controversy, and I for one have not been seeing much “healthy debate.” Hostility and rage are the norm, and I’m not going to insult my readers by elaborating on the obvious. Anyone who has been on line for more than five minutes knows human relationships aren’t what they used to be or could be, but few seem to have any answers about how to fix the situation.

But we who have a personal relationship with God – who created everything, knows all, sees all, and loves us all – SHOULD have answers. We should BE the answer.

There’s no shortage of individuals on social media describing themselves as Christians, complete with the vocabulary and their own style of virtue signaling. The latest revelation of corruption in our culture is met with appropriate hand-wringing and bemoaning the moral decay in America today. I’ve read comments such as, “I hope they burn in hell!” Most are subtler, but not much. Influential people who promote or support ungodly agendas, or who are suspected of working behind the scenes are described with such biblical-sounding terms as “demonic,” “pure evil,” and “Jezebels!”

But, to quote a movement from a decade or two ago, “What would Jesus do?”

Jesus walked this earth during the Roman rule, when the poor were downtrodden and taxed into oblivion, while the rulers built lavish palaces for themselves. Those who dared to resist could be seen beside the road, nailed to crosses or trees with vermin and wild birds feasting on their rotting flesh – a clear warning to anyone else who might be thinking about rebelling.

Enter Jesus, the God-Man, perfect Love, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, touching and cleansing the lepers, delivering the demonized, and preaching love – even love for one’s enemies.

And how was He received? He was betrayed, abandoned by His followers, stripped naked, beaten to a pulp, crowned with thorns, mocked, spat on, and nailed to a cross.

And how did He respond? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Praying for one’s enemies is about as counter-intuitive as it gets, but Jesus was living out this teaching from His Sermon in the Mount, when He had told His disciples to love their enemies. He had elaborated by saying, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matthew 5:46-47) Clearly Jesus didn’t want His followers to be like everybody else. He even said that if we love our enemies and pray for them, we will be sons (and daughters) of our Father in heaven, who “causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (verse 45)

When Jesus prayed for those who were crucifying Him, He was resembling His Father. And when we love our enemies enough to pray for them, we will, too.

But I haven’t seen much of that kind of family resemblance lately. We’re good at righteous anger and having compassion for the victims. We pray fervently that the “right side” will prevail, but what motivates those prayers? Hoping the “evil, people” burn in hell?

When praying about the political world these days, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the corruption that seems so rampant, and evil forces that seem to be in control, even among those I had admired and trusted and expected to take a stand for what’s right. I’ve been disappointed almost to the point of despair.

Then I think of Chuck Colson.

In case you’re too young to remember (I doubt many history classes are telling his whole story), Colson worked for President Richard Nixon and had a major role in the Watergate scandal. He was caught, convicted, and sentenced to prison. This man went from being one of the most powerful men in the world to being a convicted felon with a number.

But something changed. Someone had been praying for him.

Before Colson went to prison a friend gave him a copy of C. S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity and told him about the God who loved him even while he was a sinner and died in his place so he – Charles Colson – could be forgiven and “born again.” After wrestling with his pride and self-sufficiency, which was pretty well shot by this point, he surrendered his life to Jesus. Through providential circumstances, Colson was released early, but not after his life had been transformed by the humbling experience of being a “nobody” in the eyes of the world. He went on to write a best-selling book, Born Again, which had the country talking about what exactly that phrase meant.

And, keeping the promise he had made to his fellow inmates, Chuck Colson went back to prison – not as a convict this time, but as the founder of a new ministry, Prison Fellowship. In the decades to come Prison Fellowship would minister to millions of prisoners world-wide, sharing the same Good News that had changed Colson’s life Meanwhile, with his knowledge of law, history, and government, he spoke to millions daily about the Christian world view through his radio program “Breakpoint,” as well as speaking engagements all over the world.

When I pray for the people who seem totally corrupted by evil, I do pray, like many, that the guilty will be caught and brought to justice, but it’s because if that happens, there’s a chance that they, like Chuck Colson, could repent and be transformed into a glorious child of God. If not, they likely will go to their graves believing they got away with what they’ve done, only to face eternal justice. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

My wildest dream as I pray for the situation today is that God will raise up a thousand Chuck Colsons for His glory!

Will you pray that with me?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your prayer for the ones who crucified You proved that You can love anyone, and your transformation of Chuck Colson proves that You can save anyone. We pray for those who are caught up in today’s corruption, that they might be stopped in their tracks and be brought to justice. We pray they will learn the futility of trusting in themselves. May they surrender their lives to You and be reborn to new life. Make them trophies of grace that tell the world of Your transforming power, in Jesus name, Amen.

Revelation in the Key of C

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9

If you’re a writer, you know that one of the biggest headaches is when your writing apparatus stops working, whether that’s your only pen that runs out of ink when you’re inspired and writing like mad in the waiting room, or a laptop keyboard that suddenly malfunctions when you’re at home, having set aside the afternoon to “finally get some writing done!” I’ve been through both experiences, the latter being when my “C” key seemingly went on strike. I was on a roll with a piece I was writing and really didn’t want to stop everything to pack up my laptop and take it to be repaired, where they would want to keep it for who-knows-how-long.

Resisting the urge to throw something or yell something inappropriate, I tried to work around the problem. At first I found myself playing a game of “Synonym City” (Make that “Synonym Metropolis”), where I thought up alternative words for the ones that had the letter C in them. This didn’t last long, though. Try writing about “divine perspetive” without using the words “Christ,” “Christ-like,” “Christian,” “Christmas,” “church,” “character,” … well, you get the picture.

I found that my entire laptop wasn’t in on the protest, because if I wrote “hristmas,” and hit spell check, it would give me the word “Christmas.” When I needed more unusual words and my computer couldn’t read my mind, I had to find a word having a “c” or a “C” in it that it would recognize, type that, hit spell check, copy and paste the word where I needed the c or C, and then delete the other letters, leaving me with the “c” or “C” I needed.

Does this sound like a lot of work? YES. It was. And I would be embarrassed to tell you how long I kept this up before I finally decided enough was enough and took the laptop in to be looked at. I was pleasantly surprised to have the expert take it away for a few minutes, bring it back, and tell me it was working now.

I was unpleasantly surprised when a couple of days later – just when I was getting out of the habit of doing all the fancy finger-work every time I had a C word – the keyboard said, in essence, I’m tired of this, and stopped typing the C’s again. This time I took my husband’s advice, bit the bullet, and bought a new laptop, one that wasn’t as much of a “dinosaur.” (I’m one of those low-tech people that needs to be dragged into the twenty-first century kicking and screaming.)

Once I got my new laptop, it took very little time to adjust to writing on it, and I’ve been very happy with it ever since. The only thing that disgusts me is thinking how much time I wasted working around the problems with the old one and just do what needed to be done.

It reminds me of the way some of us deal with the sin that creeps into our lives.

The moment we realize something is not right with our behavior, words, or attitude is the moment we should go running to God – the Expert who can fix the problem. The Bible gives us very clear and simple directions – “Confess sins, receive forgiveness.” It’s not complicated.

But for some reason admitting our guilt, while simple, is not easy. Something in our nature thinks I can fix this, and we go about trying to undo what’s been done, or talk ourselves out of the attitudes clouding our minds, or verbally backpedal and try to convince people that what we said wasn’t really what we said…

Lies get covered up with more lies. Frustration adds to whatever started the bad attitude to begin with, and no amount of “good behavior” or religious activity can make us feel good about what we did in the first place. Until finally the voice of reason (The Holy Spirit) says ENOUGH!

It’s not as if Jesus doesn’t know about our sins, faults, and foolishness – He died to pay the penalty for them. Instead of trying to hide, instead of running from Him, why not run to Him? Accept His invitation to exchange our sins for His righteousness, and watch how the frustration of trying to fix things on your own is replaced by the joy of a fresh start and knowing you’re not alone in the struggle.

If you’re part of a fellowship of other believers, you’ll find we all struggle. When we see the feeble attempts to undo our sin by “copying and pasting” or “close enough?” or other ways of atoning besides the biblical way, we can remind one another to just take our mess to Jesus. He will not just repair the problem, but exchange the old, messed up life for a brand new one.

You’ll find yourself, as I did, asking, Why did I wait so long?

If the idea of Jesus’ paying the price for your sins is a new concept to you, I’d love to walk you through the process of salvation and down the road to true happiness. These two past posts explain the “Be-attitudes” that will lead you to a relationship with the God who created you, a fulfilling life here on earth, and ultimately eternal life with Him!

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2020/01/17/be-attitudes-biography-of-a-believer/

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2020/01/24/the-be-or-not-be-attitudes-the-road-to-true-happiness-part-2/

Prayer: Lord, thank You for loving us while we were still in our sin, loving us enough to send Your only begotten Son to pay the price for our forgiveness. Thank You for not requiring us to earn our own forgiveness and salvation – You knew we never could. Forgive us for ever entertaining the notion that we can fix ourselves or undo our sins. Help us remember that repentance is as close as a prayer, and that You stand with Your arms open, ready to forgive and give us a new start, in Jesus’ name. Amen

Making Black History: Black Dads Matter

He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers. Malachi 4:6

Recently my husband saw an African American man standing next to a sign that said “Black Dads Matter.” When he told me about it, the first person to come to mind was my friend Tyrone Burrell, the finest example of a black father that I know.

When Tyrone and his wife Laura first came to Port Huron, Michigan, they were at a restaurant with their three children, when it became obvious they were in the minority.

“Daddy, how come those people are staring at us?” asked one of the kids.

“Well, son,” (Knowing Tyrone, I can picture his smile of quiet confidence.) “I’m guessing none of these people have ever seen royalty before.”

Tyrone does have a certain demeanor about him. He’s one man I would describe as a true gentleman. Every time I saw him, he would greet me with a little nod of the head, a gracious smile, and a “Good evening, Miss Annie.” He treated every woman like a lady, every man with respect, and every child with a gentle kindness.

Tyrone is a man with a vision for the urban youth in Port Huron, and it’s been thrilling to see how God has enabled him to carry out that vision.

As Tyrone tells it, his inspiration came from Malachi 4:6: “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” That verse ignited the dream, which would become his full-time work and a major ministry in Port Huron: “Save Our Neighborhoods and Streets” – or “S. O. N.S.

Tyrone was a firefighter when he felt the Spirit of God drawing him to visit the high school cafeteria at lunch time, where he would sit with the youth and talk with them about life. This was his way of acting out his Christian faith. I’m not sure he realized at first that he was carrying out the biblical command to take care of orphans, but as a group of “regulars” formed, students for whom Tyrone seemed to fill a need, he noticed one thing these young people had in common: none of them had fathers involved in their lives.

It was the early 90’s and gang warfare was making the local headlines. In Port Huron, as with most cities, the hours right after school were the times when unsupervised youth tended to find trouble – or trouble would find them. This was especially true for a young person being raised by a mother trying to hold down more than one job, or even a grandmother, overwhelmed by her circumstances.

The students Tyrone befriended would have been happy to spend their after-school hours playing basketball, but they were never quite able to keep their grades up enough to be on the school team. So Tyrone gave of his time to play basketball with them, and eventually to organize them into their own league.

In the early stages of the ministry S.O.N.S. bought an old motel and converted it into an ice cream shop, the “Dairy Oasis” where the kids could meet. But within two years the city tore up the street, including the Oasis; God had bigger plans for S.O.N.S.

Through a foundation and a businessman who was a friend of the ministry, a vacant church building was acquired to give kids from elementary, middle school, and high school a safe place to go after school and during the summer. Instead of going home to an empty apartment or hanging out on the streets, vulnerable to predators, kids would flock to this second home and be greeted with smiles and a healthy after-school snack. Tables and computers were set up, where the kids could get help with their homework, and the gym was available for playing basketball.

It was truly a wholistic approach – physical, educational, social – and spiritual. Every Thursday the kids would gather in the sanctuary for a weekly chapel service. I would start things off, playing my guitar and leading them in song, while a grandmotherly volunteer led them in the hand motions. Following the singing, Tyrone would deliver a short but meaningful message about God and life and how important they were to their heavenly Dad. (From the way his face beamed, I’d say these kids were pretty important to Tyrone, as well.)

Before we moved away from Port Huron, I got to see first-hand how God has blessed S.O.N.S. I had the privilege of participating in at least one Christmas program, and my daughter Kelly volunteered at their “Dream Camp,” a free two-week day camp during the summer. Fundraising banquets got the word out about the ministry, and the Port Huron community has supported them enthusiastically. S.O.N.S. gave kids opportunities to take part in performing arts productions, career fairs, life skills programs, and a summer works program, “The Talented Tenth.” Here young people could experience the business environment and hone their skills through networking and job shadowing. Many of these youth were the first generation in their families to attend college and earn a degree.

I no longer live in Port Huron, but I occasionally visit the S. O. N. S. Facebook page to see what they’re up to. I’ve read about activities ranging from job fairs to mentoring of young girls by older ladies about what it means to be a woman of God.

I was a little puzzled to find that the video of “Dream Camp” on their Facebook page was about twenty years old. I messaged Tyrone and asked why that was. He told me that some of the kids in that video are now married, and today their kids are involved in S. O. N. S.

The last time I spoke with Tyrone, he gave me some great news about the ministry. Recently someone donated a piece of property to S. O. N. S., and since then Tyrone was able to secure a grant to build their own ministry center! This was a providential fulfillment of a very specific dream. You can find the full story of this and other blessings at https://www.sonsoutreach.org . Click on “About” for the inspiring video.

In one of my recent chats with Tyrone, he told me about an event where he had been asked to speak. For the most part it was a peaceful demonstration, but one young man was standing up on a bridge, waving a sign saying “F*** the Police!” Tyrone walked up to the protester, calmly said, “I’ll take that, son,” – and did. The kid didn’t argue. Maybe Tyrone’s quiet strength conveyed to the youth that, just maybe, this man had a better idea.

Prayer: Father in heaven, thank You so much for inspiring Tyrone to be Your hands and feet for kids who need a godly father’s influence. Thank You for his family who have supported him in this endeavor and who have been willing to “share” him with others. Please continue to work through Tyrone and his ministry partners to raise up godly men and women for Your kingdom, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Surviving the Deadliest Disease of All (“Can’t We Do Both?” Part 2)

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38

It’s been nearly a year since the first lockdown – “Two weeks to flatten the curve.” (No comment) At the beginning, Marty announced that our job was to stay home and stay well, so we dutifully hunkered down and took the recommended precautions. Aware of the irony of having just donated our Clorox stock to charity, we used disinfectant wipes to keep our house as sterile as possible. All deliveries were left outside for 24 hours, and grocery shopping was limited to the special “senior hour,” when the store had just been cleaned and only masked people over 65 could shop. When we got home, we would run in the back door, drop our clothes in the washer, shower, dress, and sterilize each item before bringing it into the house. It was a weekly ritual I laugh at now.

I laugh, because we got Covid anyway. Clearly avoidance alone is no guarantee against sickness. But Marty and I had another advantage – a very healthy lifestyle. (In my last post I describe my journey from being “sick all the time” to being a veritable health nut and enjoying life to the fullest in my sixties. – https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2021/01/29/cant-we-do-both/ ) We had spent many years and a lot of will power taking many different supplements along with a balanced diet (vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fish, yogurt, and plenty of water, with minimal-to-no junk food). Before the gyms closed, we would walk to our health club, work out, walk back, and reward ourselves with protein shakes. So, when Covid hit us, our immune systems were ready to fight back.

(Please don’t call us “lucky.” We worked long and hard for that “luck.” – Feel free to call us “blessed,” though. We know we are.)

It seems the daily Covid reports still aren’t saying much about building up the immune system, just avoidance of the virus. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time to protect oneself from overexposure to a disease, but there’s also a time to arm oneself when the exposure is inevitable. As my last post asked, “Can’t we do both?

A good soldier has armor and weapons.

But there is an even deadlier disease than Covid, with more lasting effects. It’s terminal – eternally. That disease is SIN. And just as a virus is invisible and virtually everywhere, sin is rampant.

Sin is what separates us from a holy God, what keeps us out of heaven. After all, if flawed humans entered heaven, it would no longer be a perfect place.

Many religions and cults recognize the deadliness of this spiritual disease and try to escape by separating themselves from the world and its pleasures. Recognizing the dangers of lust, some cultures cover their women from head to toe. Others try to become holy by staying isolated on a mountaintop or cloistered in monasteries, barefoot, dressed in sackcloth, fasting, punishing themselves for past sins. In America we don’t often see that kind of self-deprivation, but some do refuse to have anything to do with the culture – fashion, entertainment, social media, or anything else that’s tainted – essentially all things involving humans.

But no amount of avoidance will free us from sin, because not only is sin everywhere in this fallen world, the sin nature is also inside each of us. This internal sin is inherited.

In the beginning, even though Adam and Eve were given the privilege of eating from any tree in the perfect place, except one, they still disobeyed, and we’ve all been rebellious and sinful every since.

No matter what we give up, no matter where we go, we can never run away from us.

This is why the 600+ laws in the Old Testament were impossible to keep. No one has ever been strong enough and good enough to keep them – much less know what all of them were!

When Jesus came, He said He had not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. (Matthew 5:17) But rather than making the Law easier to keep, He made it harder. According to Jesus, being angry with one’s brother was tantamount to murder. Looking at a woman lustfully was equivalent to adultery. Those who heard Jesus preach must have felt overwhelmed by their sin – the sin that resided not “out there,” but in their own hearts.

So how did Jesus fulfill the Law then? By living the perfect life we couldn’t, then becoming the atoning sacrifice for our sins. (Sacrifices had to be perfect.) Jesus died on the Cross in our place, so that by trusting Him, we could live the lives He created us to live.

But if sin lives inside us, how can we resist it and live that life? Where is the help for our “spiritual immune system”?

When Jesus left this earth after His resurrection, He promised us a Helper; there was a way He could still be with us – not only with us, but in each of us, through the Holy Spirit. (That’s why Jesus shockingly told His disciples it was for their benefit that He was leaving.)

The moment we say “yes” to Jesus and put our faith in His atoning death on the Cross, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us, and we will never be alone again.

Will the Holy Spirit make us perfect all the time? Not in this life. But as we yield our wills to God moment by moment, He will help us say “No” to sin more often and live more the way Jesus would.

Shielding oneself from tempting situations is still a good idea, when possible. Then, by availing ourselves of both the armor and the weapons (A good soldier has both.), while we still see occasional symptoms of sin, it doesn’t have to be terminal.

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for dying in our place so we could be forgiven. You have called us to a wonderful life, and we acknowledge that we can’t possibly live that life on our own. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit living in us, enabling us to obey You. May we live our lives fully surrendered to You, in Your name and for Your glory. Amen.

Can’t We Do Both?

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made: your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:13-14)

In my teens and twenties, about the time I was going through my “body image issues” (starving, binging, and self-loathing), I had a related problem: I seemed to be perpetually sick, especially from October to April. A day or two of allergy symptoms would escalate into a full-blown cold – a nasty cold with all the symptoms, keeping me out of school for 2-3 days, followed by about a week of feeling run-down and sick-ish but going to school anyway, because “You can’t miss any more school!” followed by a week or so of feeling OK, then the cycle would start all over, with This is probably just an allergy … isn’t it?

During those years there would be times in the wee hours of the morning when the rest of the family was enviably sound asleep, while my head was pounding with sinus pressure, sore nose throbbing, throat burning. I would lie in the dark, thinking, If this is the way my life is going to be from now on, I think I’d rather not …

Somewhere in my twenties or early thirties I became more and more aware of this thing called an immune system, and I did all the research I could to see if there was any way I could help mine. Of course my eating disorder had been steadily taking its toll on my health (Gee, ya think??), and the biggest step towards good health was when God graciously delivered me from that personal demon. (I still plan to write about that journey in more detail in a future piece.) Over the years I learned about balanced nutrition (No, the crash diets weren’t cutting it.), the right supplements (No, Vitamin C wasn’t the “magic bullet.” I needed more.), the importance of sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and staying hydrated. Thankfully I had never taken up smoking, loving singing the way I did, and I wasn’t a drinker, for fear I’d be even more out of control than I already was. But I still had to learn to make better choices than junk food, avoid sugar, and choose water over diet soft drinks.

In spite of needing regular allergy shots and sinus surgery, my health did improve over the years, and in the fall of 2019 I seemed to have found the final “missing piece” – probiotics. I sheepishly told my doctor I had bought into an infomercial for a probiotic that said 70% of the immune system is in the gut, and to my surprise, she said, “Oh, that’s true.” (confirming the connection with the eating disorder) With that revelation I started taking the probiotic first thing in the morning, along with practicing the other healthy lifestyle choices, and for the first time in six decades, I went a whole year without a single cold or sinus infection!

The first thing to hit me in 2020 was Covid, which I came down with in late November. Although it brought back some unpleasant memories, it wasn’t horrible (unlike all the viruses I got as a young person) and lasted just a few days. I did quarantine for two weeks, and although Thanksgiving Day I couldn’t smell or taste anything, my husband, who also had Covid, didn’t feel like eating anyway. So, instead of cooking all day, I relaxed with him and spent Thanksgiving … well … giving thanks. (I think that’s the point anyway, right?)

So why am I telling you all this? Because the CDC isn’t exactly highlighting this kind of information. For the past year all we’ve heard is wear-a-mask!-stay-home!-wash-your-hands!-socially-distance! … ad nauseum. We’ve been terrorized by the nightly news with daily stats on new cases and deaths, but not the 45 million Americans that have had the virus and recovered. Ironically, fear, stress, rage, and the related loss of sleep has a devastating effect on the immune system.

One day just out of curiosity I visited the CDC website and did a search for “Maintaining a Healthy Immune System.” My search turned up 350 results, all articles with the words “maintaining” (about maintaining social distance), “immune” (about vaccines), or “system” (as in “health care system”). I found nothing about keeping our bodies strong enough to fight off disease. Later my son told me to try “maintaining a healthy immune + system.” I tried a few searches adding a “+” and found there were thousands of articles. With some digging I was able to find mention of healthy eating, sleep, etc. But as far as Covid, avoidance was definitely front and center. I have yet to hear on the news about any proactive steps we can take to strengthen our resistance naturally. Just fear-fear-FEAR.

Am I saying we don’t need to do anything to avoid viruses? Not at all. This doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. Sure, wash your hands (Are there really people who don’t?) and use hand sanitizer. Cough into your sleeve, and stay home if you’re sick. (In other words, practice common courtesy -and common sense!) Avoid crowds if you get sick easily, and – my personal flu season recommendation – carry your own pen. (Make it a cheap one, so if anyone asks to borrow it you can tell them to keep it.) Just know that viruses are the tiniest living things known to man, and they’re virtually everywhere. This is why our loving Creator built a system of defense into our bodies.

It’s not that we have to choose between minimizing exposure to illnesses and arming ourselves against them. Why not do both? Our bodies are gifts from God, but we are stewards of those gifts. He has made us partners with Him, and I believe He wants us to be responsible for what we can do to stay healthy and strong, while He takes care of the rest – the things that are out of our control.

As for “divine perspective,” there is a spiritual parallel to this, which I’ll deal with next time.

Prayer: Lord, we know it was Your creative genius that formed our bodies. While we don’t take a single breath without Your enabling us, You have called us to care for Your creation, including ourselves. We want to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, set apart for Your service. Show us how to keep these vessels strong, healthy, and able to serve You for as long as You would have us on this earth, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Breakthrough

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. (Psalm 18:16)

Faith-based movies are getting better.

A while back it was hard even to find a film that was clean and decent, much less one that was well done and had a Christian world view. I remember years ago I was in a Christian book store when a lady was asking if anyone had seen the movie she was thinking of buying. I had seen it, but hesitated to give my opinion, since my opinion was, It was poorly written, poorly directed, and poorly acted, but other than that it was great. (I have a theater degree with a major in directing, so admittedly I can be a bit harsh.) Fortunately before I got cornered, another woman gushed, “Oh, it was wonderful!” I guess opinions differ.

Since then I’ve seen some faith-based films I would call wonderful, and they seem to be coming more frequently. I think that for a while Hollywood got the idea that making movies that appealed to Christians was not profitable, probably due to the church people who said all Hollywood movies were from the pit of hell and swore they’d never go to one. (You know who you are.)

But when Mel Gibson recommitted his life to Christ and decided to produce a movie showing “the wounds that healed my wounds,” The Passion of the Christ was proof that a faith-based film could be successful and that Christians didn’t need to be afraid of tackling the stark realities of evil and pain in a fallen world.

What I’m liking best about the movies being produced now is their honesty. Christian movies of the past used to present the believers as the “good guys” and the unbelievers as the “bad guys.” But more recent films are showing the truth about Christians – that we are human, too, and can be just as flawed as the unbelievers, maybe more. Case in point: Breakthrough.

This movie tells the true story (my favorite kind) of a teenager named Josh who broke through the ice, was submerged for 15 minutes, then without a pulse for more than 45 minutes (i.e. clinically dead).

[Spoiler Alert] What happened to this boy was what the doctors called a miracle, but the real miracle (breakthrough) was the transformation in the two main characters.

At the beginning of the story Josh (Topher Grace) is in many ways a typical teenager, growing increasingly unresponsive to his mother’s attempts to connect with him. (Every time the kid rolled his eyes and muttered “Whatever,” I wanted to slap him.)

The mom (Chrissy Metz – This Is Us) has her own issues. She isn’t happy with the new pastor – she doesn’t like his hair, his style of preaching, or the new music he’s brought into the church to appeal to the youth. Her comments are negative, and in many instances downright rude. Seeing the mom and the young pastor interact made me cringe. It also made me laugh. Yep, Christians can be opinionated and unreasonable. (Please don’t ask me how I know…)

Later in the story, under the stress of her son’s life-threatening situation, the mom becomes even more difficult to deal with; she seems angry with everyone. When others freely give their negative prognosis in front of the comatose boy, it was hard to watch the mom’s irate (albeit understandable) lashing out at them, and that rage spilling over onto others.

The father’s unwillingness to go into his son’s hospital room (“It’s hard … “) made me want to drag him there, whether he wanted to be there or not. (This isn’t about you, buddy.)

There were several “God moments” that made me want to cheer, and they weren’t just when Josh wakes up – although that was amazing, too. One of the most poignant scenes is when a flock of friends gathers outside the hospital, holding candles and singing to Josh. Though he’s still in a coma, a single tear trickles down the face of this once cocky, aloof kid, who used to think no one cared about him.

Soon after, the mother’s apology to the pastor and her explanation of why she’s such a “control freak” makes sense of the previous scenes, and her final surrender of her will to God on the roof of the hospital is the turning point of the movie – the real breakthrough.

The story doesn’t end with everything making sense and everyone living happily ever after. Very real questions arise, such as “Why did you get a miracle, but my mom is still dying?” Josh has no pat answers. (And Mom still wants to fix the pastor’s hair.)

Breakthrough doesn’t put God in a box. It is a true story of people who got a glimpse of God’s providence, but there are still things He does that we don’t understand – such as using an atheist to rescue Josh from the frigid water – and in this life there always will be.

Bottom line: Breakthrough is, in my not-so-humble opinion, a well-written, well-directed, well-acted, faith-based movie definitely worth seeing. Far from some of the sappy, humorless, unrealistic films of the past, with one-dimensional characters, this is a story many of us will relate to, with real people and their cringeworthy reactions to life. Enjoy it with the family one of these cold January days. (It’s available on Amazon Prime.)

And to all Christian film-makers out there: You are appreciated! Keep them coming! And keep them real.

Prayer: Lord God, each of us has our quirks and flaws, and yet You are so patient with us. Thank You that we don’t have to be perfect for You to love us and do a work in our lives. Thanks You for the miracles You are doing in our time as well as two thousand years ago. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.

While I’m away …

To write the same things again is no trouble for me, and it is a safeguard for you.  (Philippians 3:1)

My sister and I are off on another “adventure” for the first time in over a year. I will not be reading as many of your blogs while I’m away. (I don’t even know if I will have internet access.) And I may not have time to do much writing. But I found a blog from one of our past trips that I believe is worth repeating, for fun and for some serious consideration. It’s a post regarding “last words.”

Enjoy! 🙂

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2019/07/05/famous-last-words/

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for the opportunity to see Susie again, and a chance to enjoy some of the beautiful world You have created. I trust You for a safe trip and to guide our conversations. Invade our minds with what You want to say to us, and help us not only to hear but to heed, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Talking with the Contact Tracer

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (I Peter 3:15b)

Hello? …

Oh, hello, ___________. Yes, I tested positive for Covid two weeks ago. Yes, I was sick for a few days. It wasn’t fun, but to be honest, I’ve had colds that were much worse.

Well, I could tell you where I’ve been lately and what I’ve been doing, but it wouldn’t be very interesting. I will tell you, though…

I am going to die.

You‘re going to die, too.

Will we die today? Probably not. – But we might.

Will we die of Covid? Probably not. – But we might.

The question isn’t “Are we going to die?” – We are. The real question is, “Then what?

And then comes eternity. Eternity is a lot longer than this life, which is maybe 70 years, maybe 80, maybe 100 if we’re incredibly lucky.

The question isn’t so much “Where have I been?” but “Where am I going?

The important thing isn’t “Who have I been with and what have I been doing?” but “Who am I spending the next life with, and what will I be doing there?

There are only two places people spend eternity – in the presence of Jesus, or away from Him, alone forever. We can be worshiping the One who loved us enough to die for us and basking in His glory – or weeping and gnashing our teeth. I know I’m going to the first place, what about you?

… I suppose I am getting off the subject.

Yes, my husband and I followed the CDC guidelines. We stayed socially distanced, wore masks whenever required to, kept our hands clean, and avoided crowds. We’ve been home most of the time, in fact. And we got Covid anyway.

One thing I haven’t done, though, is be scared, and I think that has helped me stay healthy. Stress is arguably the worst drain on the immune system, don’t you think? Lately the fear the news has fed us night and day have many of us stressed out, possibly more than we have ever been before. We finally just turned it off, and I think that has had a lot to do with our speedy recovery.

But here’s my main source of peace: I don’t believe I’m leaving this world one moment before God is ready to call me home, and when He does, I’m not going to hang around here one moment longer than I have to! That pretty much eliminates most fear-based stress, so I’ve been sleeping remarkably well. – And adequate sleep is crucial for a healthy immune system, too, don’t you think?

Yes, I’ve stayed quarantined since my diagnosis. Spending extra time with Jesus, and it’s been so sweet. Do you know Him? [pause] Would you like to know Him? He wants you to. He loves you!

Do you have a Bible? I’d be happy to give you one. (I believe you have my address.) I could leave you one on our porch. – Don’t worry, I won’t even open my door.

… You do have a Bible? Great! I have a suggestion: Tonight look up the third chapter of the gospel of John – That’s John Chapter 3 – and read it carefully. (Or you can Google “John 3” and read it on line.) It will tell you what to do to be saved. Then you can be sure when your time comes – whether that’s today or in fifty years – you’ll be spending the rest of eternity in a good place. And I hope I see you there.

It was nice meeting you, ___________. – Don’t forget, John 3.

Thanks for calling.

Prayer: Lord, I pray for ___________ (You know her name.). I pray that she remembers what You said through me, and that she’ll forget anything that may have come just from me. I pray that You will lead her to read John 3, or any other passage You lead her to, and open her eyes to the truth of the gospel. Invade her mind with the thoughts that will lead her to surrendering her life to You – so that You can give her eternal life! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Christmas Gift for You

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all my readers and blogging brothers and sisters! Some of you (You know who you are.) have been such an encouragement to me during what has not been the most encouraging of years, and I value your friendship, even though most of you I’ve never met face-to-face.

My gift to you is a story that touched my heart, and I hope it will bless you, as well. This story was posted on Barb’s blog, “My Life In Our Father’s World” ( A Change of Perspective – My Life in Our Father’s World ), so it is not my original, but it was too good not to share. I recommend gathering the family around – as many as you have been able to assemble this year – and read the story together. Even if you are alone today, curl up in your favorite chair and imagine Jesus reading over your shoulder; you are not alone. (I also suggest you have some Kleenex ready, as your heart might spring a leak somewhere in the story!)

Enjoy the story, and have a very blessed Christmas.

Love,

Annie

A CHANGE IN PERSPECTIVE

It was Christmas Eve 1942. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas.
We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Daddy wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible. After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Daddy to get down the old Bible.

I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Daddy didn’t get the Bible instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn’t figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn’t worry about it long though I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.

Soon he came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight.” I was really upset then. Not only wasn’t I getting the rifle for Christmas, now he was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We’d already done all the chores, and I couldn’t think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew he was not very patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my coat. Mommy gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn’t know what..

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn’t going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Daddy was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn’t happy. When I was on, Daddy pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed.

“I think we’ll put on the high sideboards,” he said. “Here, help me.” The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high side boards on.

Then Daddy went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood – the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. I asked, “what are you doing?” You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. Mrs.Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I’d been by, but so what?

Yeah,” I said, “Why?”

“I rode by just today,” he said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.” That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, he called a halt to our loading then we went to the smoke house and he took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand.

“What’s in the little sack?” I asked. Shoes, they’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a little candy.”

We rode the two miles to Mrs.Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Daddy was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn’t have any money, so why was he buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn’t have been our concern.

We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?” “Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt, could we come in for a bit?”
Mrs.Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Mrs.Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

“We brought you a few things, Ma’am,” Daddy said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then he handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children – sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at my Daddy like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn’t come out.

“We brought a load of wood too, Ma’am,” he said. Then turned to me and said, “Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let’s get that fire up to size and heat this place up.” I wasn’t the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn’t speak.

My heart swelled within me and a joy that I’d never known before filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone’s spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Daddy handed them each a piece of candy and Mrs.Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn’t crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. “God bless you,” she said. “I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us.”

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I’d never thought of my Daddy in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Daddy had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Mommy and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Daddy insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen’s face again when we stood up to leave. My Daddy took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn’t want us to go. I could see that they missed their Daddy and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door he turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We’ll be by to get you about eleven. It’ll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn’t been little for quite a spell.” I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away.

Mrs.Jensen nodded and said, “Thank you, Brother Miles. I don’t have to say, May the Lord bless you, I know for certain that He will.”

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn’t even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Daddy turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to know something. Your Mother and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn’t have quite enough.

Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your Mom and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that, but on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.”

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Daddy had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. He had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Mrs. Jensen’s face and the radiant smiles of her three children. For the rest of my life, Whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside of my Daddy that night. He had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life..