Friday, March 31, 2017

In Hot Pursuit of “the Barnabas Gift”

Notice a recurrent theme running throughout the Letters of Paul in the New Testament: “Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11). 

Why does Paul, the “addendum apostle,” since he was not one of the twelve who knew Jesus during the three years of his public ministry, repeatedly urge fledgling believers to “build up one another, encourage one another, and comfort each other”? (1 Cor. 14:3,4) 

If Paul had not received that same ministry from his friend and later coworker Barnabas, Paul might not have become the pioneer missionary, prime witness to Christ throughout the then-known world, foundational teacher of our Christian faith for centuries and millennia to come.

Without Barnabas to run front for him and vouch for his genuine conversion, Paul might not have been accepted by the apostles who were understandably suspicious of him because of his background as an enemy and persecutor of Christians. And without the encouragement and prophetic words of lay Christians Priscilla and Aquila, Paul's ministry might have been truncated or less spiritually on target (see 1 Cor. 2:2 and Acts 18:1-5) and we would not have the authentically inspired encouragement of Paul's letters in our New Testament.

So what does that have to do with me, a 21st century Christian? Paul addressed all believers throughout the ages when he said we should all prophesy, that it was one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we should be well aware of it. Paul clearly stated that we should earnestly desire to prophesy above all the other gifts of the Spirit and that every believer should practice it. (1 Corinthians 12-14)
Prophecy is not something mysterious or spooky, something over which we don't have self-control. The New Testament gift of prophecy is not the same as prophecy in the Old Testament, which was primarily concerned with predicting future events. (And if it didn't turn out as you said...they did away with you as a false prophet!)

Encouragement seems to be the most common way to express the gift of prophecy, speaking a word as from God. We are each responsible to build ourselves up on our most holy faith (Jude 20, 21). At the same time, every Christian is to be a “cheerleader” to encourage others. (Rom. 12:8; Heb.10:24) To prophesy means to inspire others to persevere in their faith, to walk closely with the Lord, to resist the constant accusations and temptations of the evil one, (Rev. 12:10) and to remain faithful under trial and suffering. Prophecy equips the saints so that the Body of Christ may be strengthened (Eph. 4:11, 12). If we minimize or disparage the gift of prophecy, or ignore it, we grieve the Holy Spirit who gives prophetic utterances (1 Thess. 5:19, 20). 

We are all to be “Barnabas people.” (Acts 4:36, 37; 9:27) In the early church Barnabas was so zealous in exercising prophecy that they called him “a son of encouragement.” (Acts 11:23; Heb. 3:13). Making it personal, isn't it sobering to think that without our words of prophetic encouragement offered to other believers, they might not fulfill the purpose and destiny of God through their lives?

From the context of the above passages it would seem that the gift of prophecy is not narrowly defined or restricted to preaching or exposition of Scripture in some formal setting by special people as in pulpit ministry. (14:1) Through prophecy lay Christians build one another up in the Body of Christ, the Church. Whatever spiritual gifts God gives are for someone else's spiritual benefit, not for the pride of the person exercising the gift. 
The Holy Spirit gives one or more spiritual gifts to each of us, no exceptions. The gifts of the Spirit may overlap, for instance sometimes it may take several spiritual gifts at once to deliver God's prophetic message. We don't have to be exceptional Christians to qualify. God may give us different gifts at different seasons of our lives or adapt them to the changing circumstances. The Holy Spirit is looking for our availability to be His channel. Some of His gifts through us may come and go according to the need, the circumstances, and His overall plan. However, the gift of prophecy is available to us and through us always.

After earnest prayer, to apply a particular Scripture, God's words, to a situation is a way to exercise the gift of prophecy. We must, however, respect the context. A Scripture passage always has a first literal and historical application for the chronos time in which it was written. Secondly, the biblical principle or God's promise might be applied uniquely in a kairos way to an individual's situation—if the Holy Spirit leads. It's the kairos words that bring life to the one who hears. If we speak our own words to someone, the words often fall flat or they leave a negative impact. God's prophetic words have great impact and cut straight to the depths of the human heart and bring life. (1 Cor 14:25) 

A person who would prophesy asks the Holy Spirit for the gift, prayerfully makes himself available to the Lord by listening faithfully and attentively to Him every day, discerning what God wants said in a particular situation, then speaking or in someway communicating God's prophetic words at the proper time. 
The gift of prophecy may manifest itself in many forms: as a spoken or written statement, during a conversation, while counseling, while praying for someone, etc. The Holy Spirit is not limited in how He wants to reach men through us. We should deliver God's message with an attitude of humility and genuine love not with an authoritarian spirit (1 Cor. 13:2). 
Let us all pray and look around in our sphere of influence where the Lord has planted us at this season of our lives and discern to whom the Lord might have us bear a prophetic message from Him. To have an opportunity and privilege of being a messenger to deliver a “Barnabas gift,” a kairos word from the Lord, to someone “in season” is truly to offer them “apples of gold in a frame of silver!” (Proverbs 25:11) (Other translations: words spoken at the right time, appropriately, well-expressed, at the proper time, at a fit time.)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


I feel uncomfortable when I encounter the term “the best version of myself” in some Christian writings in recent days. What is being implied? That there are other versions of myself from which I may pick and choose at will? Are some versions better or worse than others? How many faces do I have that I may show to the world?

Is there a version I may wear when I'm all dressed up for church? A pious version?
Is there a home-style one I can put on when with my family who know me only too well? A bedroom slipper version?
A business or professional version of me? A briefcase version?
Or a private, intimate version that only God sees? The heart version, the inner man?

Are my versions interchangeable like masks which I may change on a whim depending on the situation? I don't think so. It would seem that God is in the business of transforming us into one authentic version—what you see is who I am. 
The mortal part of me is indwelt by the Holy Spirit who wants to reflect the spirit of Jesus through my flesh. God's plan is to develop my character into a unified version through His power, one that will manifest the Fruits of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians chapter five.

The Jesus version is the one single version God is working on through all the seasons and circumstances of my life. He doesn't allow masks like in a masquerade party to disguise who we really are or to keep people guessing. The Jesus version is one-size-fits-all. We are each unique and God has the very best version of us in mind from the very beginning—He has promised to finish working on what He has begun. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).


I play games with myself
and with others too
pretending to know who I am
where I'm going
and why.
Sometimes I even convince myself
that I have it all together.

I put on a mask
to keep you from knowing me
although I want you to know me
but I'm afraid
that the me you'll see
is not the one
I want you to know.

I put on a facade
even to God
but it doesn't work
for He sees right through
my flimsy mask
yet never asks
me to be something other
than what I really am.

Since I am in Christ
I can put away
my various masks
and all of that sham.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Irrespective of age or circumstances, it seems that we are always waiting for something.

We regularly wait in traffic. We wait endlessly in the ER for attention while in acute pain. We wait in the DMV to be called for our turn. We wait for the inevitable radiology report after tests. We wait for our slow spouses or family members. We wait for our computer to REboot. A pregnant woman waits nine months to deliver her baby. Children wait for Christmas morning and the opening of their presents. A senior citizen waits for his Social Security check. We wait for a better job to come along. We wait for our tax refund check to arrive.

We wait “for our ship to come in.” Children can hardly wait to grow up. Teens wait to be old enough to drive, to move out of the house and get their own pad. We wait for the miracle of our baby sleeping through the night. We even stand in front of the microwave waiting for something to heat. We wait for the weather to change, for the stock market to recover, for the bonus we expect, for “prince charming to arrive on a white horse.” A terminal patient REsigns himself to wait for the moment when his pain and weakness will be over. We wait for our diet or exercise program to show some results.

We are tied to chronos time during our lives on Planet Earth. We depend totally on the clock and the calendar. Spiritually, God's “due time” never seems to arrive. We wait for our prayers to be answered and fret at God's delay.

Since we have to spend so much time in neutral just waiting, what should we do while waiting? Is it wasted time? Is it lost time? While waiting, do we REgress or progress? 

Does God have an agenda for us while we are in the *PAUSE button mode? He Who is Eternal and outside of time entered our Earth Time Zone through His Son Jesus. Even the Son of God had to wait until He grew from infancy through all the phases of human life until in His Father's “due time” at age 30 He launched His brief salvation ministry. I search the Scriptures for the many examples and admonitions about waiting especially in the Psalms and the Prophetic books. Have I internalized what God is teaching me through those promises? Surely the Lord has a plan for each of us even while we are in our particular Waiting Rooms.

I might ask myself while waiting whether I have obeyed or completed all that God clearly REvealed to me already. Have I stopped fretting at my circumstances and RElaxed into trust in God's timing and way? Am I petulantly waiting for something that I should not be asking for in the first place? Am I truly willing to accept God's perfect plan if He doesn't do or give me what I am waiting for? His loving way is often to surprise us by substituting something better than what I am waiting for. Have I allowed God to do His work of conforming me, transforming me into the image of Christ while I wait? Have I let patience have her perfect work while I am the crucible of waiting?

I often find myself in a Waiting Room. In fact, I am in a Waiting Room right now and I feel as if I'm there alone. Is my reader in one now? We are not alone nor are we abandoned. There is a way out. The Waiting Room has an “Exit” sign over the door. We have the presence and comfort and working of the Holy Spirit who is getting us ready to joyfully exit in the fullness of God's time. Let's not exit prematurely, however, or through the wrong door. Wait for Jesus' knock on the door before running for the EXIT. (Rev. 3:20) 

“Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes! Wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14). 

* Read Leona's new book SELAH REFLECTIONS: PRESS the Pause Button 

Friday, March 17, 2017


Especially among the young we hear the expression “No way!” as an exclamation of disbelief in hearing something that was declared impossible. The road was closed. It's usually accompanied by a shaking of the head.

On the contrary, in reply you sometimes hear the comeback as just the single word “WAY!” indicating “Oh Yes, it is possible!” That's the way God counters our expressions of sad disbelief and unbelief. God comes up with the one perfect way out of the impossible.

We sometimes encourage hope in one another by saying, “God makes a way where there is no way.” That truth is implied throughout the Old and New Testaments and in the experience of Christians worldwide through the ages. The supernatural comes into play where the natural ends. The Divine Possible begins where the human impossible is encountered. Most Christians can nod heartily to experiencing that in their own lives in times of desperation. In my own life that has proven true time and again. God comes through in some unexpected WAY “out of the blue!”

The Scriptures frequently use the term “the way.” “Way” is used both for a literal journey and a way of living one's life. It contrasts the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous. It is used as a figure of speech for the direction of one's life. The Psalms abound in this use. It culminates in God finally giving us His bottom line in Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” In the Gospels it bursts forth in Jesus' declaration, “I AM the WAY and the Truth and the Life.” It is especially significant that the THE WAY was adopted in the early church as the name for the Christian movement itself (Acts 9:2;19:9; 22:4).

God is a Maker of Ways where there are no ways in our personal lives today—in my life and in yours—as well as historically for His people. We limit Him by our lack of faith when we express “No way!” We somehow think that when we've exhausted all of our efforts to bring ourselves through a seemingly impossible situation, that is the end of it. However, when our efforts run out, God begins to work and Philippians 4:13 begins to rev up: “I can do all things through Christ.” The Holy Spirit either whispers or shouts to us, depending on our circumstances: “WAY! Just watch God work!”

Believe it! The Lord might suddenly show up to REscue me in a surprising new way, a fresh angle to the solution, something way out in left field, the better way that He has been planning all along. He was just waiting until we hit rock bottom, come to the end of ourselves, and get out of His way so that He can make that unique way which we didn't even know existed. That's His modus operandi, the WAY God works on what we call impossible things.

Consider Isaiah 40:4 echoed in Luke 3:4,5. God is a Specialist in making rough places smooth and narrow places broad, crooked ways straight, and moving mountains and hills when He takes over my problems—and yours. He is always at work on the impossibles: He brings water out of rocks, creates streams in the desert, ways in the wilderness, feeds multitudes miraculously, and provides angelic guidance by clouds and pillars of fire.

I'm going to work on the spiritual habit of declaring with God “Yes, WAY!” in my hopeless situations. Is anything too hard for Him? Thank You in advance, Lord, for Your road construction work to make a Way even for me. 
I'll get out of Your way as You do Your spiritual "earth moving" right over those impossible deserts where roads can't even be built in the shifting sand, and as You supernaturally blast through the impenetrable rocky mountains of my puny crises. I'm going to watch and cheer You on as You work out that "NEW WAY!” that wasn't even on my radar screen before—because, please, Lord, I'm in one of those puny crises right now! My "mountain" needs to be REmoved and cast into the sea!
  And Jesus answered and said to them, "Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will happen. (Matthew 21:21)

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

RElying on Mortal Man?

The Old Testament readings for the Lenten Liturgy this morning focused on Jeremiah 17:5-8 contrasting a stunted shrub in the desert with a flourishing tree planted by the water—with a spiritual caution not to trust mortal man. I used that idea for the first imagineering vignette in one of my recently published new books. Since it fits so appropriately, I encored it below from my book FABLES OF GOD'S KINGDOM FOR GROWN-UPS.

This is not a kids' book. It is adult-oriented because my format is symbolic fiction chock full of parables, allegories, metaphors, similes, and dialogues with Deity. Definitely an adventurous exercise for the mature mind allowing the reader to draw his own moral conclusions or applications. Each of my 31 bite-size selections has take-away spiritual value which I support with relevant biblical references. I freely use humor and hyperbole and especially anthropomorphic terms which ascribe human characteristics, emotions, speech, or attributes to a being or thing not human. It is called personification when ideas or emotions “speak for themselves.”

You don't have your copy yet? Then hurry! While the supply lasts, you can order this new $12.95 book through the end of March for the discounted price of only $10 including postage and handling! Simply email your request to Be sure to include your full name and mailing address. Mail your check payable to Leona Choy 497 Devland Drive, Winchester, VA 22603 or use your credit card through I'll have your book in the mail pronto!

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"Whew! It's so hot and dry!" Green Tree shook the dust from his leaves with a swish and a shudder. "Time for the pause that refreshes." He stretched his roots imperceptibly deeper under the arid desert toward Water. They immersed with a splash. "Ahhhh!"

Parched Shrub, drooping nearby, tried to shake his brittle branch stubs but they just crackled. He glared up at Green Tree whose leaves were verdant and healthy. "You think you're somebody special, don't you?” he wheezed. “If you were down here close to the blistering sand you wouldn't act so high and mighty."

"We're in this together, good buddy," replied Green Tree, surprised. "I'm rooted in the same sun-baked desert. Besides, I'm up here closer to the sun and it's even hotter."

"Well, I'm waiting for Mortal Man to water me. He promised to come when I needed him. He’ll probably arrive by Prosperity Bus anytime now," mumbled Parched Shrub.

“Just how late is the bus?”

"Oh—a few months—give or take a few weeks."

"We live in Uninhabited Salt Land," reminded Green Tree. "Did you forget? Prosperity Bus only services the Goodtimes route now."

Parched Shrub shrugged his bony branch shoulders and remained silent for a long while. Only his wheezing breath broke the stillness of the desert. Finally, "How do you get along so well through this awful drought? I even see fruit developing up there in your dense foliage."

"My hope is in Lord God," replied Green Tree. "He told us when He planted us that we shouldn't trust in Mortal Man. He promised that He would look after us Himself and never forsake us. He...."

"There you go being preachy again," interrupted Parched Shrub with a wheeze. "You Green Trees are all alike. You think you're better than everyone else—some kind of special apples in God's eye."

"That's not true. Lord God doesn't play favorites or keep secrets. He told all of us Greenery where to send our roots to reach Water—you included."

"Aw, I just don't trust 'im. I gave up that God stuff when I was little."

You're still little," observed Green Tree with a smile, not intending offense. "I was as small as you are when Lord God planted me. You too can...."

"Don’t rub it in!" Parched Shrub interrupted again, pretending to be angry. However, one hot tear betrayed him. It trickled down his bare branch, splashed on the sand, and rapidly soaked in.

Green Tree was moved with compassion. He bent his chlorophyll-laden leafy branches low over Parched Shrub creating cool shade. "Come under my shadow, buddy. I'll shelter you from the blazing sun. It's really not far to stretch your own roots under the desert to The Divine Aquifer. You can do it! I know you can!"

Parched Shrub snuggled under Green Tree's abundant foliage. "You'd be willing to help me? Even after I’ve made fun of you and turned away from Lord God so many times?"

"Absolutely! We share common chlorophyll and we are both Lord God's creation."

“Do you think there's enough Water for both of us?" 
"Lord God said that Rivers of Living Water, cool and pure, flow abundantly in a deep Divine Aquifer right under our roots. There's more than enough for all of us Greenery.”

“How much does The Water cost?"

“It did cost a lot. More than any of us could pay. But it's free for the asking now. Lord God's Son already paid for it and offers it to everyone!"

"Oh! I'm dying of thirst!"

"Let's get going then, buddy. I'll show you The Way to The Waters."

Parched Shrub's prickly stubs tingled with new hope as his roots shuddered with anticipation under the arid desert. "I can hardly wait to go green! Stay with me, okay?"


Jeremiah 17:5-8 combined from various translations and versions of Scripture. Also reflective of Psalm 1:1-6; Revelation 22:17; Isaiah 55:1

"Thus says the Lord, cursed is the strong man who trusts in mankind, in frail, mortal man, and makes weak, human flesh his strength, and whose heart and mind turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush or stunted shrub in the desert, like a person naked and destitute, with no hope for the future. He will not see when prosperity comes and good times pass him by forever. But he will live in stony wastes, in parched places in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitants.

But most blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose hope and confidence are in the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, along a riverbank, that extends its roots by a stream, and will not be bothered when heat comes, nor anxious in a year of drought, but goes right on producing luscious fruit.”

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

REcalling My Royalty

I do have quite a few things in common with Queen Elizabeth II of England. We are the same age, our birthdays are within a few days of each other in June, we were married in the same month, we had our first child in the same year—and my Father was also a king! 

On special occasions and for portraits she wears a crown. I, however, aspire to wear mine all the time and bring mine to Heaven with me! Queen Elizabeth has many crowns (doubtless not as many as her hat collection!). Some are so heavy they are said to give her a headache, like the traditional massive one she wore at her coronation. Some are delicately woven silver and gold and studded with diamonds and precious jewels.

In one respect we differ: I don't carry an ever-present designer handbag/purse like she does. It seems that she never leaves the castle without it—or even while she's resident there. I've secretly wondered exactly what she carries in it!

My Father, the King of kings, and His Son Jesus wear eternal crowns of splendor beyond description, far surpassing the most elaborate crowns of monarchs in the kingdoms of this world. Whether the heavenly crowns are material or spiritual I don't know. They have generously shared a few selective crowns with those of us who are honored and privileged to be followers of Jesus Christ. 

I searched the Scriptures to find out what those crowns are for. The description of our crowns are hidden in Psalm 103:4, 1 Corinthians 9:25, 2 Timothy 4:8, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4, Revelation 2:10 and 3:11, Philippians 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 2:19, and Psalm 65:11. I don't want to spoil the joy that you, my reader, will experience when you search for the richness in those Scriptures yourself. Try on each of the crowns to see if they fit you, and if you are worthy to wear them.

We are offered a “crown of righteousness” meant for those who are longing, waiting, watching for Christ's appearance, His glorious return. A “crown for faithfulness under persecution.” A “victor's crown.” A “crown of glory.” A “winners crown” in the race of life. A “crown of lovingkindness and tender mercy.” A “crown to our year of harvest” that signifies overflowing bounty. A “crown which is made up of people” those you have helped to know God and love Him.

The uniqueness of the crowns God has REserved for us is that they are “imperishable, incorruptible, permanent, never can be destroyed and eternal. Our crowns are not like those of the original Olympic winners who were awarded laurel wreaths of leaves and flowers that shrivel up and die. They are far better than the gold medals given to winners today that tarnish, that can be lost or thieves can steal. Queen Elizabeth's crown can be stolen or destroyed. It is still material no matter how costly.

The crowns which God awards us are nothing to strut about. They are not symbols of our achievement or pride. On the contrary, when we arrive in the presence of God we will eagerly cast our crowns at His feet in gratitude for what He has done to bring us to Himself, washed clean and forgiven and made perfect in the likeness of His Son Jesus. We will sing with the angels: “Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne....To Thee be endless praise, for Thou for us hast died; be Thou, O Lord, thru endless days, adored and magnified.”

If while we are in our “earth suits,” our mortal bodies, we go through dark and depressing days of adversity and pain and discouragement on Planet Earth and our crowns might seem invisible or askew, let us nevertheless REjoice in our Royalty, straighten our crowns, and polish our “crown of longing for His appearing.” “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


I had no idea that there was such variety in the meaning of the phrase “have all your ducks in a row.”

 Some meanings are: to be well-organized, fully prepared, efficient, have one's act together, put one's house in order, everything in alignment, all the stars in your favor.

What is the origin of the term? Apparently one guess is as good as another. Some say it came from setting up the duck pins in a bowling alley or shooting ducks in a row in a carnival game. The most plausible is from nature. Mother ducks often corral their young offspring into manageable straight lines before traveling over land or water. Most of us have seen traffic stopping while such a line of ducks calmly waddles across a busy thoroughfare following the mother duck. Any stragglers or escapees would be noticed as long as the integrity of this line is maintained. Getting all of one's ideas or ingredients or team members in one organized line would be similar to a mother duck getting all of her literal ducks in a row.

It is also possible that the expression came from the natural flight formation of ducks as they move through the sky. The most efficient arrangement is a V-formation behind the leader, which allows each duck to take advantage of reduced wind resistance. Having all of one's metaphorical ducks in a row would be just as efficient and logical as flying in such an organized formation.

Since it is all up for grabs, I want to put my own spin on interpreting that phrase in spiritual terms. I'm going to use the scenario “all details accounted for and in their proper position for something to happen.” Another way of saying “all things working together” in the Romans 8:28 sense. As finite, mortal, created humans we operate on an earthly level and blunder along as best we can. The reason is that we can't see the big picture. We can only try to make our own plans but we can't see the overall design and purpose of whatever we do or where the details of everyday life fit in. For those of us who have surrendered our wills and lives into God's hands, ultimately God guides us in the way we should go and we fall in line after Him.

I firmly believe this extends to our ordinary daily activities as mundane and unremarkable as some of them seem to us. God gave us a free will but when we have freely turned it over to Him we put ourselves, as it were, in the river of His will and available for His purposes. We are not robots or puppets, but joyful followers of the Lord. Throughout any given day, the Holy Spirit sees to it that we are in the right place at the right time and in a position for something to happen. He arranges us as “ducks in a row” so we can be prepared and take part in His awesome networking. He puts people together in what might seem to be coincidental circumstances and brings to pass something that He has planned. By ourselves we could never set up such conditions.

Even in the past week, I have experienced such particular coincidences which I call “God-incidences” and am astonished at His spiritual networking in my own life. In fact, I regularly experience them. The encounters I have had could never be simply chance events, happenstance, or accidental. They are not trivial or incidental. God is at work in small details of my daily life and yours. 

I keep REcalling in hindsight “if I hadn't gone somewhere at a certain time instead of going somewhere else first, or if I had been delayed doing such and such instead of able to go quickly somewhere, or vice versa, or gone in another direction instead, I would not have been in a certain position for such and such to have happened or met such and such person”--that sort of thing. These are awesome experiences which I marvel at and which I am excited to be involved in!

I think of the story of the patriarch Joseph in the Old Testament and all the detailed God-incidences he went through in order for God to position him for his destiny. Consequently, he was available to save not only his extended family but ultimately his nation as well as Egypt during a time of famine. Again—if this or that had not happened to him, negative and painful as the events were, to take him from one level to another, he would not have been in a position to accomplish the purposes of God.

As for me, I am happy to be one of God's little ducklings in a row of ducklings obediently following God's will and design for my life in order to daily be in the right place at the right time so He can “work all things together” to accomplish the purposes of God's Kingdom.

Friday, March 10, 2017


We know what a parenthesis is in typing—the two enclosing vertical crescent-shaped curves that set off an additional thought or word in a sentence like this (  ).  They are twins and come in pairs.

I have my own utilization for multiple parentheses. In emailing a close friend I often want to give her a hug to express my love especially when she lives at a distance. In some cases it is a bonding in the spirit with a friend whom I have never met in person. It is my personalized written image which my friends hopefully understand. I consider the parentheses as my two arms embracing them with a hug: 
 (((( you! ))))

Before I leave the subject of the two twilights set in daily motion at creation by God, (dawn twilight and evening twilight) I want to add a few thoughts. The twilights also come in pairs. I think of those two twilights as “God's love parentheses” one on each side, enclosing me in His embrace after He has blessed and guided me through another generous day between the parentheses.

I can't help but regret the loss of specifically enjoying both of those times of the day in the past. Too often I missed being snuggled in God's arms at evening twilight because I was still too busy with the tasks of the day, and I let God's invitation slip by me unnoticed and uncelebrated. I inadvertently hushed my ears and favored my own priority preoccupations rather than to be present to Him at my personal Evensong hour. 

The traditional Vespers hymn, all eight verses, was written with God's children in mind at the end of the day, whatever their age, almost like a lullaby: “Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh, shadows of the evening spread across the sky...Jesus, give the weary calm and sweet REpose...Glory to the Father, Glory to the Son, and to the blessed Spirit while all ages run.” When I miss my evening vigil, I have missed the opportunity of REcollection, a time to gather up the scattered events and doings of the day and spread them before the Lord for His touch of blessing or correction and sing to Him my praise for His abiding presence.

Sad to say, during most morning dawn twilights of my long life I preferred the snuggle of warm covers and unneeded additional snooze time instead of greeting the new day with God when He put on His brilliant wake-up display. I neglected the splendor of “When morning gilds the skies, my heart awakening cries, 'May Jesus Christ be praised!'” as the hymn writer so aptly expressed it. More often than not I stumbled into the day's duties having passed up the response to God's “Come unto Me” call and the blessings that He would have lavished upon me had I been present at His sunrise spectacular.

I'm trying to make these two sacred times of the day my parentheses of daily routine for this Lenten season. Forty days should be sufficient to establish a habit. Surely there are enough hours left within those parentheses to do justice to the ordinaries for which I am responsible and to accomplish the worthwhiles of my discretionary time. The positive things we add to our lives specifically during Lent are sometimes more significant for spiritual discipline and growth than whatever we deny ourselves. At the same time, adding positives usually requires detaching ourselves or denying ourselves of some of the negatives. When I include and celebrate the above two twilight times in my day, I deny myself of overwork and oversleep, both of which are less than admirable virtues and should be crossed out of our lives anyway.

As always, when we determine to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all the rest of our needs and wants are provided abundantly by our Over-Blesser Heavenly Father.

LISTEN AND WORSHIP "Now the Day is Over"

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Night doesn't fall. That is too harsh and noisy a term. Our gentle Creator God planned a tender time of day called twilight before He draws the curtains of night and turns off the blazing light of the sun.

 It is better said that twilight fades, that it becomes dark. Twilight descends imperceptibly in ever darkening half-measures until all is at rest. After the rough and tumble activities of the day, the hot winds subside. They are displaced by a kindlier, gentler breeze that cools the sweaty brow. Twilight is an early kiss goodnight, a time to be savored, to be sighed over, smiled at, to relax in. Heaven is touching earth with rest. A time to worship and adore The Lord Most High.

For a scientific explanation you can define twilight as the time of day between daylight and darkness, whether that's after sunset or before sunrise. (Ah-ha, I didn't know that in every 24 hours our generous God gave us two twilights—I thought there was only one!) Dawn is the encore twilight, the counterpart to evening's sunset. Or vice versa. At both times the light from the sky appears diffused and often pinkish. Twilight literally means half-light, semi-darkness, dusk, or gloom. The sun slips noiselessly below the horizon, but its rays are scattered by Earth's atmosphere to create the colors of twilight we exclaim over. The further the sun is below the horizon, the dimmer the twilight. When it reaches 18 degrees below the horizon, “at the twilight's last gleaming,” sunlight is nearly zero and nighttime is upon us. When you reverse that, nighttime becomes morning twilight or dawn. Both twilights are characterized by the absence of shadows and the appearance of objects silhouetted against the bright sky. Photographers refer to twilight as “sweet light,” and artists call it the blue hour.

We have twilight because Earth has an atmosphere. Some light filters through small particles in the atmosphere so there's still some diffused light lingering in the sky even after the sun has gone down. This time of day is important for a lot of reasons to many people. Astronomers are waiting for true darkness so they can begin their observations. Navigators await the dark sky so they can set their course by the position of stars. Ordinary folks are awestruck by gorgeous, indescribable sunsets day after day. (Real photo below taken from my deck on one of those spectacular twilights)

Evening twilight can be tinged with sadness if the term is used metaphorically to imply that something is losing strength and approaching its end. A synonym for twilight is a time of decline, waning, ebbing, final years, the tail end. There can be a feeling of melancholy. The elderly may be said to be “in the twilight of their lives.” On the other hand, hope rises with the brightest stars and planets, Venus, the morning star or evening star, and Jupiter, becoming visible to the naked eye. Soon more celestial bodies appear like scattered diamonds on the dark velvet of the sky. A relatively few hours later God offers a second optimistic twilight and the dawn of a fresh new day dispels the perceived sadness.

In Christian practice, “vigil” observances often begin during twilight on the evening before major feast days or holidays. For example, the Easter Vigil is held in the hours of darkness between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Day—between the two twilights. The joyous celebration of Jesus' resurrection is often marked by “sunrise services” as the dawn twilight sun rises triumphantly in the East.

I honestly try to finish my tasks for the day by twilight—I don't always succeed, to my regret. For me it is a slice of time for worship, for silence and reflection. And a time to paint with words what I observe and what I feel in the depths of my being:

Late February Twilight

Pink and blue twilight recedes

giving way to leaden skies

snow begins to sift gently

covering the familiar landscape

with a blanket of powdered sugar

birds at the feeder quickly finish

their sunflower seed afternoon snacks

and flutter off before they require

headlights to find their tree houses

in the growing gloom

my flickering candle on the window sill

reflects a second candle in the pane

as darkness descends silently

over the Shenandoah Valley

horizontal stretches of purple clouds

provide a background curtain

for bare branches silhouetted

against the indigo sky

lights flicker on here and there

like fireflies flitting about

out of season in the forested shadows

of my wrap-around Virginia hills

viewed through my picture window

where I sit alone at Evensong

this is my precious cloistered hour

my respite time of peace

here is my “place of quiet rest

near to the heart of God”

as the busy day recedes

temporal cares that consumed me

loosen their grip on my mind

the sun has concealed itself

dropping behind the distant hills

Day is dying in the West

heaven is touching earth with rest

wait and worship while the night

sets the evening lamps alight

through all the sky”

and I whisper in adoration 
“Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts

heaven and earth are full of Thee

heaven and earth are praising Thee

O Lord Most High”

in the quiet of this sacred daily time

my twilight of Sabbath rest.

(Rough draft unpolished by Leona 2/17)

Listen and worship with the a capella singers:
 "Day is Dying in the West"
(or google the title if the link doesn't work)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Joy of Role REversal

The phone rang. I wasn't home so the automatic thingy took the message. One of my four sons whose birthday it was on March 6th left a thoughtful happy birthday message for me “because you are the 'birth person', Mom.” That's my boy! (now in his sixties) What a great idea! Celebration reversal! When you all have birthdays I will eat the cake and receive the presents! Better to start a late tradition than never!

It reminded me of the Joy of Role Reversal which some of us, in time perhaps most of us, might hope to experience as we grow older. Others may think of that time of life as the Curse of Role Reversal. They dread the time when as the elder ones we lose our independence and become reluctantly dependent on those for whom we suffered birth pains,

whose diapers we changed, whose runny noses we wiped and who we taught to close their mouths while they chew. Not all of us have progeny, to be sure, and the Lord takes care of those without offspring in singular ways. How blessed we are when, as the writer of Proverbs declared about his mom, “her children rise up and call her blessed” (31:28). Let's hope that wasn't just lip service, that her kids actually put action where their mouth was as they called their mom blessed.

Why did God have to put the instruction to honor one's father and mother in the list of the Ten Commandments? My guess is that it was because we are prone to forget where we came from. We need to be taught to be grateful and to honor them. And God caboosed a promise for obedience at the end of that commandment. I have my own litany of regrets in my growing years when I didn't fully honor my parents. In teen years we tend to become so self-absorbed and in later years we get too busy. I can't remedy my shortfalls now that my parents have passed from the scene.

As a nonagenerian now, I am experiencing the blessing of being the receiver rather than the giver—and it is not universally true that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Actually, it is a difficult struggle of mindset to be on the receiving end of help. Something to get used to. It goes against a lifetime of being the caregiver of others, being in control, being strong and in charge. Weak, fragile, frail, infirm, dependent, helpless are not words I like to apply to myself. But things are what they are. Human life and strength and ability tends to wind down as it comes nearer the time to launch into the eternal realm.

Throughout Scripture we see God being especially solicitous to widows and orphans and the marginalized. I qualify on all three counts. Those of us who are blessed with calendar years sometimes do feel marginalized even while feeling gratitude. Often we are sidelined from the game of life and quietly but restlessly watch life's action going on in the field. Passing the torch to a forthcoming generation is traumatic when we've been running a successful race ourselves. But it is inevitable. In the book of Ecclesiastes we receive a reality check: “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” A majority of the 14 “...a time to...” couplets in chapter three can apply to the twilight years of human life. In summary, there is a time to take and a time to let go

I need a special grace of attitude, a humility of heart, and a malleable will to receive what God blesses me to receive in my vintage years—the help of my grown children even for the basic provisions of my life. 

I need the same virtues to gracefully give up the attachments I have worked so hard all my life to accumulate. God obviously meant that the latter part of life is for gradually detaching myself from the things of temporal life which I have collected, stored, amassed, and stashed. They are, after all, destructible. I should be more concerned with decreasing and letting go of those barnacle things that cling to us and increasing spiritual treasures to send ahead to God's Storehouse where they will be safely imperishable.

To give credit where credit is due—my four adult sons and their beloved spouses measure up well to the Proverbs 31 kids. They put the honor for their mother into action, especially since the quarter century ago when my late husband Ted died. I don't mind at all the wise counsel with which they amply supply me, (whether I asked for it or not!) the attentive, considerate physical help they give me so generously, and the thoughtful temporal provisions they arrange for and supply me with to make my advanced years easier. I even accept (a bit reluctantly?) the correction they offer me—presumably when they think I lose perspective and their “maturity” kicks in. (Now that is a tough one!) They can criticize my driving if they wish, since I was the one who taught them to drive—and they own the car and they maintain it and pay for the gas. I don't mind if they grit their teeth while smiling patiently when they are obliged to tell me multiple times how to do something at the computer.

All in all, I'm delighted to pass my torches to them, or batons in life's relay race, using a similar analogy. Why not? I'm perfectly satisfied that I've been there and done that. It may be my turn now—but soon it will be their turn for torch passing since their children are up and coming. In fact, I really like this whole idea of the Joy of Role Reversal in my summit years, and with gratitude I plan to ride that tiger wherever it wants to go!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Egg On My Face!

I made a mistake in offering my friends partly-water-spoiled copies of my book STILL MORE! FLOURISHING ON MY SUMMIT (#3 in my LAND OF MORE Trilogy)
 free for the asking!

What's the problem?
There are no such copies! Duh!

My 17 year old grandson Jeffrey, who is my volunteer book stock manager, just informed me, 
 “Grandma, there are no partly spoiled copies.
 Three cases were totally water logged
and had to be thrown out.
The remainder are still perfect—nothing in between!

Ahhhhhh! So now that I have egg on my face,
 this is what I am doing:
 I want to keep my promise to all who quickly requested
a less-than-perfect copy. 

I'm sending them a PERFECT copy
in the mail still FREE! 

Consider it my “Lenten Gift” to you and read it for
 your pre-Easter reflections.
I don't want you to miss the special chapters
about struggles with our “earth suits” –
and all the other uplifting chapters.