The Importance of Story

Jesus was a teacher and storyteller. The book of Matthew records numerous stories. While speaking to a crowd he told the parable of the sower who encountered different types of soil. (Matthew 13) Speaking to his disciples he told the story of the lost sheep (Matthew 18). There are many more parables throughout the gospels. Jesus would sometimes answer a question with a story.

I just finished reading Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan. The fictional characters, George and Megs, are exploring the importance of stories. George has read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and wants to know if Narnia is real. Megs is a student at Oxford and finds an opportunity to meet C.S. Lewis. She plans to ask him George’s question.

Once Upon a Wardrobe

The question is repeated different ways; where do stories come from? What do they mean? Is there a deep truth embedded in stories?

Patti has a well-researched knowledge of C.S. Lewis and includes biographical aspects of his life. At the end of the book C.S. Lewis’ stepson comments on the book. It is a good read. 

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Who Is Listening for the Promise?

One of the Christmas cards I received had a drawing of Mary and Elizabeth. According to the book of Luke, Elizabeth was the first to learn of Mary’s pregnancy after the angel had appeared to Mary. She believed God’s plan.

Art by Mike Torevell

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke 1: 41-42

Matthew recorded the visit of the three wise men from the east. They had learned of the birth of Jesus from their study of the stars. They came to worship and bring gifts.

And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him. Then opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2: 9-11

Luke recorded the experience of shepherds who were tending their sheep.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over the flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For onto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2: 8-14

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. Luke 2: 15-17

Elizabeth, the wise men from the east and the shepherd received the announcement of a Savior, a King. Amidst the political turmoil, corruption of leaders and problems in daily life, they heard the message of hope. God was doing something, Let us be like them, ready to see and hear God at work. In another post I write about Mary and Elizabeth and how their hearts and minds were prepared for the coming Savior.

Our soul waits for the Lord, he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33: 20-22

Note: the card pictured above is from The Printery House at Conception Abbey 

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Christmas Community

Each day I look forward to the mail. It is a blessing and joy to receive Christmas cards and letters.

Sometimes it is a photo card and I marvel how the children in the family have grown. Other times it is a pretty card with a letter.

The cards and letters signify relationships and community. I am so thankful to hear from friends living in different states, different countries. We share the joy of Christmas along with family news.

The apostle Paul wrote letters to people of faith that he considered family. 

Paul, a servant of God . . . to Titus, my child in a common faith. Titus 1:1,4

Do you write a Christmas letter? Or send a photo card?

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The Best Expectation

Throughout the past year my husband and I have been reading through the Bible. Today our reading was from 1 Chronicles and Isaiah. The books we have read clearly illustrate human nature and the problem of sin in the lives of people who have gone before us.

After God chose Israel to be a nation to follow his commands—laws that would sustain them and allow them to flourish—the people wanted a king. They wanted to be like other nations.

And so they had kings. God continued to reach out to them through the prophets, promising a Savior that would redeem them from the human pattern of sin.

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be on his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forever more. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7

As years went by, the people waited. When Jesus came, he was not like their expectation. They were familiar with kings and power. They were hoping for a powerful king to overthrow the heavy hand of Roman rule.

It is interesting that in Matthew 13, Jesus tells three parables to describe the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field . . .  Again, the kingdom of heaven in like a merchant in search of fine pearls . . .  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. Matthew 13: 44, 45, 47

 It had to be so difficult to understand, that the promised Prince of Peace would also be a suffering Savior.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, as one from whom men hid their faces. He was despised , and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflected. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 52: 3-5

We live in a confusing and turbulent time. We can miss God’s plan of salvation if we are not seeking God with all our heart. What are my expectations? Can I lay them aside and wait patiently, prayerfully for God?

There is one expectation that I can claim. God will fulfill his promises.

Sharing this post with the FiveMinute Friday Writing Community and Inspire Me Monday and Lyli’s Faith on Fire .

Twelve Owls of Christmas

Owls have always fascinated me. I received a handcrafted owl, made in Finland, as a gift. This owl will make a hooting sound when you blow on the hole at its tailfeathers.

At Christmas I enjoy taking out ornaments that have been packed away. I have a number of owls and I find a place for each on the tree. The grandchildren count them when they visit. (There are twelve.)

A wise old owl sat on an oak,

The more he saw the less he spoke;

The less he spoke the more he heard;

Why aren’t we like that wise old bird?

Edward Hersey Richards

Present in Advent

Last Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent. With joy we turn our attention to God’s gift of love. Jesus came as an infant to fully participate in our human experience, and then provide a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus as newborn baby and Son of God was presented at the temple in Jerusalem.

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. Luke 2:22

In a letter to Timothy, Paul gives instruction to present ourselves before the Lord

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Our children attended Awana clubs. The purpose of Awana is to teach Bible verses to children, encouraging them to memorize. The letters in Awana stand for: Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed. The Bible verses that they committed to memory have been a blessing in their lives.

Our son, Steven, memorized 2 Timothy 2:15 and commented on it in the little journal that he kept. In the last days of his life the truth of the Bible guided his thoughts and comments.

As we approach Christmas let us recognize God’s gift with awe and seek to come to Him, continuing to learn and grow in our faith. 

Every Friday Kate gives a one word writing prompt. Today’s prompt is: PRESENT Visit the writing community here.

Linking this post with Heart Encouragement .

The Birth in Bethlehem

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

God’s amazing design is before us in the birth of Jesus. Jesus did not enter our world as an adult. He came as an infant, fully human and also God. 

He wasn’t born in a palace or a hospital equipped with modern technology. His birth was dependent on the natural physical ability of a young woman to give birth.

God didn’t need human intervention to carry out his plan for our good. This fills me with joy and trust. We can rest, knowing God is sovereign over our world. 

Luke, the physician wrote in his gospel: And while they [Joseph and Mary] were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in manger because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2: 6-7

Birth in Bethlehem
Painting in a Cathedral in Finland

Have a blessed and joyous Christmas!

This post is shared with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: BIRTH

Also linking with Sue’s image-in-ing and Inspire Me Monday .

The Light of Christmas

Christmas, the day that we commemorate Jesus’ birth, is coming. Last night we attended a concert titled Night of Glory. It was good to pause from my errands, cookie baking, and card writing. I listened to the story of God’s amazing gift, told in song. The concert began with the orchestra playing Farandole (March of the Kings).

The wise men had a star in the night sky to lead them to the promised Savior. We have the Bible—old and new testament. In both prophecy and in the gospels, Jesus comes into the world bringing light. 

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. Isaiah 9:2

The gospel of John tells about the Savior coming to earth.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. . .  John 1: 9-12

I remember the times that the electricity in our home was disrupted by a storm. When the power was off we looked for flashlights and candles. We needed light to dispel the darkness, to see where we were going. 

In the same way we need a relationship with God through Jesus.  We live in a world darkened by sin. Jesus gives direction for our life.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. The prompt is: DARKNESS

When Pain Leads to Prayer

After Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden God said, I will greatly increase your pain in childbearing; withpain you will give birth to children. Genesis 3:16

Was this a punishment or a way of reminding Eve to seek God’s help?

In my own life, periods of suffering have motivated me to communicate with God. When our son was diagnosed with leukemia I experienced great emotional pain. I learned to open my heart and ask God the questions that were weighing heavily. The Psalms were helpful in guiding my prayers. I prayed for God’s help and guidance.

Pain can cause us to pause and seek help.  

For a period of time I attended women who labored and gave birth at home. As labor intensified they sometimes prayed. One mother asked her husband to pray. Another mama asked me to pray.

As I observed the prayers I saw faith and motherhood in a new way. Beginning motherhood with a prayer for God’s help was right.

Christmas is coming. Do you wonder about the birth of Jesus? Certainly Mary experienced pain. What was it like for Mary?

Mary and Manger

Yes, there was pain and stress but God demonstrated great love and grace in the incarnation.

Jesus experienced the ultimate pain as he approached death on the cross. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22: 42-44

Pain, prayer and love are connected.

The prompt for the Five Minute Friday community is: WITH

The manger scene is courtesy of FreeVintageArt.com

Deep and Time Honored Messages of Hope

In the past few months my husband and I have been worshipping on Sunday mornings with a church plant. We gather in a room of a nearby hotel. The musically talented members of our group lead the singing. Sometimes our singing is accompanied by keyboard, by violin or acapella.

We have sung some of the older hymns. Some are new to me. I don’t have a great voice but I enjoy participating, letting the words wash over me. It gives me peace to sing hymns that believers have lifted their voices to over many years.

Samuel Trevor Francis, an English pastor and hymn writer, gave us this hymn:

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast unmeasured, boundless, free
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches oer His loved ones,
Died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth,
Watcheth oer them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Love of every love the best!
Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
Tis a haven of sweet rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus.
Tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee!

We are entering the advent season with the opportunity to hear and sing Christmas carols. I am looking forward to going to Candlelight Carols at Moody Church tomorrow. Our niece is a student at Moody Bible Institute and will be playing in the orchestra.

The hymns and carols are a salve for our soul. Do you have a favorite hymn?

This post is participating in Five Minute Friday. The prompt is: DEEP