Friday, June 1, 2018

MOUNTAIN MUSINGS


MOUNTAIN MUSINGS

A Dialogue with God


Leona Choy



Lord, would You please deal with this mountain

That is looming so high in my life?


What shall I call the mountain—Impossible?

Perhaps painful or inconvenient or disabling?

It's invisible, only for You and me to see.

But it hinders me. I'd say it really gets to me


Please remove it! You promised

it could be cast into the sea for me.*


How do You plan to get rid of my mountain, Lord?

Will You use a bulldozer and tunnel right through it?

Or will You fly me over it in an angel helicopter?

Or simply wave Your mighty hand

or speak the word and disappear it?

Do you want me to go around it?


Oh, there's a condition?

I must have faith like a grain of mustard seed.

So I offer that to You. Is that all You need?

Are You going to use it like a stick of dynamite

and blow up my mountain? Spectacular!


You want me to stop guessing how You'll remove it?

That's something that You decide? Okay, I get it.


You say I might have misnamed my mountain?

It could be called “cross” or perhaps “thorn”?


The cross is for me to gladly “take up and follow You.”*

Like “sharing in the fellowship of Your sufferings.”*

The thorn is given me for Your special purpose

And, like You answered the apostle Paul,*

You are not going to take it away?

I might have to live with my mountain?


Lord, that wasn't the way I hoped You'd

deal with my unwanted mountain!


Gladly glory in my infirmities

and Your grace will be sufficient for me?*


That's a pretty big order.

But You'll be helping me, right?

Awesome!


^^^^


*Matthew 17:20; Matthew 10:38; Phil. 3:10; 1 Cor. 12:7-10










Saturday, May 26, 2018

PRESSING ON REGARDLESS



(Guest Post) What if?

"This morning the Bible program that is always open on my computer crashed. I could have gone inside to get a Bible, but what if they had all been confiscated by the government because of the “hate language” they contained? What if it was a crime, punishable by death, to share my faith in Jesus Christ?

ostrich 2
Sounds far-fetched? Not really unless we’ve buried our head in the sand and refused to recognize the growing hostility toward Christians in our nation. Not unless we’ve chosen to ignore how our brothers and sisters around the world are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ.


I got home at 1:00 am Wednesday morning from directing the Colorado Christian Writers Conference for the 22nd year. I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be the last year for the conference.

I’m NOT quitting and I’m NOT retiring even though I am 73. 

(Leona's note: I'm 20 years older than Marlene and still PRESSING ON REGARDLESS)

But I can’t assume that next year Christians will be free to gather or that our nation will even exist. When, not if, our economy collapses, we’ll have anarchy on our streets. If an EMT destroys our electrical grid, we’ll be back in the middle ages. Or if enemies intent on destroying America and Israel unleash another 911.
The sad fact for America is that
our sin has made God our enemy.
Because of the rejection of God and His Word
and because we have exchanged
the God of Life for the gods of death
and perversion,
America is already under
the Hand of God’s judgment.
If there is no national confession of sin and if we cannot find a heart of repentance, a Holy God will complete his judgment; either by the complete annihilation or subjugation of what was once a great and godly people or by rendering it completely irrelevant on the world stage.

And so with a growing urgency each year the Colorado and Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference [which Marlene established and still directs] strives to “encourage and equip Christians to write about a God who is real, who is reachable, and who changes lives.” Whether through fiction or nonfiction, articles, poetry, or screenplays, we must “Write His Answer.”

****
(Leona adds:
Neither am I quitting or retiring. I'm taking [as deep a breath as I can with a chronically compromised lung from cancer surgery 28 years ago] to pursue my vision to pass on the writing baton to another generation of Christian writers. I'm going forward regardless of a mountain of "what ifs"--personal or national.

Jesus already warned us that "the night is coming when no man can work." I am a realist but full of hope to keep on "redeeming the time" I have left.)

Friday, May 25, 2018

PRESS THE PAUSE BUTTON




I published an entire book recently on this topic.

"Press the PAUSE button" was the subtitle of my book SELAH REFLECTIONS.


The word SELAH seems to be a mystery word in the Hebrew language. It occurs only in the Old Testament, 71 times in the Psalms. Since its exact meaning is obscure, most versions of the Bible don't even attempt to translate it but let it stand straight from the Hebrew.

Whether it's a musical term, an instruction to singers, indicates a PAUSE to praise God or to linger briefly and meditate on what is being said or written, I have combined all the possible meanings in my book: PAUSE, be silent, calmly think about this, ponder over it, meditate on it in your mind and spirit--then put it into action.

I filled this book with short, personal thought-reflections offering them as my own experiences to share with the reader to SELAH and PAUSE, to glean whatever Christian truth they might reveal. 

I call them sound bites in print, savory word snacks which I first posted as mini-articles on my blog: leonachoy.blogspot.com. I grew a book out of my blog posts and compiled them under the SELAH theme.


All of us need the SELAH PAUSES desperately in our often accelerated lives in the daily fast lane. We seem to have lost our appetite for quiet contemplation or we have never even experienced it.

How I need "the PAUSE that refreshes"! Why does it seem so difficult to program it into my crowded days? I try to find SELAH moments to press the PAUSE button and capture opportunities to laud and applaud God from Whom all blessings flow. Then my "to do" list doesn't seem so ominous.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

MEET MY FRIEND LOUISE


Now is never too late and you are never too old to start doing something new! 

Let me tell you about my still-never-met-in-person author friend, Louise. I love to applaud other writers and recommend their books. The book shown above is a page-turner. My cup of tea got cold because I couldn't put this book down. 

I did have a problem. I thought I was reading my own writing--Louise and I are so in sync on topic, writing style, many mutual life experiences, long-term widowhood, a love for the Lord and desire to uplift the attitudes of our fellow calendar-challenged friends.

I'm a lifelong writer, but Louise's writing career began at age seventy-nine. Since then, she has written six outstanding books. Not having read her other books, although I intend to, I recommend this one without reservations.

Louise is not a newbie in life experience, however. She has taught in all levels of education from elementary school through college,    and in the prison system. A widow since the passing of her husband in his fifties, she has raised her family, managed a Christian Retreat Center for fifteen years and served as the Spiritual Director in a psychiatric hospital.

Would you believe? She says her greatest accomplishments have been since her mid-seventies when she started going to China to teach in an underground Bible school! There we are in sync again with our China connection. And certainly in our mutual desire to leave a legacy through our writings and personal witness wherever  the Lord has planted us.

Now in her late eighties, Louise is out there busily speaking to Christian Writer's Conferences, on radio, making YouTube videos with her humor and continuing to live it up--and write more.

MAKE THE REST OF YOUR DAYS THE BEST OF YOUR DAYS is no small book at 233 pages. How user-friendly is it? The ultimate: she has packed each chapter with her own life experience vignettes and those of others--you eagerly await her next illustration and it comes quickly.  Her format is to use bite-sized, usually half-page topics with phrase appetizers to whet your appetite. Ideal for the diminishing attention span of the senior reader.

The subject Louise is exploring is the best real life exposition of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes chapter 12 that I have ever read. Several thousand years ago, the author, King Solomon, gave a poetic but rather dismal description of what happens to an aging body--to any aging person then and now. Louise brings it up-to-date without sparing any punches with her personal, earthy illustrations. If you are anywhere near the AARP age you will relate to her uninhibited examples dished out with spice and humor.

She doesn't leave us dangling in suspense and depression as we face the deterioration of our mortal bodies, as the apostle Paul so well laid it out in 2 Corinthians chapter four, verses 16-18.  Louise shows us, not just tells us, how not to "lose heart" with the downhill slide of our outer person, but to "be renewed day by day."

She demonstrates how a Christian can cultivate a godly, joyful life that radiates from within regardless of what is happening to our "earth suits." (We both use that term in our writing, although we didn't know each other or had ever read one another's writings until  a few weeks ago.)

Louise is so well-grounded in God's Word and so adept at finding just the right verse to season her illustrations that her writing flows seamlessly. I was so sorry that her book ended. At the same time, there was satisfactory closure to the topic. I was left restless and yet recharged to continue applying the principles from the Word even into my own life as a nonagenarian.

My new friend didn't leave me without consolation. With her book came a CD of Scriptures For Encouragement read by Louise in her sweet Southern accent, accompanied by the gentle strains of background flute music of familiar hymns played by one of her granddaughters. I'm on my eighth listen-through since I slid the disk into my Toyota's CD player for my drives into town. The Word of God is  "dwelling in [my ears] richly."

I must tell you where to find my friend Louise. www.louisellooney.com. Go there. Really. And beside this book, see what other book you can order and savor for yourself.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

FOR A TIME CAPSULE

Does an author ever write anything that is not targeted for publication?
I explored that in chapter nine in my recently published book, Writing For The Supreme Editor titled "Homespun Writing." 

That kind of writing is "published" not in a paperback edition or online but in real time from our hearts to the hearts of people for whom we specifically write. It already accomplishes its purpose. No publicist or marketing or promotion or publicity needed. People close to us are often the ones to receive such writing. 

In the case below, I wrote it to be put into a Time Capsule to be opened by my twin great-granddaughters on their 18th birthday. Today we celebrate their first birthday.

My writing will be "in print" for 18 years and be "reprinted" in the year 2036, Lord willing. That's a longer in stock duration than most books rolling off the press these days. At its "publication" today it has subsidiary readers by family and friends and my blog viewers across the country and around the world. I'd say that's a pretty extensive readership for a piece of homespun writing that wasn't intended for the usual publication track, wouldn't you?


Dear Great-grandchildren Abigail and Charlotte,

My name is Leona Choy. Many in our family call me “Bubi” which is the short form of the Czech language word pronounced “Bubitchka” which means “grandmother.” I am your great-grand-Bubi.
I was so excited to meet both of you beautiful babies when you came to visit me soon after you were born!  

Today you are celebrating your first birthday in real time, but apparently you will not be reading this note from me until you are 18 years old. We used to say that something like that is pretty “cool.” I don't know what newly coined words you say at the time you are reading this.


I wonder what you both look like as you are reading this 18 years later—you are two beautiful, intelligent young women for sure, who are probably living in a much different society than you were when you celebrated your first birthday. I can hardly imagine what your world will be like in 2036.
 
I won't be around to celebrate your 18th birthday with you. I expect to be in Heaven where I also anticipate meeting you girls someday. Then we will all be together again like when we were on Earth and we'll have a mega-celebration to get to know each other again.
I might actually know all about your growing years even when I'm in Heaven. I've been praying to my Heavenly Father God for you every day since long before you were born. When I get to Heaven, I believe I will keep on doing the same thing—praying for you every day.  

Oops! Maybe they don't count days in Heaven since everything there is forever? Perhaps God sends His angels to Earth to carry out the answers to the prayers we are bringing to Him for those we love who are still on Earth--like you. We will have lots of surprises when we get to Heaven!
You probably won't remember me when you are 18 because you were too young to figure out who is who among all the people in your family who love you. As you grow, you will sort out who is who. But your G-G Bubi has written a lot of books so that when you read them, you will get to know me too. Perhaps one or both of you will become writers too?  

 
I was once a baby like you girls. This is my picture before I was one year old.  I didn't have any sisters or brothers.
When I grew up I had children of my own, four boys. Your Poppy Cliff was one of them. 


This is a picture of him with his brothers when he was a little boy. He is the one sitting in front of me. Yes, that is me G-G Bubi holding Poppy's new baby brother. To my right is my mother, Marie. To my left is Poppy's Daddy Ted.
Years went by and I was thrilled to have 10 grandchildren...your Mommy Kristen was one of them.
Eventually God blessed me with great-grandchildren like you. You girls were #12 and #13 of my great-grandchildren.
Then more years went by and I had the fun of growing really older. This is my picture when I was 90 years old. I am almost 93 when I am writing this letter to you. 

Through the love that your Daddy Bob and Mommy Kristen had for each other, you girls were born. That is how you got your earthly bodies. I call them “earth suits.” 

Those bodies will grow old someday too. 
But when you were born, God also gave each of you separately a soul or spirit deep within you, invisible. That is the “real you.” Because God made your soul for living forever and ever. It will never grow old and die. I hope you will be learning more about all the exciting things that God, your Creator, planned for you two. 
 
God loves you more than you can imagine and wants to be your closest Friend and Heavenly Father all your lives. God is with you constantly so you will never need to feel alone even at times when  you will be away from each other and living your own lives separately. He designed a wonderful and different plan for both of you for your lives according to the talents and gifts and abilities He has given differently to both of you. I get so excited to think about what you both will become in your lives!

I want you both to know that I love you dearly, heaps and a bundle, and I'm so proud to have you in my life.
I want to give you a blessing:
“May the Lord bless you and watch, guard, and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you (that means “smile”) and enlighten you and be gracious, kind, merciful and giving favor to you; May the Lord lift up His approving countenance upon you and give you peace, tranquility of heart and life continually.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

I pray that God may lead you, Abigail and Charlotte, all through your lives ahead and bless and prosper you in all your ways—forever and forever.


With all my love,
Your great-grand-Bubi Leona Choy

Friday, April 27, 2018

OL'YELLER JOHN DEERE


STUCK is the word of the day for “FMF” Five Minute Friday writing challenge.

My son Rick specializes in getting people UNSTUCK.


 That is because he owns a big kinda rusty ol' yeller John Deere backhoe.


We live in a wooded lots subdivision and his volunteer services are often needed whatever the season.


In winter after a blizzard our neighbors get STUCK in snow banks.


In rainy spring they manage to get their riding mowers STUCK in the mud by the creek.


My grandson Jeffrey got his pickup truck STUCK in the woodland last week while clearing out some nasty, thorny undergrowth.


I got to thinking about the people in my own life who sometimes pull me out of my STUCK situations. God bless them for encouraging me and acting as my cheerleaders when I'm feeling low.


We all have times when we're emotionally or even literally in the pits. King David the Psalmist talks about God rescuing him when he's “STUCK in the miry clay.” The Lord God is our John Deere. We put out an S.O.S. and God immediately shows up to pull us out and set us on a rock—the solid Rock, Jesus. “He is our ever-present help in time of trouble.”


I think about my own responsibility to other people who are STUCK in the problems of life and need my John Deere assistance. I must lovingly come alongside them with my encouragement and offer my strength derived from God to UNSTUCK them. The Lord tells me to “bear one another's burden and so fulfill the law of Christ.”


Whatever the season of my life or in the lives of the STUCK ones, I must be there on call for them “in season and out of season.” That's what the Body of Christ is all about. We are knit together in the love of God and love for one another.

Monday, April 23, 2018

“Wait for YOUR TURN!”

Written for the prompt word "TURN" for FMF Community challenge


When I was a toddler my mother's constant words whenever she took me to the park or when she was teaching me to play nicely with my neighborhood playmates, “Take turns now. Your turn will come.” But children aren't born with an ounce of patience.


My turn eventually did come.


When I grew impatient to start kindergarten like the neighbor children, again I heard, “Your turn will come.”


And it did, of course.


Later, when I was anxious to grow up quickly and graduate and get on with life, “Your turn will come.”


And it did.


I couldn't wait to finish college and get on with planning for my wedding. Yes, my turn came.


And my turn came to become a mother.

Then a grandmother.

Then my turn has come to experience the joy of being a great-grandmother of 13 youngsters.


Now, with God's generous blessing of longevity, I look eagerly ahead for my turn to lay aside my “earth suit” and turn it in for a “space suit” more appropriate for Eternal Immortal Living.


“To everything there is a season,” declared the wisest of men in the Scriptures. “There is a turn for every stage of life. That's the perfect way God designed it.


Monday, April 16, 2018

"WATCH FOR FALLING ROCKS!"

I pray for something now that wasn't on my priority list earlier in my life. “Lord, keep me from falling!”



I didn't have a problem with my balance before. I could literally run to and fro in the fast lane of life. Being calendar-challenged now, compounded by neuropathy, changes the picture. My medical persons warn me not to fall because my “earth suit” is now more fragile and broken bones would be disastrous.



I see a correlation with my spiritual life as a Christian. Some of us solid Rock Christians, when undergoing pressures and trials, have been known to slip and stumble and fall. Due to the length of the journey of life and the weariness of always trudging uphill, some of us lose our balance and fall. 

Sometimes Christians whose life is built on the Rock, who have known the joy of the Lord, as time goes on grow cold and lose their joy. (Luke 8:13) “But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.”



Rather than adversity, it could be prosperity and success that contributes to our fall. (1 Timothy 6:9) “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.”



Do we think that we would never fall? Do I? (1 Corinthians 10:12) “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” The apostle Peter, of all people, bragged that although all others would fall away, he would never do so. You know the rest of the story.



Scripture instructs us to look out for ourselves lest we fall. Beyond that, we are responsible to lift up other “fallen rock” brothers and sisters in Christ.



Driving along the blue line roads of Virginia surrounded by forest and rocky formations close to the roadside, I have come upon signs warning “Watch for falling rocks!” Erosion loosens rocks that were once firmly embedded and they tumble down onto the traffic lanes. The fallen rocks become a danger to others, as do we. When we fall, we drag others down with us.



Peter sums it up from his own experience. (2 Peter 3:17) “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked.”



One of the major factors contributing to our potential fallen state is when we have “fallen out of love” with our Lord. In Revelation 2:4 Jesus tells His own beloved ones, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”



If we have become “fallen rocks,” it need not be permanent. Nor is it a problem only for us in our later years. Isaiah 40:30 “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.”



God promises to uphold us in our weakness and pick us up when we fall. (Psalm 37:24) “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand.” “The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down” (Psalm 145:14).




Friday, April 13, 2018

My OTHER authorblog is being birthed

For the FMF writers' prompt word for today: OTHER

I've been working on “OTHER” in a creative way in my blogosphere lately. I've been a blogger for 10 years and although I will continue my inspirational posting there, I'm excited to be birthing an OTHER second blog dedicated to serving Christian writers.

I hope to launch this authorblog in a week or so—I won't give you the link yet because I haven't fully fleshed it out, added the Mailchimp, etc. I'm “aflutter” (pardon the butterfly pun, given the theme I'm using) about its potential and the interactive way I'm setting it up and the services I'm offering to writers.

Below I copy the last couple of paragraphs of my “WELCOME” page as an appetizer. I hope it tastes good to you and you'll come over to visit me as soon as this OTHER blog is flying. Stay tuned!

“For some time I've been sending encouraging writing "Tips"-- suggestions, resources and meaningful writing links by email to writers I'm coaching.

I've used the analogy of writers eventually becoming like butterflies after starting out as caterpillars, going through the quiet, growing chrysalis stage and ultimately emerging to fly freely on their unique beautiful wings. I plan to continue my service of "Butterfly Tips" through my posts on this blog.


The hopeful dreamer, the "wannabe" beginning writer is like the lowly
caterpillar full of potential but hardly aware of what could be coming. All writers start out in that stage but shouldn't stay at ground level. God intends more for you. You aren't meant to crawl forever; you were meant to fly! The main occupation of a beginning writer, like a caterpillar, is to "eat" to build himself up for the next stage by learning his craft, listening to God and moving forward. 

Most writers experience a chrysalis stage where nothing seems to be happening. We feel static and isolated and getting nowhere. Time and patience are needed. We are being formed in the darkness for the surprise that is looming ahead!

With the help of the Creator of this splendid metamorphosis, the butterfly struggles and in due time comes forth from its cocoon. Just so, the butterfly writer emerges from his inertia and takes flight. With much editing and revision he begins to successfully and professionally communicate his message and becomes published. He realizes the potential that God put within him when he was in his caterpillar stage. An awesome transformation!

I encourage you through this new authorblog to pursue your calling as a butterfly-to-be Christian writer. What is your mission, if you choose to accept it? To pollinate your part of the world with the Good News of the Kingdom of God through whatever genre He is giving you.
With God, it isn't a "mission impossible!"

Let's get busy at our computer keyboards so we can bless the world and witness for the Lord through communicating His message as skilled wordsmiths in God's Kingdom.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

THE “HEM OF HIS GARMENT”


What's the story behind sick people pressing upon Jesus trying to touch his clothing to be healed? The passage from Mark 6:56 sent me on a search for Jewish culture and traditions at the time of Christ. 

Biblical scholars tell us that some Scripture translations need more accurate rendering. It was not simply the “hem” of His ordinary garment which the woman with the issue of blood reached out to touch. 

More correctly translated in some versions, it was the fringe, or tassels on His Prayer Shawl. As a Rabbi, Jesus would have worn one most of the time over his ordinary clothing and around His shoulders. The Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention this. Definitely Jesus would have worn it when He “went apart alone to pray” or when He taught in the Synagogues. It was called a “Tallith.”

When I was traveling in Israel, I bought a modern one which was quite elaborate. 

A Tallith today is made of silk or wool, usually white, interwoven with threads of blue, gold, and silver. Each color has some significance. The “zizith” are the fringes or tassels of entwined threads at the four corners of the shawl which people were reaching out to touch for healing. Smaller tassels are in series of 10 to represent the 10 Commandments. 

Often a representation of the tablets of the Commandments is embroidered on it, as well as the 7 stick candelabra. Hebrew words from the Torah, for instance: “The Lord our God is one God” and other quotations are embroidered on it. The tassels at the ends are blue or purple and longer than the others. A Rabbi or Messianic Jewish friend could tell us more about the spiritual and traditional significance of the designs.

In the Old Testament in Numbers 15:37- 41 and Deuteronomy 22:12 God commanded Moses to give specific instructions to the men of Israel how certain items should be made and their significance. The tassels at the corners were a reminder to keep the Commandments of God. They became the symbol of Jewish obedience to the Law. Jesus condemned the Scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites in Matthew 23:5 for making their tassels overly long to publicly display their piety while their actions didn’t measure up.

Some biblical scholars suggest that the word translated “tent” in reference to the apostle Paul's occupation to support himself while preaching so that he would not be a burden to those who heard his good news actually means the making of Prayer Shawls. Not tents in the sense of durable cloth sewn together to provide a place of temporary living outdoors. “Tentmaking” was also the occupation of Priscilla and Aquila mentioned in Acts. Jewish society at that time would not have been a ready market for such a commodity as collapsible shelters. 

(Still other scholars believe that Paul and his friends were constructing the temporary booths that were required for the Feast of the Tabernacles called Sukkot. So the jury is still out on the precise meaning of their occupation.)

In Israeli society then as well as now, there was little time alone because people lived so crowded together. Jesus often felt the urgency for privacy, to separate Himself from the crowd, even from His disciples, to listen to His Father. When a Jewish man wanted to pray, he could do so anywhere and anytime by putting his Prayer Tallith around his shoulders or over his head. Immediately, whether there was a crowd around him or not, he was “praying in secret” as Jesus described it. Some suppose that “entering into your closet to pray” could also have referred to creating a private place for prayer by putting on the Prayer Shawl.

These days in our society privacy is at a premium as well. Our cities are crowded and at home we are often surrounded by family members. Friends, work associates, and the general public press in upon us when we are away from home. Quiet time to pray is hard to come by. Nevertheless, we can and should “pray without ceasing” throughout the day whatever the circumstances as the apostle Paul wrote.

Christ indwells the believer. God is always with me and in me by His Holy Spirit. I am never separated from Him. However, some people may find it helpful during their private prayers to use some tangible symbol to make such time special. Some people light a candle. It can be a reminder to approach the presence of God in silence and with a spirit of reverence and awe.

Of course there is nothing magical about putting on a prayer shawl of whatever kind when I set aside a regular time for prayer. We don’t have to use an authentic one such as Jewish men, and women too, use today during prayer. It can be a scarf around my shoulders or a veil over my head as a symbol that I am separating myself from the distractions around me while devoting myself to prayer. 

When Susanna Wesley, mother of 18 children (including her famous preacher and hymn writer sons, John and Charles Wesley) wanted privacy for prayer, she pulled her work apron over her head. Whether she was in the kitchen or the bedroom, her children, even the youngest ones, knew and respected her quiet time with God.

In whatever way we reach out to touch Jesus for healing, wisdom, strength or provision of our daily needs, the promise is “Draw near unto God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) 

No matter what crowd is pressing around us, how our circumstances push us to the wall, how we long for personal space, how much we desire healing and wholeness of body, mind or spirit, we can touch Jesus as did the woman in the crowd. “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them” (Psalm 145:18, 19).


Friday, April 6, 2018

RELEASE THE BARNACLES!


 (For the FMF writers' challenge to write on the word "release.")

BARNACLES are small marine crustaceans, saltwater animals with an  external shell-like covering. They are "attachers." They join themselves permanently to ships, wharves, and rocks, and other marine animals. Clinging to the hull of a ship they can reduce the vessel's speed. The ship must be put in dry dock to have the bottom scraped from barnacles. 

I too am like some ships at sea which are loaded down with barnacles. I'm weighted down, slowed from pressing on to the best plan God has for my life. I confess to unwanted attachments and feelings. I need to release them, let them go!

I unnecessarily cling to offenses against me, real or imagined. They multiply exponentially. I remember hurts and keep the wounds open by reviewing them in my mind. I cling to negative emotions long after the situation is resolved which was the cause of them. I should release these barnacles. I should let them go!

I can't seem to forget events of the past when I was slighted or disappointed, occasions when I was sinned against or taken advantage of. They are barnacles. I should let them go!

Sometimes I, myself am a barnacle clinging to some relationship that is over, trying to resurrect a friendship that should be relegated to the past. There may be people I should allow to leave my life, whom God wants out of my life. I may be holding on to a wrong relationship or an addiction. I should intentionally release it. I should let it go!

I might be holding on to some thoughts of evil or revenge, planning to get even with someone for what he or she did to me. I must let it go!

If I am stuck in the past and God is trying to take me to a new level in Him, I should turn my back on the past, let it go, and let God do His new work in me. If I keep trying to help someone who doesn’t accept or want my help, I should back off and let it go! If there is a particular situation that I am used to handling myself and God is saying 'take your hands off of it,' then I need to let it go!

If I don't release these things voluntarily, God may need to scrape these barncales off. The process is sure to be painful. Nevertheless, I will be lightened to “press on to the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus...” (Philippians 3: 13, 14). The Lord will bless me with a fresh start in a new direction if I allow Him to scrape the barnacles off of my life. 

In my older calendar years I have an even greater accumulation of barnacles from which I need to be detached. No matter what my age or how complicated my circumstances, God is sufficient if I am willing to let them go, release them, detach myself from the “clingers,” forget the past, and surrender myself totally into His hands.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Why Does the Sky Cry?

(For the online writing-challenge--an April poem)
 
One might expect a little child to ask such an innocent, naive question when watching the spring rain fall. Since I am a “forever-child” of my Heavenly Father, He won’t object to my asking the same question.
       A dark, overcast sky with gentle raindrops pattering on my roof and splashing in puddles outside evokes conflicting emotions within me—I feel wistful, happy, yet sad, peaceful, nostalgic, and pensive all wrapped up with melancholy.
 Rain makes me feel both restful and restless.

Sky Tears


Why does the sky cry?

For what has been and is no more?

For what is not and never will be?

For what will be but is delayed?

Does the sky cry from emptiness or fullness?

Or simply because in the cycle of seasons

it is time to cry?

The sky needs release and the thirsty ground

needs sky tears to soften the soil

and prepare for spring:

 the planting, sprouting, birth of life.

The weeping sky and the rejoicing earth

meet in expectancy for the certainty

of growth after the spring rain.


Why does my heart cry?

I don't know why. Perhaps

for all the reasons

of the sky and earth combined

for I am part of that cycle of life

and its seasons.

I seem to be always in transition

always in anticipation

always in passage to another stage.

I too cry from emptiness and from fullness

and for release. Sometimes wistfully

looking backward

and then again pressing

longingly forward.

Sometimes my tears are neither sad nor glad.


Perhaps my tears are the bridge between

the loving decrees of God for my life

those unknown episodes

still beyond the horizon

and the thirst of my earth-heart to know

what they are and what the coming spring will bring

after the planting, after the sprouting

after the births of life that will come forth in me

ultimately 

after my spring rain.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Settled=Done=IT IS FINISHED!

(Written for "FMF" Five Minute Friday writing challenge on the word "settled"--on Good Friday's commemoration of our Lord's death on the Cross)


On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land some years ago, our group of American Christians had the opportunity and physical challenge to try climbing to the summit of what is traditionally known as Mount Sinai in the Egyptian desert. We were awakened at 3 in the morning by our Israeli guide so we could reach the top in time to view the sunrise. 

The climb in pitch darkness with failing flashlights over rocky terrain was more than arduous! I was not one of those who completed the ascent--some of us, breathless and exhausted, took shelter in a rocky cove about half way and waited to join our triumphant group for our descent. 

I wrote this poem afterward contrasting the two mounts: Mount Sinai and Mount Calvary. 


TWO MOUNTS

Sinai thunders "Do!"
Calvary whispers "Done!"

As Moses climbed Mt. Sinai
so I will try
sweating and straining
stumbling over rugged rocks
slipping on steep slopes.
Attempting Sinai's summit
I make it only half way!

Sinai thunders "Do!"
THE LAW, imposed for the good of man
measures with a perfect, divine ruler
man's inability to attain
a "mission impossible" standard:
breaking one law
I stand condemned by all. 

Calvary whispers "Done!"
GRACE, bought by the blood of the One
who dragged a rugged cross
over rough cobblestones
up Calvary--instead of me
and made it all the way
bought my freedom from THE LAW!
 
Not by works of THE LAW
but by GRACE! 
 It is settled!
"It is finished!" our Savior cried.

Sinai thunders "Do!"
Calvary whispers "Done!"--
once for all!




Monday, March 26, 2018

IF THE SHOE FITS....

   (Background from Scripture)

[The night Jesus was betrayed] "...they all left Him and fled. And a certain young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. But he left the linen sheet behind, and escaped naked." Mark 14:50-52 

 Mark is the only Gospel writer who records this incident. Was he himself perchance that young follower of Jesus whose well-to-do mother is identified as Mary of Jerusalem? Mark is referred to by historians as 'John Mark of Jerusalem'. His mother is known to have hosted Jesus and His disciples on numerous occasions in her probably spacious home. It remained a gathering place for prayer for the early Christians. (Acts 12:12). She may have been one of the women who followed Jesus seeing to their collective material needs with their own resources.

Her home may have been the location of the Last Supper. (Mark 14:15) My pure speculation, but Mark may have been there that night assisting his mom with the hospitality. After they had sung the last hymn and headed off to the Mount of Olives, (Mark 14:26) young Mark might have been getting ready for bed when his mom got wind of something sinister about to happen to Jesus in a familiar location not far from their home. The young man might have taken off at a run to see for himself, neglecting to put his clothes back on. Could he have been "the young man wrapped in a sheet" who got scared and ran off after the soldiers arrested Jesus?

 From a Commentary: The early Church is practically unanimous in ascribing the Second Gospel to Mark, the cousin of Barnabas and associate of apostles Paul and Peter. Thought to have been baptized by Peter, strong tradition also supports the assertion that in this Gospel he recorded the firsthand recollections and preaching of Peter, who calls Mark "my son" in 1 Peter 5:13. Mark was along on one of the early missionary journeys with Paul and Barnabas but dropped out and returned home to Jerusalem for unknown reasons. (Acts 13:13) This resulted in "a sharp disagreement" between Paul and Barnabas and a parting of their ways. (Acts 15:39) As John Mark, the unproven fledgling Christian, grew up and matured in his faith to become a steady, dependable disciple, he was restored into the good graces of Paul. (Colossians 4:10) After the death of Peter, historians say that John Mark became the first bishop of the Alexandrian Church.


HIS SANDALS
(An imagined scenario)
What happened to Jesus’ sandals?
Leona Choy

Soldiers jerked off His sandals
to nail His bare feet
to a rough-splintered cross
callously casting lots
for His seamless garment.
They tossed aside His filthy sandals
caked with mud
stained with blood
from His painful struggle
up Golgotha's hill
--not worth a throw of dice.

Then I noticed the sandals
hugged tightly under the arm
of a frightened youth.
They called him John Mark.
Where had I seen him before?
At the synagogue door?
Or helping his mother
hosting the Last Supper?
Perhaps in Gethsemane
running naked from the grasp
of Jesus' enemy?

What would that lad do
with those precious sandals?
Were they just a souvenir
of a grisly spectacle
that even in a later movie age
would surely be rated "R"
for violence and brutality?
Hiding alone in the shadows
on the fringes of the crowd
the boy watched the Man on the cross
suffering and dying.
Without Parental Guidance
to explain the meaning
of this atrocity
would he grasp the import
of this scandalous documentary?

Would this wide-eyed youth
understand the dreadful drama
he beheld that historic day
outside the city wall?
Would he realize that God 
had planned it all
from Eternity?

Would God provide a mentor
to relate the significance
of the death of this Man
who laid aside His sandals and robe
in the Upper Room
and stooped to wash
the grimy feet of His friends?

Would the boy wear those sandals?
Would he dare?
Would he be found worthy
and chosen eventually
to walk in the sandals
of that God-Man of Galilee?
Would they be to him
like the mantle of Elijah
enduing him doubly
with power for service?
Would he wear those very sandals
to take the Good News
one day far away
on missionary journeys?

YES! And he would write
a Gospel for those 
who weren't there
those scattered everywhere
down the corridors of time
to tell what he had witnessed
firsthand with his youthful eyes
at the Cross that terrible day
and received from the keen memory
of Peter the fisherman-disciple
who too had known
the beloved Christ of Galilee
and followed Him
in his own sandals!