All around us people define this time of year as the “season of miracles.” Many cards declare, “Celebrate the miracle, that is Christmas.” The word, “miracle” is bandied about, and yet I realized, as I was laying out my Nativity with the little baby Jesus, that I have not always appreciated the magnitude of the miracle. The birth of Jesus was a miracle in the truest sense of the word. It was a birth like no other. On that day, God became Man. Still God, but yet Man. C.S. Lewis said it this way, “He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created.”Read More
Christmas can involve a lot of preparation—gifts to purchase, cookies to make, dinners to plan, and travel to arrange. Even with a supposedly more convenient artificial tree, I spend hours decorating!Read More
As I think about this coming Thanksgiving, I feel grateful. Grateful that my family is healthy. Grateful that I have a new grandbaby. Grateful that I have a strong marriage and a loving husband. Grateful that I belong to a giving and Bible-centered church community. Grateful that I have supportive friends. Grateful that I have a faithful editor, Jennie Jang, who clarifies and often makes sense of these blogs! Yes, I feel grateful.Read More
Over the years, I have found certain stories in the Bible difficult to teach—not because they are hard to understand or have complicated theological doctrines, but because they are overly familiar. The account of the Samaritan woman is one of those stories. It is perhaps my favorite of all the stories in John’s gospel, and countless lessons can be gleaned from the conversation that Jesus had with this marginalized woman. But more recently, as I was studying to give a teaching on the passage, I found myself stopping repeatedly at one line.Read More
I just returned from Israel, where I toured with Lon Solomon Ministries. One of Pastor Solomon’s most memorable sayings is, “The more they dig out of the ground, the more the Bible proves to be true.” A trip to Israel is a sure way of experiencing the truth of that statement.Read More
On Wednesday evening I gave a teaching on John 2—Jesus’ miracle in which He turned water into wine. Today I visited Cana, the site where this, the first of Jesus’ miracles, took place! I tried to imagine what it would have been like to be at the wedding celebration to witness the miracle. Would I, like the disciples, have believed In Him? What other explanation could exist? The six, very large jars, had been filled to the brim with water. (The picture below is an urn that has been uncovered that is the size and shape as that described in Scripture. It is much bigger than I had imagined!) No one could have carried them away and snuck some wine into them. Additionally, there was no room to add some wine—they were filled to the brim with water. And there were witnesses. The only conclusion possible is that Jesus converted water into wine. If this miracle were the only one recorded in the Gospel, wouldn’t it be enough to believe He is the Son of God?
As I was walking through the ruins, I passed an area that has been covered up with fencing. Despite the covering, some visitors to the site have managed to squeeze different forms of currency through the netting. It would have taken a lot of effort. (A picture is below.) Why had they done this? Did they consider it similar to a wishing well? Did they think that their “offering” would grant them favor with the One who had turned water into wine? Did they think it would give them good luck? It made me sad. They had missed the entire point! Jesus’ miracle demonstrated that He is the Son of God. He came to us. If we believe that, we need to believe everything else He did and said—nothing we can do or give God can grant us favor. He has given us a free gift. I couldn’t leave without praying for all the visitors to Cana. I prayed that they would see the miracle with hearts to believe.
We landed at 7 A.M. and our tour bus took us through the city of Tel Aviv, and then to the ancient city of Joppa (also referred to as Jaffa). Lon Solomon gave a wonderful talk/sermonette about the two most famous references to Joppa in Scripture. The first is recorded in the Old Testament book of Jonah. Jonah was a prophet in Joppa, and God asked Him to preach to the evil Ninevites to warn them of His impending judgment. Jonah refused God and ran away. Why? Jonah knew that if he warned them, they might in fact repent, and if they repented God would then extend mercy. Jonah did not believe that the Ninevites deserved mercy. God gave Jonah another chance to obey, and ultimately Nineveh did repent and God delayed His judgment.
The other reference to Joppa is in the New Testament—Acts Chapter 10. While in Joppa, Peter had a vision in which God told him to kill and eat certain animals that had not been made ceremonial clean under the Jewish laws. Thereafter, Peter declared, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:35). The point of the vision was to demonstrate that God had come to fulfill the Law of Moses so that Gentiles and Jews alike could be saved through Christ.
While there is a lot more to both stories, I realized today that in addition to taking place in the same city, they both share the same main lesson, despite that they occurred hundreds of years apart. Simply, God is the same merciful God yesterday, today and always, and His blessings are available for all people, and all nations!
Is it possible to have writer’s blog block? Or should it be called blog writer’s block? Regardless, I have recently found myself afflicted with it! I have been stressing over its weekly content for several weeks. Why? Upon a little introspection, I finally had to confess that my focus had changed. I noticed that my “readership” increases when my post includes pictures, or a catchy title, leading me to think that I have to be clever to reach people or inspire them with God’s Word. But that is ridiculous! God’s Word is God’s Word. It needs no embellishment from me.Read More
I don’t remember the specifics of the argument, but I can clearly recall what my husband declared at its conclusion: “You don’t even know me.” His words struck my heart. How could he think I don’t know him? Not one for the clever retort, I responded, “You don’t know me either!” After we had made up, I continued to reflect on those words. Did I know him? I wanted to. He was my husband. We had joined together as one before God. That day was a turning point in our early marriage as we resolved to work on knowing each other. I didn’t want to just know about John’s interests, his looks or other superficial facts about him. Anyone could know those things. I wanted to know what motivates him, what his goals are, and how deeply he loves me. Anyone who has been married for any length of time realizes that “knowing” one another requires effort and intentionality, and, this “knowing” is absolutely necessary in a relationship. Next month we will celebrate our 35th anniversary, a testament not only to our love, but our diligence!Read More
Each time one of my children departed for college, I had this burning sense that I had not told them everything they would need to know to navigate the world on their own. I am sure that in the last weeks before leaving, they were annoyed by my incessant instructions about their budget, time management, where to make friends, how to find a church, and on and on. Somewhat similarly, before my dad’s passing, he kept reminding my sister and me to care for my mother, including how to help with her finances, their house and his legacy of World War II photographs. He wanted the assurance that he had told us everything we would need to know before he left this world.Read More
As I reported last month, Graham Jacob is my first grandchild. (Thanks to those who have asked about my grandmother name. I have chosen “Nonnie,” a sweet and meaningful tribute, I thought, to my Italian great-grandmother’s name.)Read More
I woke up early Friday morning and turned on the television. The first image that appeared was a reporter standing in what appeared to be sunlight. The winds were calm. The bottom of the screen identified his location as somewhere in South Carolina. My first thought was that the storm must have passed, but then I heard him say that he was standing in the “eye” of the storm. Since I have often heard that being in the eye of a storm is a metaphor for our spiritual life in Christ—we can experience the peace that surpasses all understanding while a storm rages around us— I did some research. I wanted to know how well the metaphor actually works in my own life. The National Hurricane Center defines the eye as follows:
Eyewall / Wall Cloud:
An organized band or ring of cumulonimbus clouds that surround the eye, or light-wind center of a tropical cyclone. Eyewall and wall cloud are used synonymously.
As a hurricane moves, the eyewall approaches. The most intense part of the hurricane with the highest wind speeds is the eyewall.
Another site I read said that the eye is the calm between two bad events—the worst, however, is to come.
As I thought about the eye of the hurricane, I realized that those experiencing the calm had to first experience part of the storm. This has been true with my own storms. God has allowed them for just that purpose—so that I would enter into His presence (the eye) by prayer and Scripture. The greatest peace I have experienced has always been when I have turned to Him during a storm. But I have to confess—once in the eye, it has often been difficult for me to remain at peace. While those in the eye of Florence might have enjoyed the moment of quiet, didn’t they also live with grave expectation that the hurricane was moving and the wall would inevitably approach them—the worst was yet to come? But what if they could have moved with the eye? I don’t know if it is even possible to move with an actual hurricane so as to remain in the eye, but certainly God has given us the means to do this in our spiritual storms. Anxiety and fear arise when we allow ourselves to depart from God, and we look at the outlying storm rather than at Him. Even when the worst of storms surround us, He provides refuge if we follow Him through prayer, His Word and then obedience.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2
Some of you probably saw the picture below that circulated on Facebook prior to Florence making landfall. The image reminded me that despite the sophistication of science and meteorology, no person can predict the weather with absolute certainty. While scientific advances in predicting weather patterns have grown over the decades, each natural disaster reminds me that our knowledge will always fall short. But there is One who does know all things. He is the only one I can be certain of. And He is the only One that can give me peace through any type of storm--He alone provides refuge. He is my eye in the storm.
Postscript: The storms we face are real, both physical and spiritual. The effects of Florence were devastating. I continue to pray for all those who lost family or property. As followers of the One who is certain, it is also my prayer that we will become His hands and feet, walking beside those who have suffered the effects of the storms.
This morning I sent my husband this simple text, “No!!!!!!” He replied, “That is the first text I have ever gotten with six exclamation points.” I may have overreacted, but I was attempting to stop him from waking up my sleep-deprived daughter, her husband, and their new baby. Admittedly, however, I have been known to overuse this form of punctuation. It seems to me that “Thanks” communicates much less appreciation than “Thanks!” or certainly, “Thanks!!!”Read More
Some time ago my husband reconnected with an old friend of ours from law school. His friend wrote:
“I see the long list of your impressive professional achievements. No surprise to me of course. Your faith is even more impressive from an outsider looking in. I've become an avid reader. It seems to me that the great writers and thinkers all want to answer the same question, one your faith answers for you: Why are we here?"Read More
A few years ago my husband, brother-in-law, and I were traveling to upstate New York for a wedding. We chose our flight based on the usual criteria—scheduled arrival time and cost. Our economical choice required us to drive from Northern Virginia to Philadelphia and from there take a non-stop flight to our destination. The flight was originally delayed due to bad weather—not the airline’s fault as all flights were delayed. But then a series of events snowballed.Read More
For the past nine months, I have looked forward to the day I would become a grandmother. As the due date for my daughter fast approached I prepared my blog entry so that it would be complete before my daughter went into labor. I decided to reflect on waiting. How do we wait? How do we wait and not be anxious? I looked at lots of Scripture, but have now decided to delay my thoughts for another week. Why? I became a grandmother on Sunday for the first time. My days of waiting are over, and I now just want to reflect on the awesomeness of this event—not only did a beautiful new life come into the world (a baby boy), but I saw my daughter hold her own child!Read More
One morning in Ethiopia, the women’s team broke into smaller groups to make home visits to bring clothes and supplies. Guides from the ministry led us through these visits -- I mentioned them several blogs ago—a remarkable group devoted to helping HIV-positive individuals. Our team made two visits. The first was to a gentleman, and the second was to a woman and her eighteen-year old daughter. All three had been diagnosed with HIV (the daughter was born with it). After our bus let us off, we found the remaining journey on foot to both residences challenging. We balanced on rocks and waded through mud. The walks, however, were worth the effort.Read More
Over the years I have had many opportunities to participate in an overseas mission trip, and just as readily, I have had many reasons to refrain. As mentioned in my blog before my Ethiopia trip this summer, I felt God called me on this particular trip. In the past, I had always felt that someone else would be better for whichever trip was in question. I could help financially, and send someone who was younger, stronger, bolder in their witness, more courageous, could speak the language—in essence would be far better equipped than me.Read More
One afternoon I was sitting with two beautiful young women at an orphanage in Ethiopia. They were trying to teach me their language, Amharic. They were quite amused that I had absolutely no ability to replicate the sounds of their language. One of the translators was nearby, and so I called her over to help me steer the conversation away from myself to them. (I can only take so much teasing, even in a foreign language!) “What is your story?” I asked them.Read More