COME

"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD...He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." Micah 4:2

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter on the Island

My week 6 of island living ends with the joy of Easter shown on the grandchildren's faces! Their exuberance for celebration always makes planning the event so much fun. 
I enjoyed conspiring the treats for this special event with my daughter for her little ones. 
She is so clever and always looking for ways to teach spiritual truths. 
This weekend was no exceptions.

Throughout most of my visit, we've been having devotionals with the little ones using object lessons to teach LENT through the life of Jesus Christ. 
Each evening has been so good as we stopped and contemplated some event that led up to Jesus dying on the cross. This week, we focused on Jesus' last week and his arrival in Jerusalem.

Finally, on Friday evening, we celebrated a Passover meal of remembrance. We tasted bitter herbs to remind us of how bitter slavery was for God's people. We tasted salty water to remind us of the tears shed during those bitter years and sugar water of God's goodness. We tasted several more items, culminating the progression with a delicious supper of lamb and culminating with the remembrance of the Last Supper.
It was a big deal to even have our shoes on - something seldom done in Asian homes - but even this was a reminder of God's people prepared for travel on that fateful day when the angel of death passed over and God gave the command to "GO".

To prepare for Easter, their mom gave each of the girls a dirty bucket and they collected 5 rocks each for their bucket. During devotions, she talked about SIN and how our hearts are like stone with no love for anyone but ourselves. On each stone, they wrote a sin they considered a struggle in their lives. The little girls were so honest and precise, surprising me with their understanding of what doesn't please God in their daily interactions.

Then we read how God promises to take our old stony hearts and give us new hearts that love Him. He promised to make us 'new creations'. We put the old dirty buckets in the center of the table with the white candle which represents the Lord Jesus as "the LIGHT of the world". 

Saturday night, his light was out because He had died for those sins and taken our stony hearts to the cross. We covered the old dirty baskets of stones with red fabric - and the little girls went to bed understanding that Jesus' blood covered all those sins listed on their rocks. 
As they walked away, my daughter explained that just like they hoped those dirty buckets would not still be there in the morning, so the disciples of Jesus had hoped for a miracle as they walked away from the cross and tomb.

That HOPE is the RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ...and new life promised in Christ to those who believe that God has raised Him from the dead.

Under the RED fabric this morning, each girl will find a beautiful decorated bucket with fun gifts inside. We removed the stones and placed them in a bucket labeled for Jesus and filled their new buckets with 'peeps', tootsie pops, toys and a sweet piece of jewelry. 


We will talk about how Christ's resurrection brings new life to our hearts. God has promised those who believe will receive a new heart and be securely placed "in Christ".  
Old things like stones should be "put away" because God took them. We should never reclaim them.

Later when tensions flared and the little one was getting angry, I asked her if she was taking one of her stones back from Jesus. With a precious expression, she exclaimed, "Oh...no! He can carry it this time!" and ran off to play happily.

I was really challenged by this devotional and hope to carry it through the year with me. Just like the little one, I can decide to have my own way and take back a stone that I've already given to Jesus to remove as "far as the east is from the west". 
OR I can remember my Jesus promised a NEW HEART and took on himself my whole dirty bucket of stones. If in child-like faith I believe Him, I will run off JOYFULLY to live with so much gratitude for His burden-lifting GIFT. 

THANK YOU, Jesus...for Easter!
Romans 3:24 "Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty
He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins." NLT
THANK YOU for the message so simple that even a child can grasp all YOU accomplished in your death on the cross and the GIFT of a new heart through your RESURRECTION!

"HE IS RISEN!"
                         "He is risen, indeed."
And from this island and 13 hours time zone difference....Happy Easter, dear loved ones!!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Reading A Book of a Thousand Days

Coming to a tropical island while my mid-western home is surrounded by snow has so many benefits, especially when each morning I'm greeted by the happiest 4 children I've ever met in the early hours of dawn!
They begin their day before the sun peeks over the mountains and only drop when the mid-day schedule requires their little bodies to rest on their beds or it's night time again.


There is hardly time for leisure, personal reading, and never a quiet moment to just stare at the ocean, but I've enjoyed the laughter and play a wonderful beach and sunny days offer children.

I'm so busy with these 4 all day or else, I'm trying to be helpful to one very busy set of parents who are not only running a household, but schooling their kids, holding contacts as a priority and beginning a business that requires hours of reading and computer. I think I've fallen into bed each night very exhausted while their lights still burned over a desk or two, but I also feel exhilarated and happy to have so much time just to love my family.

Once bedtime arrives,  I've tried to set aside time to just read for pleasure. Although you may be surprised by this statement - I'm thrilled to find so many English printed books available for the family! The reason for my thrill is because a former home didn't have such wonderful benefits and resources.
I browsed the bookcases and found several books to add to my summer reading list, but this one was handed to me as a good read when returned by a co-worker. My daughter's shelves have become a "lending library" but this one looked too good to just put back on the shelf. I read it in 3 days!
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale is written as a journal by a servant girl who took an oath to serve her genteel "lady"completely and wholeheartedly. She begins her journal scared and huddled in a totally bricked-in tower, imprisoned with her "lady", with not even a window to show her blue sky to her. She took in her surroundings and situation, evaluated the blessings she was given, took stock of supplies on hand to serve her "lady" and then, planned how to get through the banishment hoisted upon her by the choices of others.

Her journal keeping allowed me to see into the depths of her thoughts, struggles and personal victories, but most of all, see the real young servant's heart. I was so impressed at how natural her thoughts of servitude flowed, even when circumstances threatened to squeeze the very life from her. I was amazed at her unquestioning submission and obedience to those who were to be served, but I also chuckled when she realized how simplistic and normal gentry really were in their private lives. Her gentle and fore-bearing spirit forgave their flaws so quickly which to me made her the genteel lady of grace.
I liked how she thought through the commands, clarifying right or wrong, and made choices of right for her own personal life.

Photo snapped of page 289 
In all her trials, she never lost her own personal heart integrity. She struggled when 'gentry' forced her to lie for them, yet did so because she lived under their command. When commands made her cross her own boundaries of rightness, she endeavored to make her actions right in some little way, without hurting or displaying the faults of
the ones that had crossed the lines by their commands.

I'm glad she was loved but even more so, I was relieved to read that she realized how much she was loved and appreciated for her loyalty, sacrificial giving and her love of others.

It was a pleasure to peek into this precious young life's journal.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

An Old Favorite

There are times when a book sticks with me and characters or circumstances are recalled often as fleeting thoughts or helpers in choices I must make in daily life.
There are books we mark as our favorites and gently pull them off the shelf to dust, tenderly remembering the plot, then carefully return them to their proper place on the shelf, knowing they are keepers and considered treasures for the rest of your life.

Leota's Garden by Francine Rivers is one of those books for me. The yellowed cover's edges curl up from use, a few coffee stains dot the pages, and although it's an old edition, but this simple designed jacket is a beautiful sight. I first read it while caring for my elderly mother-in-law through eight years of confusion. I fell in love with Leota as I read her inner struggles, prayers, and daily concerns for the spiritual well-being of her children. I loved recalling her memories with her and even sided with her in many of her struggles, yet, hoping that I would be as gracious and forgiving if the same trials approached me.
During times when I struggled in giving patient care, I would remember Leota's loneliness and her tears. My heart reached out easier and I understood some of the loneliness my dear one faced daily. I became aware of her losses and began treasuring her memories, valuing the time to listen to her stories and write some of them as they were told to me. Even though I knew she was often confused, I realized her present anxiety was very real to her.
Leota's Garden taught me patience that I may not have had without its shared knowledge.

Then the years of care for my dear beloved Dad were thrust upon me. I chuckled when I recalled Leota and honestly thought that an elderly man wouldn't have the same inner struggles and concerns.

Boy! Was I wrong! My Dad was just like Leota in many ways. He was so concerned about his children and grand children and often questioned if he had done enough to tell them he loved them. He wondered aloud often on whether he had used every opportunity God had given him to live life to the fullest. Had he been a selfish man? Had he squandered anything? Had he shared the Gospel plainly?
He shared some of his fears and how much his helplessness bothered him as he gave up driving, then walking distances, and finally, succumbing to the small apartment we could offer him. The Presence of the Lord became so precious to him and in the early morning hours, I shared moments of prayer that sounded very close to the ones Leota had prayed.
There were times I found him staring off into the gardens of our backyard and wondered if he had some of the same fond memories as Leota's memories. Had he enjoyed the tilling of the earth to see beauty grow?

Years have passed since my care giving days, but while visiting my family on an extended stay, I found this treasured book on my daughter's book shelf. I tenderly pulled it off, held it for a moment, and chose to read it again.
This time, I found my focus on the children, grand daughter, and dear young friends sweet Leota left behind. She had touched each one in different ways through her lifetime, and each had made choices in their relationship with Leota. This time, I fell in love with Eleanor, the little daughter torn by bitterness and misunderstandings. I saw the wisdom of the old professor who encouraged a young man to serve another human before choosing his philosophy. I encouraged the young man to search deeper for life's meaning. I hugged the grand daughter's heart often as I read her prayers and dreams, and I even wanted to work beside her in restoring the Garden and home of her beloved Grandmother.

This book is still a favorite, but this time, I gained new friendships with the other characters who impacted the elderly Leota. It became a new story to me because of the different stage of life I face now. There's no end to books I want to read and I'll always have a cart full of new stories to call favorites, but it was good to read this old treasure. So, I encourage you, dear reader, to pull an oldie off the shelf and read it again.
Do you think it will impact you now as it did years ago? Will you see different opinions and struggles? Will it help you once again through a hard time or happy stage of life or will it remind you why it became one of your favorites?
Leota's Garden has a new cover and is even available on Kindle, and its contemporary topics makes it worth the read over and over again!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reading to Little Ones is MORE than Words

With grandchildren living on the other side of the globe and another living more than a 24 hour drive, it would seem silly for me to write a professional post on reading to little ones. Yet, this week, I was reminded several times just how much both generations can learn when reading is part of the precious time spent together.
So, I decided to take a moment and tell you what great fun it's been to hang out with four of our little ones and read the same little books over and over to them.

My Don and I arrived on the tropical island of PENANG, Malaysia about two weeks ago and the youngest took to "Grandpa" immediately when read a familiar book. He was fascinated to watch a stranger read the same words others had read to him, yet I'm sure he was a little puzzled with the different tones, pauses, and with even some of the sound effects this Grandpa added! From that moment on, it was like he couldn't get enough of one book! We constantly endured the repetition of words while we watched for the huge smile that crossed his face on certain pages!

Over and over the book was read.
We noticed this repetition even taught the little one about noises he could make with his own hands. Grandpa would read the words while pounding on the arm of the chair..."Dum * ditty **, Dum *ditty **, Dum* Dum* Dum!" (the ** represents the pounding we all endured!). At first, baby boy just stared. Then, Grandpa used the little hands to pound out the beat to the repetition. Finally, they were both quite good at pounding the beat of the drum on the armchair. The little guy began to watch his own hands in other activities, and by the end of the week, his hands gleefully participated in rhythm as he joined the family in many clapping songs.


So now, my Don left for the States, leaving me behind to pick up where he left off WITH THE SAME BOOKS!
But, really...I don't pound chairs, or add his other sound effects...so as I simply read to the playful little guy, I honestly didn't think he was paying any attention until I decided to read the calmer Fireman Small. He became so excited as he anticipated the sound made when the "water "WHOOSHES" from the hose". I saw his mouth copy the shape of my mouth!
But what really took me even more by surprise was how shocked the little guy was when I couldn't see the page completely and added MY OWN WORD, replacing farm with town!

His little head snapped around and he looked at me with the most puzzled look! It was hilarious! He seriously took in the situation, and probably thought "This lady needs help!" 
Amid much laughter from the others nearby, I learned babies really listen to each word, notice the added expressions, watching your mouth form the sounds and even looking at the pages as if to put it all together. Reading plays a huge role in their quest toward verbal skills!
The next time I read Hand, Hand, Fingers,Thumb he actually started laughing aloud as he wiggled and squirmed on my lap. When comfortably in place where he could reach the arm of the chair, he anticipated with giggles the DUM*DUM*DITTY** and with the biggest grin on his face, he correctly pounded out the beat his Grandpa had taught him!
I know Grandpa added a new dimension in the little guy's love of books!

But I also realized he was not the only one who had listened and thought this Grandmom needed help in reading skills. A couple of hours later, our little 3 year old joined me at the table with the book Fireman Small. "Grandma, I will show you how to read this book, ok?"


If you cannot see this video here, go here on You Tube

How precious to watch it "read"! It's so obvious that this book had been opened many many times over through the years to all these little ones!
I know this earnest little face reading to me is a real memory keeper!
I especially loved her expression on "WHOOSHES" and "Hooray, Hooray, the fire is out!"
Enjoy! 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Trusting a Faithful God

A NEW Biblical Fiction
OK. I admit it. I like reviewing new books.
I love the smell of ink on the pages, the feel of stiff paper before use does its damage, and it gives a certain pleasure to be the first one to bend back the cover so a book never really closes tightly again!
For me, Mesu Andrew's books never really close again in my mind. The mere mention of this title will bring back memory of the living biblical characters of past centuries. Their traits, struggles, loves, and most of all, their learned steps of walking by faith parade through my mind again and leave a sweet smile in my heart.

Thank you, Mesu, for allowing me these joys with the gift of your newest book In the Shadow of Jezebel. There are lessons in this book that my heart wants to grab tightly so that I become a more faithful follower of our loving God. I want my heart to trust His protection and walk in His purpose, faithfully proclaiming His goodness and helping others respond to His love because they learn to serve Him.

Even more than reviews though, I love seeing how an author weaves biblical principles into the decisions of fictitious characters and allows her readers to ponder the greatness of a loving God who patiently "works good according to his purpose for those who love him."
I realize Jehosheba is the main character, but I fell in love with the Jehoiada's heart while he was still second to the high priest and assisted in daily struggles of the elderly honorary. As I read the opening pages of the plot, I was given the opportunity to hear the musings of his heart and his conversations with his God, Yaweh.

Photo by Desiray Lewis
So often, those who have faithfully followed the Lord obediently and consistently, believing the Scriptures to be the manual for a godly life and God's final word on any matter are overlooked by those who are prone to wander from their God.
In every circle the discussions begin on a modern trend that accepts the acts of unbelief and disobedience as "a normal" for the majority. I recently found this online rejection to the popular Christian discussion, reminding believers to claim the power in the gift of the Holy Spirit given to God's children .

For some reason, there are some who show the possible acceptance of God's love immediately and use His Word as their guiding lamp throughout the rest of their lives. Jehoiada is one of these men. He was trained to know and practice God's laws and be a leader in righteousness, but he also learned to live faithfully in his daily decisions because he believed in the comfort of a loving God. He picked up the mantle and followed a holy calling voluntarily because he recognized God's awesome Presence and trusted God's mighty help in times of trouble.
When this approach is mentioned in modern Christian circles, the word perfection is scoffed. Yet, Mesu did an wonderful job showing that Jehoiada's love and obedience did not make him perfect, but allowed him to surrender to the constant peace of God's involvement in his nation, in his personal life, in his relationships, in daily decisions made on his account, and in his priestly service.
I wondered at Jehoiada's family tree as I read the many times where anger was his first response. As far back as Genesis 49, a patriarch's blessing marks the anger of his forefather, Levi, as a constant historical remembrance. This could have been a red thread of sin that Jehoiada inherited in the flesh and had to battle constantly in his zeal for the Lord. His anger almost blinded him to common sense and reason, made stumbling doubt creep into his heart and confronted his faith as a substituted worshiped god. His anger was his constant personal battle and often hurt those he loved.
Yet this anger also turned to zealous courage when he needed to stand against the audacious and confused king who questioned the righteousness and sovereignty of God's law. His zeal also stood boldly, upholding the faithful worship of Yahweh when confronted by the evil queen and her false religion. His aging body often challenged this zealous strength in his fight on the Lord's side, and although he admitted his weakness was part of his sinful nature, he didn't allow it to have ultimate control or become the normal excuse.
He strongly stands firm when he turned his weakness into a godly trust and lived God's Word for others to follow. His faith leaned on the knowledge of a Sovereign God for the outcomes of life and was rewarded over and over again for his faithful walk with His God.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Preparing Hearts for Easter

LENT is a traditional religious season leading up to Easter and carries the meaning of "preparing one's heart" for the victory found in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As a child, my family didn't practice LENT. I was taught that it belong to only a certain religious group and had nothing to do with the fellowship we attended. I only heard bits and pieces of the external practices tied to this season, and none of them really were explained to me.

Even though we had a deep love for the Lord Jesus, my younger years were filled with external family preparations with the practice of cantata music, Spring cleaning, shopping for new clothes, and of course, parties, hunts, and the childish hopes of a Spring basket full of candies.
Oh, our parents taught us the Easter story and hoped we understood the victory celebrated each Sunday because Christ arose from the dead long ago. As a little one, I even remember becoming very excited the week before Easter when our Sunday School class made paper palm branches and marched around the room singing "Hosanna! Hosanna!" We all knew it was the announcement of another special holiday coming in just a week and shouted all the more!
As a young pre-teen, the Passion Week celebrations became ETERNAL for me. I realized Christ suffered and died for me. He became my personal Lord and Savior, forgiving me of all my sin that put him on that cross. I began my spiritual journey with Him.

This year while overseas visiting our daughter's family, we're enjoying the daily "ritual" of family devotional time around the dinner table. Last night, it was absolutely adorable to hear the youngest response for the reason of LENT.
"We're preparing our hearts for Easter".

These parents pulled an older book off the shelf which our daughters found when they were old enough to prepare for Easter themselves. They shared their love of Preparing for EASTER by James Evans with me. I found it a beautiful treasury of daily devotions.
Around this table, I've been reminded of how rich this whole season became to me as a young adult.
Each daily Scripture readings points to Jesus, "who became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him".

The little object lessons explain the daily Scriptures read and the truth comes alive using common household items. The older children are challenged to answer specific questions by writing their thoughts in a journal each day during their own quiet time. These journal entries hopefully help their hearts grasp the truth of the focused Scriptures and then, verbally relating their thoughts help the parents know whether the truth is grasped or needs further explanation.

My own heart has been challenged to stop and ponder what God did for us in Christ as I listen to these daily devotions. The little object lessons make me realize that even the youngest among us can retain truth retold. It is a wonderful practice and could enhance many special family times for my friends back home.

So, just what does Easter mean to you?
If you asked your kids what EASTER means to them...what would be their first response?
Do you have a traditional practice that prepares your family's hearts for the special celebration of Easter?
I'd love to hear what you do to help you and your children understand Christ's sacrifice and resurrection a little more this year.

It's not too late for your family to pick up a good devotional book to get started preparing your hearts for a wonderful celebration of victory found in the empty tomb.

Monday, March 03, 2014

A Scavenger Hunt, a Snowy Day and a BIG HOP to..

OK...being snowed in wasn't too bad an experience for the first weekend of March.
More than showing an empty cup from the comfort of steaming hot chocolate, I have accomplishments to give value for my time spent warmly tucked in.

I finished reading an excellent novel,
In the Shadow of Jezebel. I wrote a review, began work on a devotional, and made several comments on FB and Google+, hoping my friends would join in the SCAVENGER HUNT Blog Hop and win the prizes. I even had some time to work on my personal notes and comments containing several favorite sections in the book.
Through this online connection with her fans, I now call the author, Mesu Andrews, a new friend and look forward to reading more of her biblical fiction books.

I also enjoyed hopping to new blog sites and reading reviews in my participation in the Scavenger Hunt Blog Hop hosted by Tina Chen @ Mommynificent. Hurry, dear readers!
This HOP is only for a couple more days (March 1-4)
Good Reads
I had so much fun blog hopping! I found new authors and more books to add to my personal list of "books I'd like to read" on Good Reads.
I'm beginning to think that my summer leisure list is being planned out quite rapidly, even before the snow has melted and the blossoms decorate the gardens!
Tina Chen

But really, who cares about snow when packed suitcases are lining the free spaces of the rooms? We are going to actually HOP on a plane and visit this Scavenger Hunt host and her family.
Our "End this Winter thing" begins when packages start to arrive at the door and piles of curriculum books rapidly grow in the spare bedroom. We add shopping items making new piles, and finally, we turn the calendar page and pull out suitcases and scales to evenly pack all our collected items.
In just hours, we leave this frigid air, the snow, and the remains of a long winter and board a plane for a real HOP...

As I work around the house, I remember that hit song "Leaving on a jet plane..." and smile.

We're glad for Skype and photos sent through internet outlets, but nothing compares to the real hugs waiting for us on a warm tropical island. It's so fun to actually see how tall the grandchildren have become, or maybe it's just how much more we're beginning to bend over in old age!
We love the scenes and feel of this tropical island, but even more we love to become part of the daily routine of our loved ones and watch them perform home school assignments, laugh and play in their yard, and visit the favorite places they've discovered in our year's absence.