Our New Home

Our New Home
Summer has begun... 100+ and lovin' it!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

It's Good for ALL kinds of Things!


My wife was always a joyful crusader for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  She worked outside the home for the first five years of our marriage before we started our family.  For the first three years she was a teacher at the First Presbyterian Preschool in our home town.  Then she did a stint at the SRJC and ended up at Hewlett Packard for about six months before going on maternity leave.



Piper was the youngest teacher at the preschool by at least five years or more and the kids just loved her.  Let’s face it, with her small stature, at barely twenty-two, she looked like the kid’s big sister!  At Christmas time each year they showered her with many creative homemade or specialty store ornaments.  That’s actually why I couldn’t put up a tree this year as those ornaments hold too many strong, vibrant and heartfelt memories of Piper’s and my early years together.



During her time at the school and the other two organizations, she lived her strong Baptist heritage and newly received Charismatic giftings in her usual encouraging and enthusiastic manner.  Her only one concern about not returning to work after her maternity leave was over, was that she wouldn’t be able to share her Christianity with others outside the home on a daily basis.  She prayed long and hard about this until she felt the Lord speaking to her heart one day telling her that He would bring the people to her front door… and you know?  That’s exactly what happened! 



I can’t tell you how many neighborhood kids and their parents received salvation and/or the Good News of the Gospel through her joyful lifestyle and ability to have the right word at the right time!  She had a tenacity about her that would not give up on those in need.  She knew the power of the Word of God to change lives and possessed an uncanny ability to share a practical application of the Word into almost every situation.  But it wasn’t pushy or overbearing… it was just Piper living her life with you!



If the Word said it, she believed it to be true and lived her life accordingly.  2Timothy 3:16 tells us that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” (EMTV)  She believed the truth of that verse and used it through her example and sweet and encouraging words to influence many a troubled life.



Another scripture she adhered to was Ephesians 4:11-12 where the Apostle Paul tells us that the five-fold ministries of the apostle, the prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher were given of God for the purpose of “the perfecting of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ,” (EMTV) 



I had a Pastor that I worked under one time explain to me that while the Pastoral staff of a church are to go out beyond the church to minister to the community, their main responsibility is to teach and prepare their congregation for “the work of the ministry” in their homes, their neighborhoods, their jobs and within the rest of their world.



And how do we best do that?  From mine and Piper’s experience, it is by simply sharing your Christian lives with those around you.  In my class on Personal Evangelism at Bible School, my instructor taught that the best way to share the Gospel message is by sharing what’s inside of you!  So, yes… that means you’ve got to spend some regular amounts of time feeding and being fed on the Word of God.  If you’re not full of the Word on the inside… everything else in there will come out when you live your life in the world.



I can’t think of a better time than this Christmas Season to share what’s inside of us… Wouldn’t you agree?  I’ll be spending my Christmas this year with three of our four children and their families in and around Tulsa Oklahoma.  And even though I couldn’t bear to spend my first Christmas alone without my Piper and need to be with them, I also plan to follow Paul’s instruction and “build up the body of Christ” and everyone else I come upon while vacationing in the Sooner State!  I pray that you join in the fun as well wherever you reside!



Have a great rest of the week and a Blessed and Joyous Christmas!



-       Jim

Monday, December 17, 2018

Oophs! He's Tapping on my Shoulder

I was thinking yesterday afternoon that Piper and I had been involved in church leadership since the early days of our relationship.  I was also thinking that it seemed like we both had an inkling for the things of God from an early age.  


I can remember being very sensitive to the pageantry of the Catholic church and was always respectful of the nuns and priests that I saw at school and in Sunday services.  I have early memories of sincerely praying to God back in the second grade while attending St Rose Catholic School and erecting a May Altar in my bedroom.*  When I served as an altar boy in my later elementary school years at St Eugene’s Cathedral, it was all business for me!  While some of the other boys would fool around in the sacristy**, I was always at awe and acted in the greatest of reverence.

Piper grew up in an American Baptist Church and was fully involved in all kinds of activities from a young age including the Junior Choir, Girls Guild and various womens circles.  While still in her teens she was good friends with most of the leaders in the church.  I used to joke  that she was one of the “darlings” of the church.  When we started dating, I was always amazed how it seemed that everyone in the church knew and respected her!  (And it was a fairly good-sized church.  The Pastor once told me that they had about 350 families in the church.) 

I know that I’ve mentioned this before but when Piper and I wrote*** and directed a Rock Opera for the church and community in the early ‘70’s, we had assembled a band to accompany the singers.  Piper played the piano and on one song (Amazing Grace) she played the organ.  I’ll never forget standing in the little music pit and hearing some of the members of the congregation whispering to each other, “I didn’t know Piper played the organ too!”

So, a few weeks after our wedding, it seemed quite normal for us to step into another leadership roll as Youth Ministers for her church… and it just seemed to blossom through the years from there, whether it was Praise and Worship Leaders or Assistant Pastors at five different churches.

Therefore, when I read a portion of scripture like I Peter 5:1-4, I can’t help but stop and come to attention.  Here Peter writes:
“I appeal to your spiritual leaders. I make this appeal as a spiritual leader who also witnessed Christ's sufferings and will share in the glory that will be revealed.  Be shepherds over the flock God has entrusted to you. Watch over it as God does: Don't do this because you have to, but because you want to. Don't do it out of greed, but out of a desire to serve.  Don't be rulers over the people entrusted to you, but be examples for the flock to follow.  Then, when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”  (God’s Word ©) 

When I read this the other afternoon I sat up on the bed where I was attempting to take a nap, and thought, “He’s talking to me” and felt a tinge of conviction.  Since Piper’s passing, I have tried to be as obedient as possible with reaching out to different people.  Its been easier with some than with others but when I felt Him leading me, I always followed through… sometimes not too excitedly though!  When I re-read these verses, I realized that He was telling me that it is all a part of my “calling” as a minister of the Gospel, the same as when He had me encouraging those ministering to Piper’s needs and to distant family members as well, during the years of her illness.

And He made it clear that it should be undertaken because of my desire to serve Him!  It also doesn’t matter if I get any satisfying results back from those I minister to.  I am doing it because it is the right thing to do and to be a good example to those I minister to, including our kids.

So… it seems that our involvement in the ministry didn’t stop when we left our last church back in California, but continues for life.  I like how The Message paraphrase puts Romans 11:29 reminding us that, “God's gifts and God's call are under full warranty—never canceled, never rescinded.”  I also think that the ministry of encouragement and faith building belongs to every Believer whether they have a specific ministry call on their lives or not… but that’s for another post!

With the prospect of a whole new life set before me since Piper’s homegoing, I feel like the Lord is bringing me back to the basics of my faith in order to prepare me for what’s ahead!  Oh well, I’ve always been up to a good challenge!  How about you?

Have a great new week.  I’ll only have one more post later this week before I fly off to Tulsa to be with three of our four kids for Christmas!  So, I hope you also have a great and joyous time as you prepare to celebrate the birthday of the King, and as you do, think about today’s post and say with me… “I am expecting to be used of God anywhere and anytime He taps me on my shoulder!”



* https://www.catholicfamilyfaith.com/2013/05/may-altar-for-mary.html

** A room in a church where a priest prepares for a service, and where vestments and other things used in worship are kept.  (Oxford Online Dictionary)

***I wrote a couple of the 10 or so songs in the production as well as the plot and script.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Lots of Possibilities!


I had a short but very vivid dream yesterday morning that really helped to settle a few things and bring some peace to my troubled heart.  I won’t share the contents of the dream as it contained some very personal direction for me concerning a question that had really been tying me up in knots over the last week or so.  Maybe at a later date…

Over the last few months I have gotten into the habit of walking around the perimeter of our backyard and praying aloud, while the dog runs around and checks out all the new flavors and sensations in the yard that have occurred since the last time we went out!  It has actually been quite a rewarding and peaceful experience… although if anybody saw and/or heard me, they might tend to question my stability.  But then again, most of the neighbors know that I lost my wife recently and would probably chalk it up to weird responses to grief!  Anyway, I walk and pray aloud… just like Jesus is at my side taking the walk with me… which He probably is!   

As I mentioned above, I have had one particular subject ricocheting around my mind and heart that has really been a tough one to figure out... much less even talk about!  So, I naturally brought it up in my backyard walk times. 

I hit a rough patch the other day as I had read a page from Don Piper’s book “90 Minutes in Heaven” where the author tells the story of when he was in a horrific car accident, died and went to heaven back in 1989.  I had read the book a few years ago and pulled it out at this time to review the very vivid details of his experience in heaven.  As I began to read his descriptions of the sights, sounds and people that first greeted him and compared them in my mind’s eye to Piper’s potential experience, I was totally overcome with emotions and went down to my knees as the tears began to flow.

After awhile I got some control and decided that a walk in the cool crisp outside weather might just be what the doctor ordered.  So, I bundled up and Fiver and I went out the back door.  The shock of the twenty-some degree weather did snap me to a little but I still stood on the patio with my hands dug into my pockets and the big hood enwrapping my head and just sort of swayed on my feet.  Finally, I spoke out in prayer: “Wow Lord!  I am totally lost in Pipersville!”  I have never done drugs, but I would imagine that the fog I was lost in was similar to a drug induced experience!

With all that going on, I stepped off the patio and began to walk and pray.  Within a few steps though, that nagging question came bounding right back up to me and I began to pray, argue, plead, discuss and attempt to negotiate with the Lord!  I realized at one point as I turned the corner near our shed and headed toward the front fence, that my hands were swinging around in the best form of my Italian heritage and that my voice was raised quite loudly.  Thank God that I have no neighbors next to or behind me on that side of the house!  Well, that unresolved discussion continued for a while until I had said all I could think of and Fiver and I retreated into the warmth of our house.

It was the next morning when I had the dream.  As quickly as the dream came it ended and I woke up with a start.  I stared at the ceiling for a few moments, turned and noticed that the clock on the nightstand read 5:23 AM and then fell back asleep.  Within what seemed like only a few seconds I heard and then saw the words: “Possibilities and not Limitations” in my subconscious mind.  As I began to ponder the meaning of those words, I heard that all familiar “small, still voice” of the Lord speak from my spirit clearly saying, “Jim, you need to start dwelling on the possibilities and not on the limitations of your future.”  There was a slight pause and then He continued, “You’ve been dwelling on YOUR limitations and not on MY possibilities!”

Well, He didn’t need to say anymore as I knew in an instant that the dream and His correction or adjustment to my belief system following the dream was all in answer to my troubled concerns and questions that I had agonized over the previous afternoon.  And while I still didn’t have all the answers or pieces of the puzzle, I had His peace “which passeth all understanding…” (Philippians 4:7 KJV)

When I got up about an hour or so later, I quickly wrote down everything I had heard along with some of my personal thoughts on the experience.  During my morning Bible study, I did a search on the word “Possibilities” and, of course, came up with Mark 9:23 from the God’s Word © translation.  In this story, a Father with a sick and troubled son cried out to Jesus saying: “if You are able to do anything, help us and have compassion on us." (Mark 9:22 EMTV)  And without a second thought “Jesus said to him,As far as possibilities go, everything is possible for the person who believes.’" (Mark 9:23 God’s Word ©)

I realized later in the day on the way into town, that the Lord was doing a little bit of course adjustment in my heart with the dream and the following words of wisdom.  It would seem that I was getting a bit off course and was beginning to let all the emotions of Piper’s move to heaven cloud my vision.  I was looking more at how I thought the scenario of my future would go instead of continuing to depend on the unlimited possibilities of God’s possibilities!

I love it when God steps into my life!

‘nough said don’t ya think?  Are there any areas in your life… current or potential… where a slight course adjustment needs to be made so that your focus is totally on the unlimited possibilities of God’s possibilities working freely in your life?  Hummm… that’s something to consider… especially as we come to the end of one year and the beginning of a fresh new one that’s loaded with all kinds of possibilities?  (I used the word possibilities 3 times in that paragraph!  That’s a lot of possibilities for you!)

Have a great weekend, and as you do, say with me… “I am expecting to make whatever adjustments necessary in order to have the unlimited possibilities of God’s possibilities working for me right now and throughout 2019!”

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Isn't That Just Like Her?


I’ve been spending a lot more time in our study over the last few days.  I had originally seen the room as kind of a fun place to retreat to whenever either one of us wanted to read, spend some alone time, watch TV, do our Bible studies, pray and yes… even pay the bills!  But for some reason, we never spent much time in the room while Piper was still with us.



To be honest though, the location of the room in the hallway made it a little difficult to maneuver Piper’s wheelchair in and out.  We could make it work but with a corner entrance, the placement of the loveseat in the room and the bulk of the chair, it was more than I had the patience to deal with on most days.  So, except for settling in to read to Piper in the afternoons a few times, to get a book or pull out a file from the desk, it never lived up to its full potential!  It was just a lot easier to work at the dining room table where Piper could be close at my side and oversee whatever I was doing at the time!



Within the last month or so, I moved the files, Bibles and everything that I had stacked on the dining room table back into the study… well, most everything.  There are still a few pieces of mail to file and… yikes… seven Bibles out and about!  (I’m still doing my morning Bible study there!)



I was in the back room doing some things over the weekend and again yesterday.  On both days I found myself on my knees looking through books on the bottom row of the bookshelves or into the far reaches of a file cabinet for something I’d hidden away for safety purposes… and then forgot where I put it!  On Sunday I came across Piper’s church, Bible study and prayer notebook for almost all of 2003.  Yesterday I pulled out our Senior yearbook to check out a picture of us in the ad section where we posed for an advertisement.  Then a little later, I took out and reviewed with a tear in my eye, Piper’s first MRI images from September of 2007 that I had filed away.



The notebook was filled with amazing memories of the Church Leadership Conference that we attended in Oklahoma in 2003.  It was the one where I heard that small still voice of the Lord inside of me telling me that it was time to go to Bible school.  On one page there was a prayer list that included her desires to own “our house with property and horses” and the calling to move to Oklahoma for us to attend Bible College.  (we had always planned that both of us would attend the school, but Piper’s physical needs changed all that a few years later.)



I was so excited when I read the request about the house with property as it served to confirm her limited but positive reaction when it came to the decision to purchase this house in 2015.  It was another heart desire of hers that got fulfilled in her lifetime!  The prayer for going to Rhema Bible College also cemented the accuracy of what we had “heard” at that convention and then the three years that we prayed and planned for the move.  Piper and I were never more in agreement for something as we were to follow this particular leading of the Lord.  Andwithout a doubt, we received more vehement controversy over that one decision than for any other in our 48 years together… both before and especially after our return!



As I have written of before, I can see today that it was simply an attack on our faith.  It was a gigantic maneuver of the enemy of our souls to get us to sell out on what we believed was God’s way for us to handle these last ten years… before we even got started!  As I read from Acts 9:20-23 concerning the incidents that occurred with Saul immediately following his conversion, I can see many similarities to what happened to us. 



This portion of scripture informs us that as soon as Saul (or Paul as we’ll later come to know him) was converted that he began to preach Christ, or in other words, he immediately began to follow his new calling.  His actions definitely caught the attention of those around him as the writer reports that “Everyone who heard him was amazed.”  But it wasn’t the positive type of amazement that I mentioned in my last post.  This amazement took an ugly turn.  The next few verses tell us that “Saul grew more powerful, and he confused the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.  (&) Later the Jews planned to murder Saul.” (Acts 9:20-23 God’s Word ©)



The truth that Saul preached was not in agreement with what the Jewish leaders believed or lived… and they were not happy about it!  The use of the word “amazed” in this sense is defined in the original language as “to put out of wits, to astound, to become insane.” (Strong’s)  A modern dictionary explains the actions of “insane” as “in a state of mind which prevents normal perception, behavior or social interaction.” (Oxford Online Dictionary)



When I saw those definitions all I could say was “WOW!”  For it was exactly what I felt was going on when a small group of folks disagreed with our decision to go to Bible College and then return full of faith to follow what we believed was the Godly ordained path for Piper’s care.  To say the least, it was a very difficult and confusing time.



But in the end, we stuck to our guns, the pressure transformed into a distant relationship and everything happened the way I believe, God wanted it to!  And NOW... it seems like I am continually coming up with confirmations from Piper through her past notes written down in her Bibles, notebooks, on scraps of paper… and in my heart.  I realized as I was stepping out of the shower this morning, that Piper is still encouraging me with the memories she left behind… just for me!  Isn’t that just like her!



So, I continue to encourage you to NEVER give up on the plans that you believe that God has given you… no matter what or who comes against you!  Your perseverance in obediently following the plan of God will AWAYS pay off!



Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, say with me… “I am expecting the plans that I believe God told me to follow are coming to fruition!”


Monday, December 10, 2018

Always AMAZED!


I just came in from tossing the ball to Fiver out back.  It may be 28 degrees with a light combination of rain and ice falling from the skies, but it felt great!  The dog’s normally white legs and feet were covered in brown muck… as were my shoes and pant cuffs as well!  Then when we ran into the house, we both left behind a trail of muddy, wet footprints.  Thank God for hardwood floors.  A quick brushing to my shoes, a towel rub-down for Fiver and a wipe of the floor and everything is back to normal again!  Isn’t life sweet?

Well… for this moment at least.  But I am slowly learning to enjoy life again, one moment at a time.  I was telling a neighbor who came by last night with some extra chicken she had prepared, that the one positive thing about my wife’s passing is that I find that I am much more relaxed than I have been for years.  Putting the emotional stress of her loss aside, I discovered that I am no longer uptight and “on alert” all day and night as when I was taking care her.  I actually enjoyed the snow storm we had yesterday and am looking forward to a little more snow fall later this morning.  We’re doing fine by the way.  We are far enough southeast that we missed the brunt of the storm system.

Those last ten years were pretty intense though.  Between the emotional heart ache at seeing the one you love physically deteriorating before your eyes, the constant medical decisions, her ever-increasing physical care and then the outright attacks of the enemy of our souls as he tried to destroy our faith… whew!  It was an incredible, eye-opening journey!

Since last Christmas, up until three months ago, I started my morning Bible study by writing down that “We are being AMAZED in 2018!” followed by Luke 2:18 from the God’s Word translation where it states that “Everyone who heard the shepherds' story was amazed.”  Since Piper’s homegoing I’ve updated the beginning statement to declare that I am continuing to be AMAZED in 2018!” 

The thought of continuing to be AMAZED caught my fancy yesterday and after penning Luke 2:18 in my notes, I paused for a moment and prayed aloud, “Lord, I don’t ever want to STOP being AMAZED with the story of my life that You are writing!”  Then after a few minutes of Bible study, I somehow came to Habakkuk 1:5 when the Prophet of God spoke to the people saying, “Look among the nations and watch. Be amazed and astonished. I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if it were reported to you.” (God’s Word ©) 

When I saw that verse, I knew that the good Lord was speaking to my broken heart.  Now while I understand that the context of that statement is not written as a positive encouragement since the Prophet was actually chastising the Jews for not obeying the Law and was predicting some rough times ahead… I could see how this verse, if taken from a positive outlook, flows in line with the heart of God to His chosen people, similar to Jeremiah’s words in Jeremiah chapter 33.  And that is exactly how I took its meaning!

Yes, Piper and I went through some horrific times over the last ten years, but though it all, God continued to show Himself to be AMAZING, with the power of His Word and repeatedly answered prayers all enabled by our unshakeable faith!  So, am I REALLY expecting Him to continue to be AMAZING in my life?  You bet!

The question now is… What or How are you expecting God to be in YOUR life?

Have a great new week, and as you do, say with me… “Lord, I am expecting to
NEVER stop being AMAZED with the story of my life that You are writing!” 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Reading, Study, Power


Do you like to read?  I sure do!  I have fond memories of my Mom taking me to the Montgomery Village branch of the County Library in our home town when I was just a kid.  That particular branch is long gone today, but the memories of those weekly trips there with my Mom during the summer months will always remain with me! 



I would also bet that our kids would tell you of similar memories with their Mom.  This time though, it was the Coddingtown branch (which is still there… I think?) and it was every few weeks throughout the year as she homeschooled the kids.  I would chuckle every time I would see them come home with triumphant smiles on their faces walking up the driveway each with a grocery bag filled with books.  I guess there was a limit of about 12 or so books each and Piper always let them take their time and fill up to the maximum.



Over the last few years I have grown quite a collection of adventure novels (besides my personal library of Christian teaching books and Bibles).  I enjoy reading a few chapters when I lay down at night as it continues to help me to relax after a stressful day.  Many… in fact most of the books, I have read numerous times.  When I read a book for the first time, I tend to read through it fairly rapidly.  Then at a later date when I pick it up again, I’ll read at a slower pace and pick up all the little nuances that I may have missed the first time.  I do the same things with movies and it would drive our kids crazy as they got older.  “You want to watch that AGAIN?  DAD, do we have to!”



Over the years, I have also learned that this is not only a good practice but the PREFERRED practice when it comes to the book that was written by men of old who were directly inspired by the Holy Spirit… that being the Bible.  It was that very habit that got me successfully through the daily care of my sweet wife for the last nine years.



You see, the difference between the Bible and any other book that you read is that the words written down in your Bible are special words.  They are the living words of Christ.  John 1:1 tells us that the Word of God is one and the same with Jesus.  Then, a few verses down, the Apostle John further informs us that Jesus, the Word, is the source of light as well as the light for humanity! (See: John 1:4)  Pretty awesome wouldn’t you say?



I am always amazed during this time of the year when we celebrate the birth of Christ and I see in the written history of the event, that God made a point to establish the fact of the special significance and power of His Word in the very beginning stages of His plan of salvation.  When the angel appeared to the young girl Mary, he delivered God’s personal message to her and then reassured her that “with God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37 KJV).  The literal translation of that statement actually declares that “No word from God shall be void of power.” (ASV)  Again, pretty awesome wouldn’t you agree?



The word “word” speaks not of the overall Word of God (Logos) but of the Rhema Word meaning “any sound produced by the voice and having definite meaning (Thayer’s)  Robertson’s Word Pictures states that “Rhēma brings out the single item rather than the whole content (logos).”  Simply put, it is a word from God in His Word that you have studied out and He has given a special significance of it to you, for a particular situation, need or as an answer for a question in your life.



That’s why I read and re-read from my Bible everyday and have since Piper gave me my first Bible back in 1970… Granted, I can’t say that I got a lot of Rhema words from God back then, but the more I read (and re-read) the more I began to get!  It got to be a habit that I depended on and just sort of became second nature to me!  It was my regular personal study time in the Word and the multiple-time-a-day confession to Piper of the 100 plus healing scriptures* we had written down that I believe was the key source to Piper’s longevity and my ability and strength to make the tough decisions and at times (especially over the last 6 months) to be able to physically lift her and care for all her needs.



For me, anytime spend in God’s Word is like a cup of strong coffee and a quick workout on the treadmill (like I’ve started doing again lately)!  It not only kept (and now keeps) me focused on the goal but also picked me up physically, emotionally and definitely spiritually!  It is now an engrained habit.  I was telling one of my daughter’s the other day that I’ve done this for so long now, that I can’t IMAGINE starting a day without time spent with God in His Word. 



A good Pastor friend of mine told me last night that she doesn’t know of anyone who was so focused and driven in giving their spouse the exceptional care that I did. 

Statements like that always surprise and humble me at the same time.  As far as I am concerned, I was just doing what I believed I needed to do to care for the love of my life (or... I guess you could say for the life of my love!)  But I could never have done it without the power of God’s Word working in and through Piper and I.



I figure that if it was important enough for God to declare at the beginning of the New Testament Church Age, then it is important enough for me to continue in this time… a time that many Biblical scholars believe to be the last days…



What do you think?  Is it time for you to be AMAZED with the power of God working in your daily life?  Have a great weekend.  We are supposed to get our first snow fall beginning late Saturday night.  I’m actually kind of excited about it!  I’ll let you know how it goes… but until then, say with me… “I am expecting to release the POWER of God’s Word into my life today!”





*I didn’t read all 100 scriptures each time, but did confess a large sampling of them throughout each day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Peeks at the Advent Calendar


Back in December of 2012 while still residing in California, I wrote a series of Christmas posts to serve as a type of “Advent Calendar.”  It was set up so that the reader could walk through the month before Christmas as it was brought forth in our Bibles, with a daily scripture reading, a story and an activity for the reader to experience.


On a hunch, I pulled up today’s First Wednesday in Advent post and low and behold it really spoke to my heart.  It looked to me that the lead character in today’s story had a lot in common with the brand new, totally different and seemingly out-of-this-world place that I find myself in right now!  Then I realized that it might have that same effect on many of you for whatever new and possibly very different things that you may be experiencing in your life.  
So, I thought you might enjoy reading this as much as I did… and that it would encourage you as much as it did me.  ENJOY!




The Teenage Years



Wednesday, the first week of Advent



Today’s Reading:  Isaiah 7:14 / Luke 1:26-38



Today’s society tends to look at the teenage years as a time to fear.  To many it is looked upon as “The Rebellious Years,” or as a time of experimentation.  It is the one phase of the child rearing years that many parents dread and pray that they have the endurance to make it through with their kids.  As one who has had the honor of working closely with and ministering to youth in the local church throughout my life, as well as actively participating in the upbringing of our own four kids, I look at those experiencing life as a 12 to 18-year-old with a different set of glasses!



I see these youth as older kids who suddenly find themselves in an in-between time where they are no longer children, but yet not quite adults.  Their bodies are changing, and they are beginning to have the capabilities to think about and comprehend the world and everything they have ever known with a whole new set of comprehensive and abstract tools.  Then on top of everything else, their emotions seem to be on a rollercoaster ride as they are going through this physical, mental, spiritual and emotional upheaval!  With everything happening in them, it is no surprise for me to see some of our youth dressed in black from head to toe, with hair in multicolored shades of red or blue, with a new vocabulary that seems to only include about half a dozen words, or with body piercing in a wide array of locations on their bodies.



Yes, they are experimenting and testing the waters of life.  Yes, they are looking to find out who they really are and what they really believe and yes, they are testing those around them, those they love and befriend, to find out just how really loved and accepted they are to them.  In my experience, I have come to realize that our youth are a product of the environment that they have been raised in, and underneath it all, that they are looking for the same securities that we adults seek in our lives.



In our story today, we see the angel Gabriel coming on the scene again as he appears to a young teenage girl with a message that could turn her world upside down!  It is interesting for me to see that there is no record of her physical features or dress.  The only description that is given is that she was “a virgin” who was “highly favored” (Luke 1:26-28)  Have you ever thought about Mary’s appearance?  What if she wore a nose ring like Rachel the revered wife of Isaac who was one of the Patriarchs of her Jewish faith?  (See Genesis 24:22) It would seem that God only looked on the qualities of her heart and not on the sight of how she dressed, her hair style or the jewelry she might have worn.



What we do see as our story unfolds though, is that this young girl, who was most likely between the ages of 12 – 15, knew the scriptures, knew the faithfulness of her God, and was very confident and yet humble to accept and pursue whatever responsibility was given to her from Him.  When Gabriel appeared to her, she was not overtaken with fear as we saw with her uncle’s experience six months previous to this event. 



I believe that her reaction that caused her to be “startled by what the angel said” and her question “How can this be?” (Luke 1:29 & 34) was simply the inquisitive request of an innocent young girl wanting to know how it would happen.  She did not ask for a sign and never doubted that it was from God, or that she could handle the calling!  Her reply to the angel’s explanation was a straight forward affirmation of: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”  (Luke 1:38 ASV) 



No where do we find any recorded thoughts of “Can I do this?  Am I good enough or able to accomplish this task?  What if I fail?” or “What will my family, friends and relatives think?” and maybe most importantly, “What will my husband to be think?”  I am positive that Mary’s home environment perfectly prepared her for her all-important role in God’s plan for our salvation.  She never flinched, but jumped whole heartedly into this sudden and totally unexpected turn in her life!



Once again, how would you respond to such a dramatic turn of events in your life?  Would you have the same simple confidence, zeal and freedom to let go and let God as this young teenage girl exemplified? 



This short story has many things for us to consider this Christmas season.  For instance, how we look at others.  How we look at ourselves.  The depth of our unyielding trust in our heavenly Father, and maybe even the difference between how God looks at people compared to how we view them.  This could be an advantageous time to grab a sheet of blank paper and begin to jot down some personal notes as thoughts on these questions arise within you.  It might just be the beginnings of a whole new way you look at life’s assignments, at other people and at yourself!



Have a Super day!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “How am I expecting to view life today?”