An Imperfect Love Story

An Imperfect Love Story

He saw her across the gymnasium – a petite girl with long golden brown hair.  His Science Fair project was on Bridges and hers was on the Human Body.  He finally got up the nerve to speak with her and bought her a Coke.  A couple years later they attended their Junior and Senior proms together but were heading to different states for college.

Over those years many hours were spent on dorm hallway phones and almost daily letters sent back and forth. Summers and holidays they happily reunited and by their senior year they began planning a future together. He was going to be a Civil Engineer and she was studying Nursing – funny how their early interests would become their careers.

Senior year of college, something wasn’t right – she became very ill. Graduation was followed by a trip to the hospital for tests and later major surgery.  He sat by her bedside praying while she recovered in the ICU – what was God doing?  They postponed the wedding even though she wrestled with God over that. She realized her fiancee had proven his faithfulness “in sickness and health”! Their bond only strengthened as they thanked God for healing and chose to keep Him in the middle of every day – good days and bad.  Their wedding verse;

bride-1837148_1920This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.        Psalms 118:24 (ESV)

 After the wedding they started their happily ever after and saved to buy a house. Three children came along one right after the other – a girl and two boys.  Their lives took a different path when child #2 was born with cognitive and physical disabilities. Those early years included open heart surgery for that little one and casts on club feet.  Doctor visits and seeing therapists became the new normal.  The now mother of three also continued to have medical issues and the daughter had learning disabilities. Challenging? Yes.  But nothing is impossible with God so they clung to His promises.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.     Jer 29:11 (ESV)

 Life was good just different because there are added concerns and some limitations when a family member has a disability. But days were filled with school, sports, church activities, celebrations and vacations just like everyone else. Most importantly they made life-long friendships.

Love and a solid faith in God along with a lot of family and friend support helped them overcome and in turn reach out.  They became involved with Family and Marriage ministry to help others. Communication and commitment is necessary while quitting is NOT an option. The couple also became involved with Disability ministries like Special Olympics and served in their local church.

They learned that every day is an opportunity for grace with communication being the key -especially when an apology is necessary. Often they would laugh or make a joke about something else going wrong. Laughter does help make the burdens lighter!

After 36+ years this couple still celebrates with gratitude for all God has provided. They have met some amazing people and traveled to beautiful places they never dreamed possible. Their story is far from over as now in mid-life they plan for the future and retirement. Their parents are gone and the children are grown with their own careers. The son with disabilities is doing well. There were many more difficulties as well as great stories through those years because life is an imperfect balance. They still have arguments and misunderstandings but at the end of every day find security and comfort in each others’ arms.

Life is not perfect but good.

What advice would they give you this Valentine’s Day?

Set priorities: God first, Spouse (before self) then Family and everything else

Laugh – A little bit (or a lot) of humor  helps along the way!

 Listening well helps avoid misunderstanding

Trust God is in control even when life seems out of control.

During the hardest times of life – PRAY MORE – God will give you the peace and strength to not only endure but to excel when you trust in Him.

Loving one another requires patience, over-looking faults and compassion.

Teach your children well.

Always kiss good night.

 

Review your own imperfect love story and have a blessed Valentine’s Day.

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Weary Travelers

Weary Travelers

According to AAA, an estimated 115.6 million Americans were expected to travel this holiday season. That was a 3.9% increase from last year and includes plane, train, automobile, bus and cruise travel. AAA expected that more than 853,000 would call for some type of help. On an average there is a one out of five chance of a delay but on December 26th you can expect a 66% chance of delayed service. And for the 21st year in a row, Atlanta, GA is the world’s busiest airport! That is a lot of travelers for one season.

Throughout the Advent season, without realizing it, we have heard a lot about travel.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.              Luke 2:1-5

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The Bible is not written like a novel so we don’t have a detailed play by play of the actual travel but we know that every Jewish household had to register in their tribal capital. That equals a lot of people traveling by foot, donkey, camel and wagon caravan. The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem would be a grueling 90 miles up and down some treacherous mountain roads.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”              Matt 2:1-2

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These wisemen from the East were astrologers that had obviously studied the Hebrew scripture possibly left by Daniel.  They may have come from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Southern Turkey. The distance from Persia to Bethlehem (maybe up to 9000 miles) traveling over varied rugged terrain for months would be so long and tiring. Yet they journeyed on in their quest to seek the Christ Child.

Friend, in the past year did you become weary in your journey?  Did life take unexpected twists and turns that made you feel weak and vulnerable? Do you feel like you have lost your way or that somehow your dream is just too far off to ever reach? God never promised an easy carefree life but He did tell us that we are never alone.  He does promise to give us a renewed vision and the strength to reach our goals step by step when they are in line with His word.

Here are just a few scriptures to hold onto as we begin the New Year:

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Josh 1:9

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.     Prov 3:5-6

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.     Jer 29:11-12

It is my prayer that we all start off the New Year on the right foot and step by step journey into 2020 with confidence and strength in God’s power, protection, and provision for the way.

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All Scripture quotes in this blog are taken from the New Living Translation

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Innkeeper and the Rest of the Story

Every Christmas pageant that I have seen includes an Innkeeper that gruffly says; “Sorryno room but there is no room in the Inn. Go away,” and he slams the door.  Poor little Billy’s heart wasn’t in it. After perfectly saying his lines he whispered, “you can stay in my room.”    I hate to burst your bubble but the Bible doesn’t mention an Innkeeper and there were no Hilton hotels in first century Palestine.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.            Luke 2:4-7 (ESV)  or because there was no lodging available for them. Luke 2:7 (NLT)

Mary and Joseph were inconveniently ordered to go to Bethlehem in Judea – his ancestral home for a census.  It would be customary to find a relative to lodge with but we can safely assume that other family members beat them there.  The Greek word used here for “Inn” is “kataluma” meaning guest room.  This is the same word used for “the Upper Room” Jesus shared His last meal in.  The word used for “Inn” in the story of the Good Samaritan was “pandocheion” where a fee was paid.

The stable we like to envision was actually in a cave or more likely an extra room below the family home where animals were brought for warmth and safety at night. The manger would have been a stone chiseled feeding trough not a wooden crib.  However the truth is it would still have been warm and far more private to give birth there than in the hallway or middle of a room surrounded by people.  We don’t know if a mid-wife was on hand to help or any other small details.

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So what do we know?   The Shepherds were told to find the baby in a manger as a sign and they did.  God shifted from the Divine to human when He sent His Son to be born to humble, outcast parents. A small baby is not intimidating but instead people draw near.  Jesus was not born in a palace but in the middle of a busy, crowded, small town to ordinary people.  Joseph and Mary were ordinary people chosen for a very unique and sacred task; to care for, teach and love the Son of God. We know that they trusted God and faithfully obeyed His Word.

Innkeeper or not, the same questions remain.  Will you make room in your heart and home for Jesus ? He doesn’t care about the busy, messy, crowded life you live. He wants to have a relationship with ordinary, everyday people, just like you. The Christmas season calls us to draw near, make room and worship Him.

 

Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne –  a hymn

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,

When Thou came-est to earth for me,

But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room

For Thy holy nativity:

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus; There is room in my heart for Thee

 

 

 

Tagbah – To Walk Where Jesus Walked -part 6

Tagbah – To Walk Where Jesus Walked -part 6

Our trip to Israel was so amazing that I am still processing all we saw, learned and did.  A place called Tagbah is still the most meaningful for me.

Tagbah sits on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee at the foot of the Mount of the Beatitudes.  This was a favorite fishing spot for the men from nearby Capernaum.  There are several warm springs that enter the Lake here that attract numerous fish especially in winter.

Togbah

There were two churches built at Tagbah; one that comemmorates Jesus feeding the 5000 – The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. This is built over a 4th century church where Byzantine tile work can still been on the floor under the altar. The second church  – The Church of Peter’s Primacy – is where Jesus made His third post-resurection appearance to the disciples.  Jesus had been crucified. All of the disciples hopes and dreams seemed gone so the men went back to what they knew best – fishing.

3 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out IMG_2092in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.4 At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was.5 He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied.6 Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.7 Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore…….8  When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. ….15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? ” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.          John 21:1-17 (NLT)

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This church sits by the shore and the rock incorporated into its floor is believed to be the place Jesus served breakfast.  A communion table is set in a small garden nearby.  We stood on the shore listening to these scriptures and we were challenged to think of Peter’s restoration and what God may be saying to our own hearts. Three times Peter denied Jesus and three times he was asked, “Do you love ME?” – with the command to “feed MY sheep”.

Peter, the first called, the one to always speak up, the one to jump ahead, one of the three closest friends of Jesus, had really blown it. In fear he had denied our Lord not once but three times.  Jesus lovingly confronts and forgives him then restores and renews Peter’s mission. Friend, it does not matter where you come from or what you have done in the past. Jesus will confront us with our failures or selfishness so we can repent. There is nothing too big or bad that He cannot forgive. He loves you and has an incredible plan for your life. Search your heart and see if there is anything in the way of your relationship with Christ.  He’s still asking “do you love ME”?  then come follow Me……

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Jerusalem – To Walk Where Jesus Walked- part 5

Jerusalem – To Walk Where Jesus Walked- part 5

“Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. During its long history it has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, and attacked 52 times.”* Today Jerusalem’s status is the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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The gospels all give accounts of Jesus’ visits to Jerusalem but it would be impossible to tell the total amount of time there. We only have two accounts of Jesus’ childhood visits to Jerusalem and the Temple. During His first visit as an infant, His parents dedicated their first-born to the Lord.  It was then that the prophets Simeon and Anna proclaimed the child as Messiah, the redemption of Jerusalem, salvation and light to the Gentiles.

In Luke we also read of the boy Jesus lagging behind in the Temple after Passover and his parents departure.  After frantically looking for him, they found Him sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.

But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[     Luke 2:49 (NLT)

Roman Cardo
The Cardo – marketplace

During the reign of Herod the Great the city underwent great architectural achievement. Herod tried to show off his wealth, wisdom and cultural prowess by “Romanizing” much of his kingdom.  He rebuilt the Temple, created an opulent palace for himself and homes for the elite. During Jesus’ visits much engineering and construction would have added to the excitement as well as congestion in the city.

Jesus’ last week was spent in Jerusalem with His disciples. They traveled there to celebrate Passover not knowing it would be their last feast with Him.

As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him.37 When palm sundaythey reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.
38 “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!” Luke 19:36-38      41 But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to weep.42 “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.  Luke 19:41-42 (NLT)

Jesus’ last week was spent teaching in the Temple, sharing time with His disciples, and celebrating Passover. His huge welcome would be soon forgotten by mob mentality. He was betrayed, beaten, condemned, crucified and then buried in a borrowed tomb. But on the third day that tomb was empty! Jesus is alive! The grave could not keep Him, Death could not hold Him and as He promised He will return.

IMG_2352So many scriptures, so many visuals passed through my mind as I stood on the Mount of Olives facing the Temple.  This was the place where Jesus often came to pray. And it is believed that Messiah will return here to the New Temple and claim it for His own during His Millennial reign. (read Ezekiel 40-47 and Zechariah 14). So much history is here past, present and future!

The questions I ask myself and you dear Reader:

Do I love God’s Word, as much as Jesus did; to read, study and apply it to my daily life?

Do I appreciate the freedom I have to worship in a church building without persecution?

Do I fully understand the power and victory available to me because of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death?

Do I live each day fully as if it were my last?

And finally – am I ready for His return? What if it were today?

 

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The Sea of Galilee – To Walk Where Jesus Walked, part 3

The Sea of Galilee – To Walk Where Jesus Walked, part 3

Our visit to The Holy Land included a boat trip on the Sea of Galilee as well as visiting many towns around it. In the Bible, this body of water  is called several other names including the Sea of Tiberias, the Lake of Gennesaret and Lake Kinneret. The “Sea” is actually the largest fresh water lake in Israel and is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth at approximately 700 feet below sea level. It is approximately 33 miles in circumference, 13 miles long and 8 miles wide. The lake is fed partly by underground springs, although its main source is the Jordan River.SeaofGalilee2

“Because it lies low in the Great Rift Valley, surrounded by hills, the Sea of Galilee is prone to sudden turbulence. With little warning, mighty squalls can sweep down the valleys around the lake, whipping its tranquil surface into treacherous waves.” *

 

In modern times tourism has become the major local industry. In Jesus’ time it was fishing. The fish were caught, dried and exported all over the Roman world. At one time the Lake was also the main source of water but now great conservation measures are in place. Today the lake supplies only 10% of the country’s drinking water and there are bans on fishing from April 15 through August 15th.

SeaofGalilee

It was a calm day in May, therefore no fishing, when we sat on the Sea and I could only imagine what it looked like when Jesus walked here. Yes, He walked here!

22 Immediately after this, (the feeding of the 5000) Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home.23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here! ”28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.      Matt 14:22-33 (NLT)

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The disciples had just participated in the miracle of feeding an enormous crowd with a little boys’ lunch. Jesus now defied gravity and physics by walking to their boat in a storm. Peter was always eager to jump ahead but circumstances sometimes distracted him. Fear and doubt interfere with our faith too. In all of our own circumstances we need to keep our eyes on Jesus to withstand the storm or go where He sends us. We can stand strong and courageous knowing the Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth is with us even if we are sinking. Whatever your circumstances today remember all He has done for you already. So keep your eyes on Jesus while holding his arm tightly and He will carry you through.

For nothing is impossible with God. ”     Luke 1:37 (NLT)

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”     Josh 1:9 (NLT)

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References used:   Seetheholyland.net       Bibleplaces.com          Wikipedia

 

Saturday – When Everything Was Wrong

Saturday – When Everything Was Wrong

The whole world had been turned upside down in one day. Confusion, Disbelief, Fear, Heartbreak, Shock… were just a few of the emotions the disciples were feeling. What had gone wrong?  Jesus was their friend. Rabbi, healer, miracle worker, they had believed He was Messiah! Some of the men and women, faithful followers of Jesus, gathered together while others were in hiding. It was the Sabbath and there was nothing they could do.

Friday sin was as black as could be. Jesus had been beaten, battered and nailed to a cross. The same crowd that had welcomed Him with praise now jeered, mocked and spit on Him. Jesus had done nothing to deserve this.

They had just celebrated Passover together! Jesus washed their feet and talked about being servants of one another. He talked about a “new Covenant” and His blood shed for jesus3crossesus…such odd sayings! He wanted us to pray together but we were so tired we fell asleep.  Judas betrayed our Lord! He was one of us, we trusted him, how could he? Peter wept bitterly because he watched Jesus as He was beaten and even denied knowing Him, just as Jesus had predicted. It couldn’t possibly be real – but they had watched with their own eyes as the soldiers nailed Him to a cross like a vile criminal! All their hopes and dreams in Jesus Messiah were destroyed. It was Saturday and everything was wrong.

Joseph, a righteous member of the Council, had taken Jesus’ body and laid it in his own womenattombtomb just before Sabbath began. Saturday was the blackest, saddest, most hopeless day.  Early the next morning a few women, who had loved Jesus dearly, gathered to go to the tomb and properly prepare His body for burial as was tradition.  There had been no time the night before and it was the least they could do. They wondered how they would move the stone sealing the grave and if the soldiers would give them grief.  But as they approached the burial site they were shocked to see the stone had already been rolled away….

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He is not here!

An angel up on the tombstone  – said He has risen just as He said                                                               Quickly now, go tell His disciples – that Jesus Christ is no longer dead! 

But then came Sunday!

We celebrate Easter because Jesus conquered sin and death, that is victory! He arose from the grave by HIS OWN ALMIGHTY POWER because HE IS LORD GOD!  Saturday was full of hopeless despair but instead we cry out with Joy-He is risen!  When the angels announced Jesus’ birth they announced “do not be afraid” and when Jesus met Mary at the tomb, He said, “do not be afraid”.

What does that mean for us my friends?  Jesus conquered the grave – if we have accepted Him as LORD and Savior – we have no fear of death. We’ve been given the promise of eternal life with Him. No matter what trials or circumstances we face – we can draw on His power knowing that nothing is impossible with God. When all seems hopeless – look to Jesus and He will turn your sorrow into Joy!

 

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Easter Song

Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing – that you can be born again!                                 

Hear the bells ringing they’re singing- Christ is risen from the dead!                                   

Joy to the world, He is risen, hallelujah – HALLELUJAH!