Archive | December 2013

It’s the Day Before the Day Before New Year’s Eve!

Whoopee.  We’re not big party-ers around here, I’m afraid, and the older we get, the more it is true.  Oh, I try.  I’m a night owl, so every year I put together a pretty table of goodies in the hope that someone will stay up and watch the New Year come in on television with me and celebrate just a little, but every year it’s the same old story.  Lo-o-ong before midnight Bob zonks out.  Can’t say that I blame him.  He is an early bird and is up two or three hours before I am.  Normally that works out well for us.  I take the late shift with Robbie, and then Bob lets me sleep in a little and he takes care of Robbie’s early morning needs.  I don’t think even a real party on New Year’s Eve would keep him up ‘til midnight.

Then there’s Robbie.  Even he has deserted me!  Just about any other night of the year someone magically flips a switch at the stroke of midnight and our quiet, sleeping boy turns into a party animal and makes as much joyful noise as he can make with his most obnoxiously noisy toys.  [See my blog “Finding the Words to Say” from April 14, 2013.]  But come New Year’s Eve and he’s snuggled in next to Daddy and dreaming of dancing sugar-plum fairies at midnight.  (Really???)

I’m pretty sure this Tuesday night I’ll get phone calls an hour early from the Naranjos in Ecuador and maybe even two hours late from the Sanchez family in California as they celebrate, but there won’t be any fireworks or toasting or kissing going on around here.  I guess you could say on the highway of life, we’re just a bunch of speed bumps.

When I was growing up, our church always had a “Watchnight Service” on New Year’s Eve.   It was a highlight of our year and we wouldn’t think of missing it.  The evening was filled with singing, a Christian movie or maybe some games, goodies down in the fellowship hall, and then as midnight approached, Communion around the Lord’s Table.  As the clock struck twelve, we were ushering in the New Year in prayer, while we could hear fireworks going off outside the church.  When the final “Amen” was said, we hugged or kissed our loved ones sitting nearby.  Happy New Year!

Jesus asked His disciples to stay up late one night with Him—not to celebrate but to prayThey had just finished the Passover meal and Jesus wanted to go to Gethsemane.  Within hours He would be betrayed, judged and crucified.  “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.  And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.  Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.  And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.  And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?  Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.  He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.  And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.  And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.  Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”  (Matthew 26:36-45)

When Jesus told the disciples to watch, what did He mean?  The word watch in the Greek means to “stay awake” or “be sleepless.”  Beyond the physical sense of the word, He wanted them to be vigilant, to be on guard, aware, alert and focused.  He knew He was about to be betrayed and He wanted these, His closest friends and disciples, to stand with Him.  Instead, they fell asleep.

Jesus then took His request one step further than merely asking them to stay physically awake when He said to Peter, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.Essentially, He was saying, “Be vigilant and pray, Peter, so that you will have the strength to withstand temptation and sin!  I know your intentions are good, but your human willpower is weak.”

He asks the same thing of us.  Romans 13:11 says, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.Wake up from your spiritual sleep!  Be vigilant!  Jesus is coming again quickly and it is urgent that we each be spiritually prepared and working to help others be prepared as well.

As a kid, I wondered why we called it “watchnight.”  I guess I just assumed it meant we were watching the New Year come in.  Now as an adult I understand that the term signifies a two-pronged question:  Will this New Year be the one in which Jesus returns—and are we watching and praying vigilantly in preparation?

May 2014 AD be the year!

It’s the Day Before the Day Before Christmas Eve!

I can scarcely believe it!  I feel like I’ve been sitting on the sidelines this year as the Christmas season has slid in just under the radar.  My tree is finally up and decorated almost three weeks later than normal—and it took a full week from start to finish to finally get ‘er done!  It is pretty much the only thing that got decorated this year.  Except for a tablecloth, comforter and a couple of Christmas towels, the rest of the house is its same ol’, same ol’.  It is all I could handle this year with my injured foot.

I missed most of the hustle and bustle of the season (which is a good thing!)  and did the majority of my gift shopping on the internet.  I also missed out on our church’s Christmas cantata, seeing the church decorated for Christmas, singing carols and hearing Christmas messages—not a good thing.  The few gifts I have here to be wrapped are still waiting.  I will get to them tomorrow or the next day—sliding in just under the wire.  I have a small stack of Christmas cards to write out tonight and mail tomorrow.  They will be late arriving, of course.  I’m baking just one lonely little batch of cookies tomorrow night…

Who is this woman who for decades has enjoyed all the month-long preparations for Christmas and was always on top of it all???

Oh, I know these are just the outer trappings of Christmas.  I have always felt, though, that all the effort and time we put into celebrating Christmas is worthy of the remembrance of our Savior’s birth on earth.  There were no preparations for that momentous event two thousand years ago, yet we spend weeks preparing these days to celebrate it!  There were only a handful of people there to rejoice at His birth when it happened.  Now millions, billions of people rejoice!  We despise the commercialization of Christmas, but the gifts we give one another at this time of year are symbolic and a reminder of the unspeakable gift God gave the world, salvation through His Son Jesus Christ.  There is no other event through the year in which we invest more time, effort and preparation than the celebration of Christ’s coming to earth to dwell among us and that is a good thing!

Yes, all these outward preparations are fine but I hope with all of that, our hearts are being prepared as well.  As we decorate our homes to welcome His birth, are our hearts adorned with praise and gratitude that He chose to dwell with us and in us if we would have Him?  As we prepare for the gift-giving to one another, do we think about the gift we can give back to Him—our lives in worship and service to Him?  As we prepare our Christmas goodies and feasts and look forward to time spent with family and friends, do we spend time in fellowship and communion with Him first of all?  Israel looked forward to the coming of the Messiah for centuries, yet when He did come, they were unprepared to receive Him.  John the Baptist was “…to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  (Luke 1:17) and indeed, he cried to all who would hear, Prepare ye the way of the Lord…” (Mark 1:3)  As we prepare for this Christmas, let us be sure our hearts are prepared, as well.

And don’t forget—Jesus is coming again!  Now is the time to prepare for His second coming!  We are to be watching and waiting and working to bring others with us when He comes to take us away from the wrath that is to come at His second coming.   “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.  Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.”  (Mark 13:32-33)  Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. (Luke 12:40)  Let us be prepared—ready, waiting and watching for the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Joy to the World!

I think I’ve mentioned before that we do a little “Sing-Along-with-Robbie” almost every Saturday night with our friend Mark and his guitar.  Mark loves Robbie and feels led to minister to him in this way—and we all reap the blessings from it.  It is a sweet time of fellowship and it brings a smile to Robbie’s face—and to ours as we watch our boy enjoying this special time that is just for him.  The music isn’t always the greatest as we three sixty-somethings make a joyful noise, but Robbie bobs his head in time to the music and sometimes hums along or even sings his own one-note version.  Bob and I decided to give Robbie a small guitar for Christmas just like Mr. Mark’s.  He won’t be able to really play it, of course, but he can hold it across his lap and pluck at the strings.

This last weekend we decided to do Christmas carols and songs at our little sing-along.  Robbie has his favorites, so we started off with those—Silent Night, Away in a Manger, O Come All Ye Faithful, Jingle Bells…  He was loving it!  Then we moved on to Joy to the World, which has always been one of my favorites, as well.  I made a discovery at that point that surprised me—the kind of revelation that always makes me wonder, “How did I ever get to this ripe old age without seeing this before???”

Joy to the World is one of those carols that is so familiar and well-loved that most of us know the lyrics by heart—not just the first verse but at least one or two other verses, as well.  We sing or hear it many times each Christmas season and often close a Christmas service or program with a big, rousing, triumphant rendition of it, filling our hearts with joy and goodwill toward all!  It is the most published Christmas hymn in North America.

Only Joy to the World is not a Christmas carol at all!  If you really concentrate on the words as you sing, you will see that this hymn is not speaking of Jesus’ first coming to earth as a babe in the manger, but of His second coming as Christ the Messiah, the King, ruler and healer of Heaven and earth.  Every nation, every knee shall bow before Him, and that certainly wasn’t true of His first coming.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

No more let sin and sorrow grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of his love
And wonders of his love
And wonders and wonders of his love.

The lyrics were written by an English hymn writer named Isaac Watts in 1719 and based on Psalm 98.  Watts (1674-1748) has been called the “Father of English Hymnology.”   You will see his name on many of the old hymns we cherish—Come Ye that Love the Lord (Marching to Zion); O God, Our Help in Ages Past; When I Survey the Wondrous Cross; Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed; I Sing the Mighty Power of GodThe music to Joy to the World was composed by Lowell Mason in 1839 and is believed to be based in part, at least, on Handel’s Messiah.

Have you ever thought, “Oh, I wish I could have been one of those shepherds in the field two thousand years ago and heard the angels’ announcement of the Baby’s birth”?  Or “What was it like for Mary and Joseph to look down on this tiny newborn and realize that this was God’s Son, come down from Heaven to dwell among us.”?  We can only imagine the awe and wonder they must have felt!

Well, we missed out on that first humble coming, but it could very well be in our lifetime that we experience His appearance when He returns in the clouds for His own—those of us who believe on Him—and then His triumphant second coming when He sets foot on earth again as King Jesus!  And even if it should happen after our lives here are over, we will still be witnesses of “that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13).

Revelation 19:11-16 tells us that not only will we be witnesses to His Second Coming, but that we will be participants of it as His mighty army, dressed all in white and upon white horses.  “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.  His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.  And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.  And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.  And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King Of Kings, And Lord Of Lords.”

Jesus came to earth the first time in Bethlehem as the Lamb, the ultimate sacrifice which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)  He will return and set foot on the Mount of Olives in His Second Coming as the ultimate judge and ruler of the world.  Those who have followed Him will rejoice.  All those who rejected Him will cry for the mountains to fall down upon them as they face His wrath and judgment.  “And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”  (Revelation 6:15-17)

Jesus said in Revelation 22:20, Surely I am come quickly.”   We who are His followers will join with believers from every tribe and nation on that day in singing “Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King!”  Truly, what a glorious day that will be!

Biscuit and Bubbles

Today is our Hannah’s tenth birthday!  Hannah is our seventh grandchild.  She is such a beautiful, sweet little girl, and as img_9334 (2)smart as they come!  She came into this world looking like a rosebud and was the little princess of the family after her two older brothers.  Now she has four older siblings since the adoption of another brother and, for the first time, a sister.  She is still the baby of the family, although she could pass for one of the teenagers as she is as tall as some of them.  Hannah has a very loving heart just like her mama and daddy.  She loves animals and is always trying to add to the family by bringing in some new “pet” or another, whether it be a butterfly, lizard, baby rabbit or some other critter she can chase around the yard.

She had been begging for a hamster for her birthday.  Julie was adamant—no hamster!  They already have two dogs, Pumpkin and Pebbles—enough in terms of vet bills, boarding bills when they go on vacation and responsibility.   She bought a couple toy hamsters and hoped Hannah would be happy with that.

The Sanchez family loves to celebrate birthdays BIG!  They decided to celebrate Hannah’s birthday yesterday instead of today since Sundays are filled up with church and don’t leave much time for birthday festivities.  Hannah wanted to go to a farm nearby where they raise miniature horses and invite visitors to stop by.  Unfortunately, it was pouring rain so that idea had to be postponed.  “Well, could we go to Petco instead and just look at the animals there?” our little animal-lover asked.

“Yes, but we are not bringing home a hamster!”  So off to the pet store they went.  And a couple hours later they came home—with a guinea pig instead!

“Biscuit” they called her.  I was incredulous!  “What happened?” I asked.  Julie had been so resolute in insisting there would be no more pets—especially rodents!

She started to gush.  Guinea pigs are so sweet, she said.  Docile and calm, great little companions who love to cuddle with their humans, easy to care for… she went on and on.  Sounded like Julie had fallen in love as easily as the kids had.  The moment that little critter had cuddled up to her and laid its tiny head on her chest, her nurturing instincts had kicked in and she was a goner.  David wasn’t any better.  So Biscuit came home as the family pet, not just Hannah’s.

They Skyped with us to show us their big surprise—and boy, were we surprised!  We talked for a while, but finally lost the connection and had to quit.  I called Julie back later and started off, “You crazy lady!  Bringing home a guinea pig!”

“Well, that’s not quite the end of the story, Mom,” Julie confessed.  It seems that after they finished Skyping with us, Julie got to thinking about what social little creatures guinea pigs were; how Biscuit’s cage was under a window and that it might get a little cold in the winter; how it wouldn’t really cost any more, or be any more work to care for two guinea pigs as it was for one…  Biscuit needed a sister!  Besides, they had just received a rebate check that was the exact amount another guinea pig would cost!  She went off to talk to David, and before you knew it, the whole family was on the way back to the pet store.  They came home with “Bubbles,” Biscuit’s little sister, playmate and cuddle companion!  (Let’s hope they both truly are girls!)

Crazy lady, indeed!  They now have two dogs, two guinea pigs, five kids, and hopefully, a new baby very soon (by adoption!)  That’s a houseful!

I spent some time this morning doing research on guinea pigs just out of curiosity.  What I discovered almost made me want to run out and get one (or two!) for myself!  Almost. It seems that we could all be a little more like the guinea pig—at least in temperament!

  • Guinea pigs are docile.  They almost never bite.  We, too, should refrain from being ugly to one another.  “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)  I wish we could all remember that more often—rather than jumping off the gun and being so quick to accuse, criticize, fight, take offense, or in other words—bite.  Romans 12:17- 21 says, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.  If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.   Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.  Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.  Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12:14 reminds us to, “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
  • Guinea pigs are sweet and gentle.  We should be known by our love, the Bible says, and have the fruit of the Spirit evident in our lives.  “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” (I John 4:7)  “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; (Romans 12:10)  “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…” (Galatians 5:22, 23)  The world should see a difference in our lives.


  • Guinea pigs are sociable, friendly and love to cuddle.  We are meant to love our neighbor as ourselves, to be supportive, to bear one another’s burdens and to just be there when we are needed.  The book of Proverbs has several things to say about friendship:  “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity…. A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother… Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.”  (Proverbs 17:17. 18:24, 27:9)  Romans 12:13, 15 reminds us “ Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.  Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.  (Romans 12:13, 15)  Edifying and encouraging others is not just for their benefit, but for ourselves as well.  The warmth we give out to others when we “cuddle,” is returned to us simultaneously.  “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;  Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.  And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  (Colossians 3:12-16)

Want to try a little experiment this week?  Be a guinea pig!  Or at least, act like one!  You will bless others—and yourself!

Happy Birthday, sweet Hannah!

Passport, Please!

Bob will be making a trip to Canada this week.  He works for a Canadian firm and on Thursday his boss passed away.  Bob had opportunities several times throughout this last year to minister to Ray and his wife and encourage them through the difficult weeks and months of his illness.  We prayed for them daily and were blessed ourselves to hear the testimony of their faith and certainty that Ray would be in Heaven when he left this earth.

When we got the news the other day, there was no doubt that Bob would go to the funeral.  He got some work done on the car in preparation and tied up a few loose ends that needed attention, as well.  “What about your passport?” I asked.  “Did you ever renew it?”  The last time he went to Canada he didn’t need it.  This time he would.

“I think so…” he replied.  We both strained our sixty-something brains trying to remember.  We recalled that he had intended to do so a few years ago, but couldn’t remember if he had actually carried through.  If he hadn’t, he would not be making that trip after all.

“Go get it out and make sure,” I urged.  It took him another day or two to get around to it, but last night he finally went to the safe to check on his passport’s expiration date.  It wasn’t there.  Neither was mine.  I knew mine was still valid, but the last time I had used it, Bob had taken it away from me for safe-keeping.  “You always forget where you put things when you put them ‘in a safe place’,” he had told me at the time.  Now he was the one who couldn’t find either of them!

I was a tad bit put out but I knew they could only be in one of three places, so I wasn’t panicking.  He kept some important papers in his top drawer and I knew at one time the passports had been there.  When we got a safe, he had moved them to the safe.  Later, we had bought a second, larger safe.  They had to be in one of the safes or in his top drawer.  Every time he came upstairs saying he couldn’t find them, I sent him back and said, “Look again!  They have to be there!”

Two hours later, after searching those three places two or three times, his desk and several other possible hidey-holes, he finally came back upstairs bearing a manila folder which, of course, held the passports.  He had not been looking for a folder, but for the little navy-blue booklets, and the folder had slipped down below some of the other folders, so he had not seen it anyway.  Whew!  And whew again—it was valid until the year 2020.  He had renewed it!  It gets to be pitiful thing when you’re in your sixties and this kind of thing happens more and more frequently!

Well, the passport issue is resolved now—until the next time we need one of them, anyway!  Bob will leave for Canada on Wednesday and because he has a valid passport, there should be no problem with him getting into Canada, and then returning to the USA on Friday.

I wrote a blog in October 2009 likening the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 to our passport for carrying the Gospel to the world.  “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”  These, the last words Christ spoke here on earth before He returned to Heaven, are the call He has given to all of us to take the Gospel to the world.

When the US government issues me my passport, all the authority of the United States of America stands behind it in allowing me to travel throughout the world.  Likewise, the Gospel is my authority from the Lord Himself to take the Good news of Jesus Christ throughout the world so that others may hear of Him and be saved.  Furthermore, the Great Commission is not just a call, but a commandment to His followers that we are to go in His name—in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost—and under His authority.

We sometimes think that the Great Commission is meant for the Church to carry out, but it personal to each one of us! My passport was issued to me and to me alone and it is unlawful for anyone else to use it.  The Great Commission is personal as well! If we are saved, we are individually to take part in the Great Commission in some way—whether it be here or abroad; whether it be through praying, giving or actually sharing the Good News of the Gospel ourselves. Our salvation is very personal thing.  When Jesus says “Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden,” that is very personal isn’t it? Well, someone once said, ‘Go ye’ is as much a part of Christ’s Gospel as ‘Come unto Me.’

My US passport not only tells me that I have the authority of the US government behind me, but that I also have its assistance if I run into trouble in a foreign country or have an emergency. I just have to contact the nearest US embassy or consulate. Matthew 28:20 says, “and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Christ promises right here in this passage to be with us always, no matter where we are in this world, when we are obeying His Great Commission. The authority and assistance of the US government is great, but far greater is God’s authority and help! He protects and equips us for whatever He has called us to do!

On the very first page of my passport the United States government requests that other countries allow me to enter. When I enter another country my passport is stamped. Each of these stamps inside my passport represents a nation. And each of these nations represents millions of lost souls. The Gospel is my passport to reach those lost souls, my passport to a world of lost souls! Let us never forget that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected for our salvation, is the passport to Heaven for each of those precious souls who believes in Him and accepts Him as their personal Savior.

Finally, let me say I am so thankful that I don’t need to have my passport in hand to enter Heaven!  No need to wonder where I left it, or if it is still valid!  My name was written n the Lamb’ Book of Life at the moment of my salvation, never to be erased or blotted out, and that is all I need to enter for all eternity!  Praise the Lord!