Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Christmas Star

For the past few days, I've been reading about the "Christmas Star" that is going to appear on December 21, 2020. We all agree this year has been a hopeless case. There has been much chaos and turmoil, loss and fear and we can't seem to get to 2021 fast enough.
From what I understand about this "Christmas Star" is "Jupiter and Saturn will come within 0.1 degrees of each other. They will form the first visible 'double planet' in 800 years! This is what scientists believe happened when the Magi told King Harod, "We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." (Matthew 2:2)
As I've been reading up on this event, I keep coming back to one verse in Luke. When I read the whole passage, it struck my soul with great hope! These are the words of Jesus and it says:
"'And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. 26 People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. 28 So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” 
29 Then he gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. 30 When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. 31 In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that the Kingdom of God is near. 32 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear." (Luke 21: 25-33 NLT) As we have seen in 2020, there have been all kinds of rare moons, planets appearing, beautiful sunsets and sunrises. I believe God's been trying to get our attention!
I want to encourage you today, not to be afraid, but instead "look up" with a heart of hope! God is watching and He sees all that is wrong in this whole world. It's all about timing. The "Light of the World" came over 2,000 years ago. (John 8:12). He IS coming again so "look up our salvation is near!" AMEN!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - 1620 to 2016

This week we will gather around our tables with so much food, that we will be eating leftovers for the next few days. In our family, we go around the table and share our personal "thanks" for people and things that happened over the past year. I remember as a child my sister and I would dress up like pilgrims and put on plays for the family. I always loved thanksgiving because it was the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year.

This summer we had the opportunity to see the Mayflower and Plymouth rock. It was a little disappointing compared to what I remember reading in the history books in school. The actual Mayflower was really not much larger than a large yacht. The accommodations were definitely not your luxury cruise line and no bathrooms! The Mayflower set sail across the Atlantic ocean from England to the new world in 1620.  The pilgrims wanted to leave England so they could be free to worship as they wanted.  I learned so much this trip about the pilgrims and who they were.

The pilgrims had left England earlier and moved to Holland for a short time because they were unhappy with the way the Church of England had become.  They wanted to be free to worship as they had and left the country in order to do so.  The King of England had requested them to return and nothing had changed. They were under such oppression, they were willing to venture off to an unknown land.  If they had only known what the trip ahead of them would be like.  It is thought that the King wanted them to go to the new world to stake out some land. It's hard to believe things could have been so terrible that they were willing to risk the unknown.

For three months they lived on this tiny boat carrying 102 passengers and about 25-30 crew and 3 of them were pregnant women.  One baby was born while on their voyage.  I never thought about it, but they traveled during hurricane season!  They didn't have doppler radar back then to help them navigate weather.  I can't even imagine what it was like sharing a small boat with all those other people.  No privacy and no dramamine!

I can't imagine that life could have been so bad that they would rather sail across a big ocean just for religious freedom. It must have been pretty difficult. It's sad to think how often we take our religious freedom for granted. When they arrived, they set foot on Plymouth rock, which now there is not much left of it. The rock broke when they moved it to the center of town as a reminder of what they endured and the reward. After centuries of visitors, this little rock is all that is left.
This story reminded me of a passage in the Psalms that we read every Thanksgiving eve.  It's Psalm 107.  It begins with "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south." (Psalm 107:1-3)  I wonder if the Pilgrims thought about this passage while crossing the endless ocean. Later in the passage, it says "Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters.24 They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep. 25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. 26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. 27  They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end.28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven." (Psalm 107:23-30)
I am sure, after 3 months on the sea, they were beyond grateful to see this new land that greeted them.  It wasn't long after they had arrived the harsh winter came and diseases took the lives of most of the people. All that they gone through to get to the new world and then they didn't live to see their dreams fulfilled.

This story touched me as I listened to the lady at the tourist center tell me all of this.  I had no idea and to be honest never really thought much about it.  But it has changed my perspective of what people are willing to endure for freedom.  

The pilgrims landed in the new world in 1620.  Here we are 2016, almost 400 years later, still celebrating their victory.  I am thankful God has blessed us with this great country! I am grateful for those who had the courage to make the journey and prepare the way for us. I am grateful that to this day we still have the freedom of worship! I am grateful for those who gave their lives to keep our freedom!

Jesus did that for us when he came to earth as a man.  He stepped down from Heaven to the depths of the earth.  He calmed the wind and seas. He healed the sick. He saved the lost. Then he was willing to go to the cross to bring us out of our distress.  Because of his willingness to give his life for us, we will one day be in our desired haven called Heaven and gather at His table for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb and give Him thanks! (Revelation 19:9) Oh what a Thanksgiving day that will be! One that will last for eternity!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family and may God Bless America!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: The Keep-Sake Tree

It's once again that time of year when my house begins to transform into a Christmas wonderland. As the days get shorter and darkness comes early, the sooner I can get my house transformed means in those dark hours, the lights from my trees light the room.  Yes, I did say trees.  I am one of those people that loves to have a tree in every room. From table top trees to 9 foot trees, every room has a Christmas tree.

 Each tree is themed. To me, a Christmas tree can tell a story by the decorations it holds.  I love all of my trees, but there's one that is actually where my heart lives.  It's our keepsake tree.  It's the tree that began in December of 1992. Jeff and I got married in November and we received ornaments as gifts. My mother-in-law started a tradition of giving us a Hallmark ornament with our picture every year.  This tree started out as a 4 foot table top, but has since grown into the 9 foot tree. The tree if filled with special ornaments from Hallmark keepsakes, vacation destinations, handmade by my children, and ornaments I've inherited after the loss of loved ones. This tree truly is the heart of our home.

 As I began unpacking the crates with these precious decorations, the Holy Spirit began to stir my heart with some thoughts. It all came together in my morning devotions when a particular scripture jumped off the page.  This scripture pulled it all together for me.  This is the story of the eternal keepsake tree.

 The Christmas tree is usually an evergreen. This means it never changes color like trees with leaves. This tree is green, even in the coldest and darkest months. This symbolizes eternal life. The lights in the tree are symbolic of Jesus being the light of the world. As I looked at my tree, I realized the tree really symbolizes the cross. Over 2000 years ago, the light of the world hung on a tree to conquer sin and death once and for all.

One morning I was doing my daily Bible reading and I came across this scripture in Isaiah. "Look around you and see, for all your children will come back to you. As surely as I live,” says the Lord, “they will be like jewels or bridal ornaments for you to display." (Isaiah 49:18 NLT) All of the sudden, I looked at those ornaments that are placed so purposefully on my tree and realized we are God's ornaments. Each of us is like an ornament to God. Jesus died for every one of us. Just as my ornaments are from special people and places and given or bought throughout our marriage. We, like these ornaments are different and even though we were purchased at Jesus' death, we are placed on the tree in purposeful locations and are collected over the years.

Thinking about what keepsake really means, I felt the Holy Spirit ask me to separate the word and define each word. The word "keep" is to have possession of. The word "sake" is in order to preserve.  Think about that. Jesus died for us so that we could become His "keepsake." First Peter 2:9 says, "But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." We were chosen by God to be His ornaments to show others the goodness of God. The light of Jesus shines through us, just like the lights on the tree highlight the ornaments. It's really the light behind the ornaments that give them their beauty. 

What a picture this is to me of salvation and what Jesus did for us at the cross. As we head into the darkest days of the year and not only seasonally, but truly as we seem to be heading into the the darkest days of this pandemic, it's time for the ornaments of Christ to shine. It's in these times when we can allow the glory of God to work through us giving a lost world hope for the future.

We were are here on this earth for such a time as this. Jesus told us we were the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). It's time for us to shine the love of Jesus to the hopeless, fearful, sick, and the lost. This Christmas, my prayer is that the Keepsake Tree of Jesus would be surrounded with those who choose the gift of eternal life. He said in John 12:32, "And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (NLT) I pray this Christmas the cross shines brighter than ever.



Saturday, November 14, 2020

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: The Path of Life

I took a walk this morning and decided to take a different path. I came to this mosaic walkway. The ground was damp and a bit slippery so I was careful as I walked it. Then I stopped and listened to that still small voice. This is a picture of life. Psalm 119:105 says “God’s word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”

This was such a visual of life for me. The fear of making a mistake, being hurt, missing something, has kept me from being courageous. I was careful as I walked because I didn't want to fall.  Falling is humiliating and embarrassing. But the truth is, we have already fallen. When mankind fell at the beginning of time, it was then the path of life became broken. (Genesis 3)
In the course of our lives, our broken pieces get broken too. Today as I stand on the other side of a difficult season, I can see God at work, reshaping, replacing, and restoring. Even the shadows on the path remind me of the times when it’s dark. I love mosaics because they are so amazing to look at. How each piece is placed perfectly, even in it’s imperfect form. The Holy Spirit is the mortar that fits it all together. We are broken people living in a broken world, walking a broken path. But if we allow the love of Jesus to fill us and the word of God to lead us, the journey can be a beautiful one. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT God takes the broken pieces of our lives and makes a beautiful mosaic.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Lawlessness and Disorder (2020 version)

In light of what we've seen around the U.S. these past few days, I thought I would re-post this blog I wrote 10 years ago.  Things were rumbling then with unrest as it was during an election when we were voting on laws.  This year we are heading for another election and 2020 has definitely birthed some of the unrest that like the lava underneath the earth's surface that has begun to erupt. This past week the volcano started spouting and it is all because of the anger and rage that is burning within mankind. There are wounds of people in this country that have never been healed. There is only one who can bring healing and wholeness to the U.S. and He's the One who we have removed. We've taken God out of everything! We see now in our recent quarantine of COVID19, that the Church is non-essential. People don't see the need and yet we are in a time that we need the love of Jesus more than ever. 

The following thoughts are what was on my heart 10 years ago. I feel that they are more relevant today, than they were then. So much has changed for the worst and has happened in the past 10 years, yet at the same time, we have not resolved any of the issues that are still burning in the hearts of man today.

In recent years, our elections have been very interesting. Some of the propositions we have had on our ballots would have never been considered as early as10 years ago. The television ads that seem to run endlessly during the weeks prior to an election can be a bit confusing. Most of the time I believe the proposition ads talk in circles as to confuse the voter. As followers of Jesus, we shouldn't base our decisions necessarily on moral issues, but on the Kingdom of God principles. What does God's Word say about the things man's law is trying to pass. It would seem that it is "lawfulness" against "lawlessness" and "order" against "disorder."

This week we read 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 and the title of this chapter in my NIV Bible is "The Man of Lawlessness." Verses 1- 12 says, "
Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him. 2 Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. 3 Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. 4 He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God. 

5 Don’t you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you? 6 And you know what is holding him back, for he can be revealed only when his time comes. 7 For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way. 8 Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming.

9 This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. 10 He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. 11 So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. 12 Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth."

Verse 12 hits the nail on the head, so to speak. Mankind today would rather enjoy evil living rather than believing the truth. The most controversial propositions are not about freedom as much as they are selfish and considered "rebellion" in the eyes of God. Rebellion is the same as witchcraft so these issues are definitely "lawlessness." They are all about instant gratification. We talk about the future of our country, yet we really don't think about the side effects it will have on people in future of our country. 

It is so disheartening to see our country so divided right now. We are in the midst of a political civil war. Laws are given to promote order and safety. There is still a small majority who vote for lawfulness and order. But the more we promote rebellion that majority is losing voters with every election. It is like some underworld movie Arnold Swartzenegger or Sylvester Stallone would play in. It is a world full of bitter, angry, hateful, and murderous citizens.

In the Book of Lamentations Jeremiah is mourning the destruction of Jerusalem from Babylon. It says "Jerusalem has sinned greatly, so she has been tossed away like a filthy rag. All who once honored her now despise her, for they have seen her stripped naked and humiliated. All she can do is groan and hide her face. 9 She defiled herself with immorality and gave no thought to her future. Now she lies in the gutter with no one to lift her out. “Lord, see my misery,” she cries. “The enemy has triumphed.”10 The enemy has plundered her completely, taking every precious thing she owns. She has seen foreigners violate her sacred Temple, the place the Lord had forbidden them to enter. 11 Her people groan as they search for bread. They have sold their treasures for food to stay alive. “O Lord, look,” she mourns, “and see how I am despised." (Lamentations 1:8-11, NLT) This passage of scripture is so fitting for the current condition as a country.

Having the right to choose is what makes the United States of America great. But when the majority of the people are choosing out of a rebellious heart, it can be a dangerous place. It is said that history repeats itself and this isn't the first time a country has been teetering on the side of destruction. The disturbing part about all of this is that it is all done in the name of peace. Unfortunately, the heart of rebellion is not peace. It is wickedness which is the cause of lawlessness and disorder. It is a counterfeit peace that is truly the spirit of anti-Christ. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." That is why He sent His son Jesus to the earth. Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Only His peace can bring law and order.

Sunday, May 31, 2020


"The eye is the window to the soul." Most of us have heard that saying before. Yesterday, there was a photo of people wearing different masks that was an advertisement that I received in my email. Something about it caught my attention. For anyone who watched the video I posted the other day, you heard me say that I do not like masks. But as I looked at the photo, the Holy Spirit began to speak and remind me of something.
Matthew 6:21-23 says, "For the eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" I was reminded of listening to a Hebrew scholar years ago talk about the Ayin tovah. The Ayin tovah, is the goodness from within and it was essentially a way to determine good and bad in the heart of man. 
It gave me a new perspective on wearing a mask. One of the reasons I don't like the mask, is not just that I feel as though I can't breath in it, but it's that I can't smile at another person as I pass them in the store. In most cases as I look eye to eye with a stranger, I see and feel the fear that they are feeling and it's very heavy. Rarely have I seen someone smile either through their mask. Psalm 38:10 says, "My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes." This really is what I sense in most people as I'm out and about.
In the photo, it's clear that the models were smiling. Mostly because that's their job. But as a follower of Jesus, it my job to be a light. Jesus told us in Matthew 5, verses 14-16,"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." 
I'd like to interpret verse 15 for our current crisis as "Neither do people light a lamp and cover it with a mask." But if I am going to do my part and wear my mask in public, then I am making a promise to allow the light of Jesus within me to shine brighter than ever.
I will close with an except from a website post that I found on the Ayin tovah:
"Ayin tovah is the outlook of faith, hope, and love; it is the Kingdom of God Perspective... Seeing others with ayin tovah helps them believe in their worth, and that, in turn, carries over to the world they inhabit. Living by the principle of charity therefore is a means of repairing our world, inviting the best of each other to be disclosed without fear. It is a message of love and grace to others in our lives: You are important; you are valuable; you matter; your life has eternal significance... Choosing to see the best in others often leads them to see their true worth." (

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Live By the Sword

It is day 31, I think, of our mandatory quarantine. It's 6:00 am on Sunday morning. I've been awake now for a few hours. My heart is now becoming heavy.  The first few weeks of quarantine were actually nice.  Life seemed somewhat stress free.  We made the adjustments of working from home and even doing church online seemed to  make the switch with some ease. But Easter came and something shifted.  I don't know if it was the let down of not getting dressed up in something new, the gathering of church family, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus with family members for lunch, but that seemed to be the peak of this life of quarantine.

Over the next few days, something shifted. That peacefulness and stress-less life changed. My dreams have been much more active and I wonder if it could be from the lack of activity that my subconscious is reacting.  When this time of isolation began, I had a lot of faith and hope that we were going to see the Holy Spirit move in a new way.  We prayed for changed in 2020 and clear vision.  We certainly got the change, but as far as the vision goes, it's become more blurred.

The other morning, I woke up completely confused.  I had a dream that Jeff and I had a leadership conference in Temecula.  Temecula is southern California's wine country.  I'm not sure why there except we are either in need of wine or God was speaking to me about that location. Are we, as a church, being put into new wineskins? 

But in this dream Jeff kept referring to Isaiah 54:17, "no weapon formed against us shall prosper..." He had made a small paper "knife-like sword."  He said, "This is not a sword and this is what most of us carry as a sword."  Then out of butcher paper, he made a life-size fencing type sword.  He told the leadership that we were going to be making these for each one of us.  He had run out of paper and we had to buy it from CVS. It was then I woke up with wonder on my mind.

Was God speaking to us? What are paper swords? I did find it interesting that Jeff kept quoting Isaiah 54:17.  I decided to read that verse and it was interesting, which makes me believe now God was talking to me in my dream. It says, "But in that coming day no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the LORD; their vindication will come from me. I, the LORD, have spoken!" (NLT). Now the question is what does this mean.

I began to pray and as it literally began to unfold, this is what it means.  First of all, why butcher paper?  That seems so odd, but as I looked back, when I was a cheerleader, we would make team signs on butcher paper. The signs were to encourage our players to give their best and to "go, fight, win!"  We obviously know this type of paper is to wrap meat in when you get it from a butcher. I believe the paper sword represents the Word of God. We know in Ephesians 6:17 says to "take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."  The word of God is meat in a spiritual sense. In these days of crisis, we are not just fighting a physical disease, but if we aren't eating spiritual meat, we will not be able to sustain. But also as I mentioned, butcher paper is what we used to make signs on.  The paper sword represents encouragement. Habakkuk 2:1-3 says, "I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint. 2 Then the Lord said to me, "Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. 3 This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed." (NLT)

Then lastly, why CVS? We know in reality, they don't carry butcher paper, but CVS is a place where we can purchase essential items and pick up medicine. The word of God is essential in our lives and in this time of disease it is also healing.  If we read the word of God daily, we are getting what is essential for us to sustain in this time of crisis, but also it will bring healing as we rest in Him.

I think this is a word for our church family that we are in a critical season.  Thinking about this, I realized as we are quarantined in our homes to keep us safe from being infected, but because we can't gather corporately we are being affected. This is a time for us to track with the daily bible reading and interact on the video chats.  The Holy Spirit is there in our midst, even if it is online.  Growing together in the word is crucial to this body.

I believe the word in this dream summed up is this: God is doing a new thing, He's making streams in the wasteland, of the internet. (Isaiah 43:19). We are being put in new wineskins,
"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17 NLT) As a Church we need to be eating the Word of God together daily and meeting together via video to continue growing, "‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”(Matthew 4:4). The past 6 years have been training us for this season. Jesus said, "Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." I believe for us as a Church this means for us to put the word of God at the forefront of our lives. By putting the sword back in it's place, means it should be the first thing we turn to in our minds so we will be preserved and healed at the same time. No weapons of disease or financial loss formed against us will prosper. We will "live by the sword." And specifically the paper sword.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Stones of Remembrance

Today is the day we remember that Jesus conquered death! As I read through the events of that day this morning in Luke 24, the Holy Spirit caught my attention with something.

I want to share my story of God’s faithfulness to keep His promise to us.  Back in 2010 we moved from Irvine to Mission Viejo.  It was during the time when the housing market was a wreck.  Every house was a short sale and making an offer really meant putting your name in a lottery and if you had cash, your offer had a chance to be accepted.  Unfortunately, we were first time buyers so that meant we work looking at a different kind of loan.

We had no idea the challenges we were going to face. I remember one night, in the middle of the night, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “You’re going to have to go through this, but don’t worry, I will be with you.”  I had no idea what that meant until about a week later when Jeff told me the house we were in was going on the market and we had to move. I never dreamed in a million years the struggle it was going to be for the next 16 months. 

Long story short, we rented a house off Craig’s list. It was too good to be true. Looked at it and signed the lease that day. Rent was in our range and it was going to be month to month which was fine because we had made an offer on a house in the same neighborhood. 

The day we moved into the house, our life, as we knew it was over. The owner had leans on the house and had people stalking the house, threatening lawsuits and trying to remove us from the home. At first, we were okay because we were waiting on the offer to be accepted on the other house. That’s when we found out the short sale process. We were always denied. In 12 months we made 28 offers all to be rejected. The house ended up foreclosing and went back to the bank. Jeff decided we were going to buy this house. We met with the agent representing this house and he said it couldn’t happen. But we proceeded. For the next four months we were receiving eviction notices while we were trying to get our offer accepted.  Again, long story short, we almost lost it all, but just like God does, He came through at the last hour. We had been in the most stressful time of our life.  When it was all said and done, we were able to change from a first-time buyer situation to a conventional loan AND we closed exactly one year to the day we had moved in.

I wanted to share this with you to encourage you that God is faithful.  God is faithful to His promises.  I was reminded of Deuteronomy 27:2-3, “When you have crossed the Jordan into the land the Lord your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. Write on them all the words of this law when you have crossed over to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.” When it was time to cross over into the Promised Land, God told Joshua each tribe was to get a stone from the middle of the Jordan river and carry it over to the other side and make an alter to remind them of God’s faithfulness.  He told them to do this so that when their children asked what those stones meant, they could tell them of God’s promise.

After we closed on this house, one of our first projects was a water feature. I had always wanted a waterfall of some kind.  Jeff took giant rocks from our property and built a waterfall out of them.  But this waterfall was not just a pretty feature in our yard, it was our memorial of stones reminding us of God’s faithfulness to provide.

As we are stuck in this unending quarantine, that corner of my yard is my haven. It’s my daily reminder of God’s goodness, even when I fail. Especially now as I sit here and write this, the times are challenging financially, BUT if God could do the impossible with our house and dealing with the banks, He is big enough to take care of His people in this uncertain time.

As we celebrate the resurrection of the promise of His son, Jesus conquering death, I was reminded of another memorial stone. The stone that covered the tomb where Jesus’ body was placed was a source of controversy. The Pharisees requested that it be guarded so the disciples couldn’t carry His body away. (Matthew 27:62-66) Then there were the women who were taking the burial spices and they were concerned who would remove the stone so they could get in. (Mark 16:1-3) Then the chief priests and elders paid off the soldiers, who were guarding the tomb. The soldiers were so afraid, they had passed out when the angels showed up to roll the stone away. (Matthew 28:4) The chief priests and elders told the soldiers to tell people that the disciples stole the body. (Matthew 28:11-15) And in the mean time, the disciples were in hiding. (John 20:19)

This stone of remembrance is definitely one to remember.  God was always telling His people to remember where they had come from and to celebrate their victories.  On this Resurrection Sunday, specifically April 12, 2020, when we were unable to gather as the Body of Christ, the Truth is still the same.  Jesus bridged the gap between us our Heavenly Father and even more important he conquered death once and for all.  O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55  This is truly The Stone of Remembrance!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

New Normal

At 7:20 am, I tied my tennis shoes, grabbed my keys and purse and said to my husband, "I'm off to hunt and gather." He looked at me with a puzzled look and said, "this early?"  

It's been two weeks since this "shelter in place" life began. I had heard over the past few weeks that if you needed toilet paper or paper towels, you had to be at the store before it opened. It was time for me to learn the new way of shopping.

When I arrived, there were about 5 cars in the parking lot. I decided that I would sit in my car and wait since there wasn't anyone standing in line yet.  I called my mom and chatted for a bit and as we chatted, the cars began to show up. I decided I should go see if these lines were true.  To my surprise there was already a line of about 20 people!  We were all spaced 6 feet apart. I felt the Holy Spirit remind me to put on the armor of God before I went in. " Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:13-17)  

As soon as the clock struck 8:00 am, the train began to roll.  I say train because that was exactly what it looked like.  All of us with our carts following behind one another straight back to the toilet paper/paper towel section.  I was chuckling inside because I really couldn't believe I was actually following a line of people to the toilet paper corner.  About half way there, a guy comes around the corner and yells, "well we're out of luck today. No paper goods." I stayed in line because I just needed to see for my self. I think everyone else did too.  He was right, the aisle was bare. It was so sad. 

I pushed my cart down the aisle with a heaviness in my soul. The store was unusually quiet and the shoppers stayed the appropriate distance from each other. No store clerks walking around either.  I picked up a few things that were on my list and decided that I was going to take some time to walk and pray. The final word in Ephesians 6 is "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people."  I felt the Holy Spirit again tell me to pray. As I traveled up and down the aisles praying in the Spirit, I could literally feel the weight of shame. Ashamed not only for giving into the entitled life that I have been living, but our country in general.  I was immediately reminded of 2 Chronicles 7:14 that says, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."  Jeff has often said God gives us to chance to humble ourselves. If we don't do it, then we will be humbled whether we like it or not.  That's what I was feeling  as I looked at this naked aisle.  I was standing there ashamed.  I mean, toilet paper? Really? Really. 

I repented, in Target of all places. I asked the Lord to forgive me and us, as a country for living so entitled and prideful. As I sit here writing this, my mind is flooding with all the things we've put before God. We have lived in a country that has built idols. Lots of them. From entertainment, sporting events, cellphones, social media, politics, racism, restaurants, coffee, wine, and the obvious, money. Think about it, there's an "iron bull" statue on Wall Street! We live to serve the stock market. It reminds me of the golden calf the Israelites worshiped after they left Egypt. They took the gold and silver they had collected from the Egyptians and rather than give it to God and worship Him, they chose to make a an idol with it. (Exodus 32)  When people chose what they thought was right in their own eyes, which we have done, they were called wicked. We've become wicked people because we feed our flesh whatever it wants and now we can hardly find toilet paper to clean up after the waste! And I'm not excluding the Church. As Christians we are no different because we expect our churches to model the world.  Are the seats comfortable? It's too cold or too hot in the sanctuary.  Who has the best worship? We don't even care what the pastor has to say anymore. It just matters if the church is cool and is it relevant to the culture today. I apologize for my truthfulness, but I know too many people who call themselves Christians that don't even go to church because they've decided the church is full of hypocrites.

So here we are today, March 26th, 2020 quarantined to our homes because of a virus. No more entertainment, sporting events, club sports, school, college, dining out, going to bars and clubs. Even church is closed. Personally, I feel like God is taking this terrible thing that has happened and He's turning it for good (Romans 8:28). He has given us a chance to reboot and to reclaim our lives again. To see that we can live without all the "stuff" and realize what is important. First, that we can only depend on Him for provision, not in our jobs or ourselves. Second, we are now having family time and eating meals together at home.  This was always an important thing with God. I mean, the first thing we do when Jesus returns is eat together, "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”" (Revelation 19:9)

I want to close with this. Should this become our "new normal," what are you learning from it? What things have you put before God? I am with you in this. I have complained and put things first, but I really feel like the Holy Spirit is speaking loud and clear to me.  This is just the beginning of diseases and virus' to come. Look how easy it is to shut down businesses and jobs. Proverbs 19:21 says, "You can make many plans, but the Lord's purpose will prevail."  From the very beginning, He wanted a relationship with us. It's time to get this Nation back under Him. Jesus came so we could have life and life more abundantly (John 10:10).  Jesus didn't give His life so we could squander it in the material things. He gave His life so we could live in relationship with God, be blessed and spend eternity with Him. Take some time to think about this. He knows you have the time, because we're in a quarantine.  Get out your Bible that's been on the shelf or go to the Bible online and read some "good news." Let Him speak to you and fill your life with His love.  Let that become your "new normal."

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Last One

It's March 12, 2020 and as of today, this photo is what fear looks like. Yes, that's right, the last roll of toilet paper. I am writing this because my heart is aching right now at the hopelessness and fear that has grabbed hold of the world.

In mid January, we were introduced to a new virus called Coronavirus also called COVID-19.  I lived through the bird flu, I lived through swine flu and even the Ebola outbreak.  But this particular one has people in complete panic.  

Today, I was out doing my regular grocery shopping, I couldn't believe how empty the shelves were.  I went to four places and each place there was a limited supply or no supply of basic necessities. I had heard the stories of toilet paper hoarding, but didn't think it was really happening in my community.  At least the last time I was at the store the shelves were stocked.  But today, there was a spirit of fear that seemed to sit on those shelves. It wasn't just empty shelves of toilet paper, the food aisles were also bare. I could not believe what I was feeling as I stood there in the middle aisle as people shoved and pushed one another.  Actually, I was stuck because there was a lady on her phone talking about the empty shelves, not paying attention to the people around her and her cart was in the middle of the aisle.  A lady behind me said, "can I get by?" It was then I realized how selfish we as humans really are.  When we are faced with fear, we become so self absorbed that others don't matter anymore. That's why all the hoarding of basic needs. We don't care if others have their needs met, we just want to make sure we're protected.

 As I stood there in that aisle, my heart sank and all I could do was pray and ask the Lord to help us.  As a follower of Jesus, I am not supposed to live in fear.  I must confess, I do get fearful more than I should about things, but for some reason this is different.  I'm not afraid of getting this virus. I'm not afraid of death.  What I am concerned is that people who call themselves Christians would play right into fears hands.  If we as people of faith fall into this trap of panic, then we are hypocrites. The Bible is the word of God and if we conform to the fear, then we are saying God has no power or authority and His word is void (Isaiah 55:11NLT).  We should be the ones bringing hope to the lost. Romans 15:13 says, "Our hope comes from God. May He fill you with joy and peace because of your trust in Him. May your hope grow stronger by the power of the Holy Spirit."  It's in these times that we should rise above the occasion and share, but even more "be" the love of God.  "There is no fear in love. Perfect love puts fear out of our hearts. People have fear when they are afraid of being punished. The man who is afraid does not have perfect love." (1 John 4:18 NIV) 

I want to encourage the Body of Christ that it's times like these that we need to shine like a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14). We need the joy of the Lord to be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). The harvest is becoming ripe (Luke 10:2). I want to challenge us to speak the word of God out loud daily over our lives, to share the good news of Jesus with the fearful. We've been praying for a revival, it's in these times that it happens. You see, God wants every "last one" of us to experience His love, glory, grace and mercy and ultimately dwell in eternity with Him.  He does not want any one to perish (2 Peter 3:9). 

Let me encourage you today to live as children of light (Ephesians 5:8). Proverbs 17:22 says that a "joyful heart is good medicine." We can give those who are afraid a dose of joy. Let's overcome this fear with faith and panic with peace. Let the love of Jesus become an epidemic and see lives changed and hope restored to every last one. 

(Empty shelves photo: Christy Alesi)