Conclusion: I Don’t Know How To Tell You This, But I’m Pregnant

The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself,
"The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!"
Lamentations 3:22-24 (NASB)

Word spread quickly throughout Bethlehem that the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah had been fulfilled. The truth became known. Mary, the young, unmarried pregnant girl, had not told a lie. She was the one the prophet Isaiah had spoken of when he said, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) True to what the prophet Micah had predicted, the child was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Mary must have felt more at ease now about how others viewed her suspicious pregnancy. Believers came to worship and adore the child, and they recognized that God had chosen Mary to give Him birth.

In another place, God was revealing the next piece of His Christmas puzzle—the star. Contrary to our modern-day interpretation of Christmas symbols, the star was likely a subtle sign and not a bright heavenly body hovering over the stable in Bethlehem. Had it been a glaring white light, the whole countryside would have seen and wondered, but the Bible doesn’t say that. Instead, Magi, wise men from the East, noticed something different in the sky. These men from a powerful, priestly tribe, many miles from Bethlehem, were astronomers, and they determined that this was “His star,” the Messiah. Matthew 2:1-2 tells us: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

The Bible goes on to suggest that King Herod was clueless about the star and also Christ’s birth. He felt threatened when he heard about this King of the Jews, so he called his religious leaders and asked what the scriptures said about the Messiah and the place of His birth. Then Herod sent the Magi to Bethlehem. “Go and search carefully for the child,” he said. “As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” (Matthew 2:8)

The star acted differently then. It appeared to move, and it led the Magi directly to Jesus. They bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. (Matthew 2:11-12)

Herod felt furious that the Magi had betrayed him. He had just enough information to know the approximate time of Jesus’ birth and where He might be. So, Herod ordered his soldiers to go to Bethlehem and kill all the baby boys ages two and under. This foreshadowed Jesus’ fate. Throughout His life there would be those who wanted to kill Him. But, for now, the young Messiah, King of the Jews, was safe.

Just as an angel was the first piece of God’s Christmas puzzle, so it was the last. An angel appeared in a dream to Joseph and warned him of Herod’s plan. Now, all the pieces of God’s Christmas puzzle were in place. The angel told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt and later to Nazareth where they would raise the boy.

Shrouded in the silent simplicity of that first Christmas, God had begun working His mighty plan of salvation. He continues to work that plan today, quietly, piece by piece, out of our sight and apart from our comprehension. As we approach this new year, we can only imagine what 2012 will hold. Like Mary, a young woman, unmarried and pregnant, we go forward in faith, trusting God and believing in His power to lead us and provide for us.

I pray that all of you will have a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

Part 4: I Don’t Know How To Tell You This, But I’m Pregnant

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:11 (KJV)

In the depth of night, Mary gave birth to a baby boy—Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah. She wrapped him firmly in swaddling cloth and laid him in a manger. The little town of Bethlehem slept. There was no fanfare, no celebration, only the adoration of two proud surrogates who knew this baby was not their own, but the Son of God. In the darkness, the Lord had gently slipped into Earth’s presence, His spirit resting in the body of an innocent newborn child.

As they gazed at the sleeping baby, Mary and Joseph might have wondered, what now? Was it God’s will that they keep Jesus a secret until He was ready to reveal His plan, or did God want them to tell the world? And who would believe them? Certainly in the stillness of the night, these young parents prayed and asked Heaven for guidance. As they prayed, God revealed the next piece of His Christmas puzzle. We find it in Luke 2: 8-18.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
Mary and Joseph had received a quick answer to prayer. God planned for shepherds to deliver the news that Christ, the Messiah, was born in Bethlehem.

Why shepherds? For the same reason that the Son of God was born in a simple and modest setting—humility. Christ came into this world not as a rich and mighty king, but instead poor and needy. He came for those who, like shepherds, had many responsibilities but few resources. He came to redeem not only the poor shepherds of the world, but also the world’s lost sheep. Everything about that first Christmas was clothed in humility. That night began the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy about Jesus the Messiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind, 
to set the oppressed free . . .” Jesus had come for the poor in spirit, to open their eyes to salvation and to set them free from Satan’s lair.

Luke writes, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Surely, now she understood that she and Joseph had been right to take the high road, that it was God’s plan for His Son to be born among animals and laid in a manger. It was God’s plan for poor shepherds to be the first to come, honor Him, and share the Good News.

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

These days as you shop for last-minute Christmas gifts, wrap presents, and prepare to celebrate the holiday with family and friends, do you ponder the events of that first Christmas night in Bethlehem? Do you treasure them in your heart?

Part 3: I Don’t Know How To Tell You This, But I’m Pregnant

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7 (KJV)

The Bible provides us with a simple outline of the Christmas story, but it leaves the details to our imaginations. Perhaps, as I suggested in my last post, Joseph chose the high road: the shortest route, the road more difficult to travel. Maybe he borrowed a donkey for Mary to ride. We don’t know. But let’s continue to imagine what might have been.

As they walked the dusty road, steep hills and low valleys, did Mary and Joseph share their worries aloud, or did they travel silently, feigning that their faith in God was solid? They were human, after all. And humans doubt. Did Mary wonder, have we done the right thing? Surely, God wouldn’t want His son born in a small and ordinary town. Certainly, He would want Him to enter the world in a place fit for a king. There was nothing kingly about Bethlehem.

When they arrived there, the place teemed with travelers who, like Mary and Joseph, had come to be counted. Where would the young couple stay? Did they have relatives in Bethlehem? If so, would they want Mary in their home, a woman who had become pregnant before marriage? We can only imagine the thoughts that Mary was thinking as she and Joseph wandered through the city among the crowds.

The Bible says that there was no room for them in the inn. Bible scholars translate this in different ways, but the consensus is that there was no space for them in the guest room. Whose guest room? It doesn’t matter. Wherever they went in Bethlehem, whether to family, friends, or a traditional inn, there was no space for them to stay. So they found lodging in an area where animals were kept, a place with a manger. And this place was the next piece of God’s Christmas puzzle. Christ the Savior was to be born in the simplest of settings, and his bed would be a lowly manger.

As Mary and Joseph waited, hours or days, for the child to be born, did they doubt that they were in the right place, that they had done the right thing according to God’s will? They were in a stable and not in a palace or a temple fit for the birth of the King.

There is that old adage that goes, “God works in mysterious ways.” Usually, those ways are not what we expect. God moves easily and quietly, assembling the pieces of His plan in ways that we cannot understand. That first Christmas in Bethlehem was set in simplicity, and not grandeur. Yet, God was there—fully, totally, completely.

O, little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in they dark streets shineth
The everlasting light . . .

Mary, did you know?

Is your Christmas set in the stillness of simplicity, or are you trying to make it fit for a king?

Part 2: I Don’t Know How To Tell You This, But I’m Pregnant

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.”
Habakkuk 3:19 (NIV)

Our story continues with Mary and Joseph going on with their lives, preparing a home for the child. Sometimes, Mary rests from her work, places both hands on her belly, takes pleasure in feeling the baby move and kick inside of her. Her pregnancy has been routine, uneventful. But now, in the eighth or ninth month, God reveals another piece of His Christmas puzzle. Without warning, the Romans call a census of all Jews. Mary and Joseph, members of the tribe of Judah, must travel to Bethlehem to be counted. They must go immediately. There is no waiting, no reprieve. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about what happens next, but let’s imagine.

“We should leave early tomorrow morning,” Joseph tells his very pregnant wife.

“But it is too near the time for the child to be born,” Mary answers.

Neither of them says it, but they know. It will be next to impossible for Mary to complete the journey without giving birth along the way. Surely they are worried. Do they hide this from one another, hoping to give each other strength? They trust the Lord, but they are human. And humans worry.

Joseph has to make a tough choice—which route to travel. The easiest, through the plains, is also the longest. Certainly, Mary will give birth along the way. Joseph wonders, is this what God wants? An old trading route provides the shortest way. But it winds for 70 miles through the rocky highlands. Mary will have to travel on uneven ground, up and down hills. Impossible, Joseph says to himself. But nothing is impossible with God. His still, small voice echoes in Joseph’s heart. “Take the highlands. Walk where you most fear to tread.” With some reservation, Joseph chooses to follow God instead of his own human judgment. If God wants them to take the roughest route, then that is what they must do. Again, Joseph trusts in the words of Jeremiah 29:11. He believes that God has a plan to prosper and not harm them.

How does Mary react to Joseph’s decision? Do the words of the scriptures enter her mind?

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will find joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19

We can only imagine what happens next, but we do know this: Mary and Joseph made it to Bethlehem. They made it in God’s time and in accordance to His will.

In life, God sometimes leads us to take the roughest route, one rife with rocky hills and deep valleys. We might ask why. Why not the easiest way? But we remember that it was in the rocky hills that God gave Moses His Ten Commandments. It was in the hills that Abraham offered sacrifices to God, and Jacob dreamed of angels climbing a ladder to Heaven. In the hills we find God, like a Good Shepherd, leading our way. In the hills, we grow stronger in our will to make the journey as we learn to put our faith and trust in Him.

When Mary and Joseph left the next morning, they might have offered this prayer, these words from Psalm 121:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.


Part 1: I Don’t Know How To Tell You This, But I’m Pregnant

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:18 (NASB)

Can you imagine Joseph’s reaction when Mary told him that she was pregnant? He knew that the baby wasn’t his, and her explanation seemed unbelievable. What? She had become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and would give birth to the Son of God? And an angel told her this? The Bible suggests in Matthew 1:18-19 that Joseph didn’t believe any of it. “And Joseph . . . being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” (NASB) Joseph had other options. He could lie and say that he was the father, but this would humiliate them both and break God’s ninth commandment: you shall not bear false witness. He could accuse Mary of unfaithfulness and embarrass her. According to Jewish law, he could even have her stoned for being unfaithful. But the Bible tells us that Joseph was a righteous man. And he was a caring man, too. He didn’t want his fiancĂ© embarrassed by her unexpected pregnancy, and also he didn’t want to accuse her of unfaithfulness and begin a flood of gossip. After all, the Old Testament taught, “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.” (Proverbs 11:13 NASB) Joseph was a righteous and God-fearing man. He decided to suffer silently, believing that Mary had betrayed him. He planned to quietly send her away.

Meanwhile, God was putting together the pieces of the Christmas puzzle, and the next piece was to confirm to Joseph that Mary had been truthful. Matthew 1:20-21 (NASB) tells us, “But when [Joseph] had considered [sending Mary away] an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

So, Joseph scrapped his plan, obeyed God, and did as the angel had told him. He took Mary as his wife, and he kept her a virgin until she gave birth to Jesus. (Matthew 1:24-25) What did people say when they found out that Mary was several months pregnant? Did they gossip and humiliate her? The Bible doesn’t tell us. What we do know is that Joseph stuck by her and supported her pregnancy because not only did he trust her, but he trusted God.

When you think about it, the beginning of the Christmas story is all about trust. Without hesitation, Mary trusted that the angel Gabriel had told her the truth. Joseph didn’t believe her, which must have hurt, but she continued to trust that God was working out His plan through her. After God's angel spoke to Joseph, he stopped struggling with his decision and immediately put his trust in God and also in Mary’s truthfulness.

As this month of Christmas begins, how well do you trust God? Do you believe, as Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, that He has a plan to prosper you and not to harm you, a plan to give you hope and a future?

What Number Is Your Turkey?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6 ESV

(Reposted from Thanksgiving 2009)

My mother was the official turkey maker for our Thanksgiving dinners. Every year, Mom would fret about cooking the turkey, and Dad would answer by telling her how many turkeys she had cooked through the years. "We've been married 27 years, and you've made 27 turkeys. It'll be fine"….."We've been married 40 years, and you've made 40 turkeys. It'll be fine." It was the same conversation each Thanksgiving, and the turkey was always fine.

I confess, that I was somewhat annoyed by their annual exchange. Sometimes when we're young, we miss the significance of the little things – those little exchanges that couples have again and again.

Mom was a worrier, and I'm sure that she prayed to God each time she put a turkey into the oven. She read her Bible daily, and Philippians 4:6 was a verse that she liked to quote: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. "Dear God, thank you for this turkey. Now, please help me to cook it just right so it won't turn out dry. Amen."

Mom checked the bird often. She tested it for brownness and juiciness, and when it was finally done and presented to the table she always said, "I hope that it's okay." That's when Dad would chime in and announce the annual turkey number and proclaim that the bird was fine.

The last turkey was number 57. We didn't know that it would be the last. A few months after Thanksgiving, Mom became suddenly ill and died. That same year, Dad went into a nursing home.

Dad had dementia that progressed rapidly after he lost his wife. He no longer remembered the number of turkeys that Mom had cooked through the years, but he remembered Mom. As time went on, he forgot that I was his daughter. I became Betty, his wife. I looked like her and I sounded like her, and that, I think, was a comfort to my dad. In his mind, his beloved wife was still with him, and although I wished that he'd remember me, I played along. I was Betty.

On each of the nine Thanksgivings that Dad was in the nursing home, I cooked our traditional Thanksgiving dinner at home, packed it up, and took it there to share with him. Like my mother, I fretted about the turkey and wondered if it would be done enough or if I had overcooked it and it would be dry. The nursing home staff always prepared a private dining room where Dad and I could sit together and eat our Thanksgiving meal. In Dad's mind, he was home. "I hope the turkey's okay," I found myself saying as I presented Dad with a steaming plate of food. I half expected him to answer that this was turkey number 58 and it would be fine, but he didn't. I fed him the turkey because he was no longer able to feed himself. He said that it was good. Gone was the traditional exchange between my parents. Lost was the annual turkey count. But we went on sharing our Thanksgiving meals, father and daughter together, until he died.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." This year, I'm thankful for all the Thanksgiving turkeys that I shared with my Mom in joyful holiday fellowship. I'm equally thankful for the additional Thanksgivings that I had with my dad. Although the circumstances were sad, and grew more difficult with each passing year, we had each other. I'm most thankful for memories of the little things: my mom and dad bickering about the turkey and the wonderful smell of it roasting in the oven when I walked through the door. It was those little things that reminded me that I was home…and everything was fine.

Dear Lord: On this Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks to you for family, home, and for the sweet remembrance of Thanksgivings gone by. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

What number is your turkey? I wish you, my readers, a blessed holiday filled with little things that become cherished memories...and most of all, I wish you a turkey that turns out fine!

Thanksgiving 1963 -- Lee Harvey Oswald

"Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.
Live as servants of God."

1 Peter 2:16

I climbed out of bed that morning, November 24, 1963, savoring the steamy aroma of a fat, stuffed turkey roasting in the oven. As I stumbled into the kitchen rubbing the sleep from my eyes, Mom was busy making cranberry sauce. Dad was sharpening the knife he always used to carve our Thanksgiving turkey. Their attention focused on a small, portable, black-and-white television set, its “rabbit ears” antenna tilted toward the steam-fogged kitchen windows. On the screen a fuzzy image of Walter Cronkite re-told the events since President Kennedy’s assassination two days before. Guilt contributed to our silence that Sunday morning. We had skipped church, the place where most Americans sought comfort following one of the darkest days in our country’s history.

We were having our Thanksgiving meal four days early because my grandmother planned to travel to Quantico, Virginia to spend Thanksgiving Day with my mother's sister. No one felt like celebrating. Our President was dead, shot by Lee Harvey Oswald who took aim from a window in a schoolbook depository in Dallas and twisted our lives into a tangled mass of confusion and fear.

As I set the table later that morning, and Grandma arrived with homemade pumpkin pie, my ten-year-old mind struggled to understand why anyone would want to kill the President. The whole world, it seemed, had stopped. Our feelings had shifted from anger and disbelief to a stark, quiet acceptance. Kennedy was gone. There was nothing anyone could do to turn back time and make things right again.

We were about to sit down for our Thanksgiving dinner when Mom called from the kitchen. “Come here. They’re showing Oswald!” We gathered around the TV for our first look at the monster who had killed President Kennedy. There he was, handcuffed and looking surprisingly clean-cut wearing dark corduroy slacks and a pullover sweater. He walked swiftly and with a sense of arrogance, through the basement corridors of the Dallas Police Department, toward a car waiting to take him to the county jail. Then, as we watched, a man wearing a suit and fedora lunged forward. He shot Oswald, point blank, in his stomach. “Mercy!” Grandma exclaimed. We had just witnessed a murder, and although no one felt merciful toward Oswald that day, we were shocked. Stunned. “Enough,” said Mom, turning off the television. "It's Thanksgiving."

We sat down at the dinner table, joined hands, and prayed, “Thank you, Lord, for your many blessings, your faithfulness, and your never-ending love . . .”

Praise the Lord, all you nations;

extol him, all you peoples.

For great is his love toward us,

and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

~Psalm 117:1-2

How To Turn Fuzzy Gratitude Into Heartfelt Gratefulness

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”

Isaiah 55:8 (NLT)

When bad things happen, we sometimes assume the role of a therapist psychoanalyzing God. The conversation might go something like this:

“God, it says in Psalm 145 (NLT) verse 3—‘Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise. No one can measure His greatness,'

and verses 5–7—‘I will meditate on Your majestic, glorious splendor . . . Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness.’

Verse 18 says—‘The Lord is near to all who call on Him.’

So, God, if You are so great and good, and if You are near when we ask for help, then why do You allow bad things to happen?”

And God answers, “But you don’t understand!”

During this month of Thanksgiving, I want to challenge you to look at God from David’s perspective in Psalm 145. Keep in mind that David’s life was filled with trouble. Saul wanted to murder him, he ran away, hid in caves, and went without food. After he became king, David lost a child, his best friend was killed, his enemies tried to overthrow him, and his own son tried to kill him. Certainly, David asked why, and in doing so he learned to change the way he thought about God.

Read the second part of verse 3. Here David tells us that no one is able to psychoanalyze God. There are no answers to our why questions, because we humans cannot begin to understand God’s thoughts. God does not behave according to our rules. So, instead of asking why, David accepts that God is too great for the human mind to understand, and he chooses to praise His greatness.

In verses 5–7, understanding that he can’t comprehend God’s thoughts, David meditates on God’s Creation. He concentrates on what his human mind is able to comprehend as good. He finds so many awesome things, that he says to God, "Everyone will be talking about how great You are!”

Then, in verse 18, David shares his belief that God is near to those who trust Him. He has learned through his own experiences that

1. believers should accept God for who He is and praise Him in all circumstances;

2. when it is hard to praise God in bad times, it helps believers to concentrate on God’s goodness as they are able to comprehend it; and

3. when believers do these two things, God draws nearer to them.

Has this been a bad year for you? Are you half-heartedly thanking God during this season of gratefulness? Then try this: spend from now through Thanksgiving looking at God from David’s perspective. See if God draws near to you and transforms your fuzzy gratitude into heartfelt gratefulness.

Three Things Cancer Taught Me About God

For with God nothing will be impossible
Luke 1:37 (NKJV)

Last year, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. I am one of the lucky survivors who had surgery and was done with it. No radiation or chemotherapy needed, just quarterly checkups. I had been cancer free for 15 months, and then, two weeks ago, I went for my annual mammogram. They found something. The doctor was reasonably sure that it was a new cancer. I faced more tests, and while I waited for the results I felt at peace. So different from last year. This time, I waited meditating on how God has used cancer to teach me about Him. Here are a few things I’ve learned.

1. God wants us to fight against fear.
To fear cancer and its treatment, to fear the idea that it might kill me, is not God’s will. Instead, He desires that I be self-disciplined enough to use His power in me to reject Satan’s cruel what-if’s and death threats. I have learned to push fear away because fear shuts God out. When we learn to shut Satan out, we receive God’s peace that passes all understanding. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

2. God heals our cancers.
The unknown is whether He will heal them here on Earth, or if healing will come in heaven. Most of us don’t want to die. I don’t. We have our good reasons to stay here. But God’s plan for our lives is greater and better than ours. I have learned to accept that God knows best. Always! I think of death now as similar to the way a baby is born, coming out of the darkness of the womb into the light. When I die someday, I will be reborn from the dark tunnel of death into the light of eternal life. The transition may be uncomfortable, but it also must be uncomfortable for a baby to come through the birth canal into life. Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

3. God wants us to choose our feelings wisely.
Yes, we have the ability to choose our feelings. My mother died of leukemia. Throughout her illness, she inspired us through her faith and gratitude. She lived each day appreciating all of God’s little gifts—a bird singing, white clouds floating through a cerulean sky, a child’s laughter, an hour without pain. Mom told me, “When I wake up in the morning, I say, ‘Thy will be done, and when I go to bed at night, I say, ‘Thank you.’” Through my mother’s cancer and my own, I have learned to praise God in all circumstances. Praising Him allows me to live joyfully and focus on His gifts instead of my disease. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

The list of what God has taught me through cancer is long. Maybe I will share more about this with you someday. But the three big things are fight fear, believe that you will be healed, and concentrate every day, every minute, every hour, on God’s gracious gifts.

On Thursday, I got my biopsy results. Negative. Praise God, I remain cancer free. But now I know that if I ever face cancer again, God has taught me a new way to cope: His way—the best way.

Severe Weather Warning for Your Immediate Area!

If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.
Psalm 91:9–10 (NIV)

Did the title of this week’s post grab your attention? I hope so. Before I write more, let’s listen to this Hank Williams song to get us in the mood:

Angry purple clouds hang overhead, their bottoms torn and ragged. From somewhere within them, thunder rumbles echoing off towering walls in unseen caverns. Earlier in the day you felt it, that subtle but discernable hint of something bad in the air. Now, the weather siren warns that a storm is racing right at you, hungry to destroy your possessions and maybe even your life. What do you do? You tune in to the weatherman!

How often do we tune in, I mean really tune in, to the daily weather forecast? Most of us tune in to find out the temperature and whether the sun will shine tomorrow. Then we tune out. All of that changes, though, when dark clouds roll in and the warning siren howls. When that happens, we seek out the weatherman and listen to his every word. We want to know where the storm is now, when will it hit us, how bad will it be. The weatherman can answer those questions, but more importantly he will tell us how to protect ourselves. We might lose some of our things in the storm, but if we follow the weatherman’s advice most of us will live.

Have you ever thought that our relationship with God is a lot like our relationship with the weatherman? On good weather days, we routinely check in with God through Bible reading and prayer, but when bad weather hits, we drop to our knees and plead for more information. “Mr. Weatherman, please tell me that the storm won’t hit me. If it does hit me, tell me that it won’t be bad. If it is bad, Mr. Weatherman, then make it go away without causing much damage. Mr. Weatherman . . . like the song goes . . .

‘I've had too many highs and too many lows
Too many storms and tornadoes
I need some blue skies and sunshine
I need a good forecast tonight.’”

Do you tune in to God in all kinds of weather? He desires that we tune in to Him, really tune in, every day—good weather or bad. The more we learn from Him about weathering storms, the more likely we are to find safe shelter when life-storms come our way. When we rely on God in all kinds of weather, we learn what to do when evil strikes. We find safety through His Word and in our prayerful relationship with Him.

Share with us:
What has God taught you about weathering a life-storm?

You Inspire Me!

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
Luke 6:38 (CEV)

INSPIRATION. With every word I write on this blog, I pray to inspire you to trust more, love more, laugh more, and to believe that our loving God has a plan for your life. In return, I am inspired by YOUR blog posts as God speaks to me through you.

This week I want to share with you three posts by other bloggers that made me pause and think. I hope that you will take the time to read them and that they will inspire you to choose joy over sadness, to be more kind to others, and even to laugh.

First, Ann Voskamp (A Holy Experience)
Ann is the author of the best-selling book "One Thousand Gifts." Her daily blog posts are visually beautiful and always inspiring. In her post "When Longing to Choose Joy,"
Ann pays tribute to her dear friend Sara.

Next, Sara Frankl (Gitzen Girl)
"Thought for the Day" is one of Sara's last blog posts. A serious illness has confined Sara to her condo for the past three years. Last week, she began the journey home to be with the Lord. Sara's uplifting attitude and her mantra "Choose Joy" have touched so many lives, and her inspiration will live on.
(Sara is the friend in Ann's post.)

And then, Renae Brumbaugh (Funny Coffee Girl)
Renae makes me laugh. Her humor reminds me of the late Erma Bombeck's as she tunes in to the details of life and adds a twist of funny. Renae's post "Of Mice and Me" will inspire you to appreciate the little irritations that creep into Our Father's world.

P.S. -- Renae has been busy lately at her other blog, "Morning Coffee With Renae," where she's leading us through the Book of Amos.

Thank you all for stopping by the Compost Pile this week. Until next time, I wish you sweet blessings, God's abundant love, peace, and lots of joy.

It's Not a Coincidence; It's a God Thing!

You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples.
Psalm 77:14 (NKJV)

My post this week is a bit longer than usual, but bear with me. I’m about to tell you a story. It’s one of those stories that people call “a God thing,” something that makes the hair stand up on their arms.

Last Friday, my friend and I met for coffee so I could return a book that I had borrowed from her. In the thirty-plus years that we’ve known each other, we’ve gone for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, but never just coffee. I suggested that we meet at a little place on the west side of town.

As we sat there sipping almond lattes and discussing the book I’d borrowed, I asked, “Have you read ‘Jesus Calling’ by Sarah Young?” My friend hadn’t, so I told her about what an amazing devotional it is. She jotted down the title.

The coffee shop sets next to the only Christian bookstore in town, a small shop that struggles to stay in business and has more than a few empty shelves. When we finished our coffee, my friend suggested that we go inside and look around.

While she browsed, I checked to see if they had any of my books. They didn't. Then I looked for “Jesus Calling.” I didn't find it among the dozen, or so, books on the Devotionals rack.

After a few minutes, we decided to leave. On our way out of the store an autobiography caught my friend’s eye. She decided to buy it. A chubby gentleman stood at the checkout counter. He introduced himself as Anthony, the new owner. As Anthony rang up the book, he said, “Have you heard of ‘Jesus Calling?’” He pointed to a display of Sarah Young’s books in the corner of the shop. My friend looked at me, and I knew what she thought: This is strange. Anthony continued, “The Holy Spirit led me to stock that book. I’ve sold copy after copy. It sells out every time.” (What I didn’t share with my friend or Anthony was just how connected I’ve felt lately to Sarah’s books. That’s something that I decided to keep to myself.)

The conversation with Anthony continued. I told him that I had worked as an editor at Golden Books until the company left our town and moved to New York. “Were you in the Erie Street building?” Anthony asked. Yes, my office had been there, on the third floor. That building and others in the complex have sat empty for years. The real estate company hadn’t found a buyer although the location is prime, on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.

“It’s sad,” I said, “that those buildings are still vacant and in such disrepair.”

Anthony smiled. He said, “I just bought them." (It turns out that Anthony comes from a well-known, wealthy family in our area.) He told us about his plans for the complex: a new Christian ministry center with a residence for abused women and their children, an auditorium for concerts and worship, a chapel overlooking the lake, and picnic grounds inspired by the Fruits of the Spirit. “The first time I stood on that land, on that bluff,” Anthony said, “I looked out at the lake, and I cried. I felt the Holy Spirit moving there.” He paused. “I tell you; that’s holy ground.”

A chill ran through me. The hair stood up on my arms —
Almost thirty years ago, I also had met the Holy Spirit on that same bluff, on that holy ground. I was an agnostic then, and I had stood there questioning whether God is for real. On that cloudy spring morning, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: “Look out at the water, and the sun shall shine upon you as I speak.” Just as He promised, the sun broke through the clouds, and God and I had a conversation. That was the day when I asked Jesus into my heart.

Now Anthony the Bookseller has met Jean the Author. Both of us are connected to the Holy Spirit through that bluff on Lake Michigan, a place that Anthony just purchased to develop for the Lord. Is this a coincidence? No. It’s a God thing—

And I don’t think He’s done with us yet.

(Oh, and by the way, before Golden Books owned that land, guess what occupied it. A Christian college!)

In my first-ever blog post, I wrote about the day that I met the Holy Spirit on the bluff. You can read that post here.

Three Things We Should Remember About 9-11

And he said to the human race, "The fear of the Lord— that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding."
Job 28:28 (NIV)

September 11, 2001 became my generation’s Pearl Harbor. On that day, in the split second when the first plane smashed into the North Tower, America transformed from a safe and secure homeland into a den of anxiety and fear.

What should we remember most on this tenth anniversary of 9-11?

1. We need to remember not only those who lost their lives, but also those most affected by the tragedy: the families and friends of the dead, the rescue and recovery personnel who witnessed unspeakable horrors, the citizens who escaped from the towers and the Pentagon and still wonder why. Ten years later, these individuals relive, with searing clarity, the events of that day, and they need our prayers.

Psalm 71:20-21 Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.

2. We need to remember the extraordinary acts of heroism, not only those publicized, but also those that went unseen. We don’t know most of what happened inside the towers and the Pentagon or inside the doomed planes, but we do know that God places His people, His angels, exactly where they need to be at His appointed time. As nearly 3,000 people perished, we can know that compassionate heroes helped in their transition from the horrors of Earth to the wonders of God’s perfect heaven. In these acts, we find hope.

Psalm 91:11For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

3. We need to remember where to look for our strength. As believers we know that our feelings of safety and security go beyond the measures of our home here on Earth. When fear overwhelms us, our strength comes from God. Todd Beamer, a Christian on Flight 93, knew this when he faced his death on 9-11. In a phone call he made from the plane, Todd asked a GTE switchboard operator to pray with him.

“Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed by they Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses.
As we forgive them that trespass against us . . .”

Ten years ago on September 11, 2001 evil struck. When it did, the gates of Heaven swung wide open, and a throng of Christians entered all at once. This week, we remember the events that brought them there and also the loving God who watched over us then and watches us still.

Matthew 28:20: Behold, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

To those we lost that day:

We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV)

From the Memorial Service held at the National Cathedral on 9-11-01:

Make Time for God’s Timing

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)

I had good intent this morning. I got up early, dressed and prepared to head to my favorite writing spot near Lake Michigan. As I climbed into my car, I silently congratulated myself for getting an early start. Then I said a quick prayer asking God to inspire me with an idea for today’s blog post. I stuck the key into the ignition. I turned it. Nothing. Again I tried, this time holding the key a few seconds longer and giving the engine a little more gas. That’s when I noticed that the car’s interior lights were on and had probably been on all weekend. Dead battery.

With impatience brewing within me, I called the service station. Then I sat down in my living room to wait. “Lord,” I whispered. “I have no time for this. Please make them come quickly.” Almost instantly I heard it, God’s still, small voice reminding me of something that I had read in a book last week: “There is no time in Heaven.”

That’s right. Heaven knows nothing but eternity. The only time that matters there is God’s perfect timing, and that holds true here on Earth. The Bible tells us in Psalm 37:7 to wait patiently for God to do His work. Yet, when I look at my own life, I see that so often I view my time as more important than God’s timing. Patience wins God’s approval. The psalmist David says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.” (Ps. 40:1) Whether we cry out to God about little things, like a dead battery, or about matters of life or death, He hears us. “When His people pray for help, He listens and rescues them [in His own time]” (Ps. 34:17 CEV)

I waited more patiently. The service man arrived and started my car’s battery. Now, later than planned, I am at the lakefront writing this post inspired by God.

A Coast Guard cutter floats fifty yards offshore. It travels slowly across the water, back and forth, its occupants searching each square in an imaginary grid. Several dozen people are gathered on the beach,— brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, grandparents—all waiting patiently near the water’s edge. A passerby told me that they have no choice but to wait. Their ten-year-old relative, a boy, went to be with the Lord while swimming here two days ago. The boy's family kills time, some ambling along the beach, others sitting in lawn chairs staring toward the horizon, a few hugging and holding tight to each other as they wait for his body to be found. And as I look more closely, I see a small group of them raising their hands toward Heaven, praying.

And here I am, no longer grumbling about a dead battery, but instead praying for a dead child's family, and praying, too, that this blog post will inspire you to be patient with the little things that disrupt your schedule, your time. Because, you see, God knows precisely what He is doing, and His timing is always perfect. Those little interruptions happen for a reason as He moves you through life in His time and His way.

Where has God sent you today? Are you impatient about where you are? Look around. Does someone need prayer? Were you sent by God to help? You are exactly where He wants you to be right now, and, in some small way, you are working out His plan.

The Colors of Heaven

“The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.”
Revelation 21:19-21 (NIV)

I was one of those kids who sniffed a box of new crayons and imagined the Northern Lights, or a double rainbow, or the ocean with clouds drifting overhead transforming the water from teal to pea soup green to robin’s-egg blue. My standard back-to-school box of eight crayons wasn’t enough. I wanted the box of sixteen, then twenty-four, then forty-eight crayons. The big box of sixty-four colors was my idea of perfection. Colors like Prussian Blue, Maize, Orchid and Apricot gave my muse exactly what she needed to let down her hair and attempt to re-create the universe on a piece of stark white paper.

As an adult, I've continued my search for new and exciting colors. My current obsession is with Benjamin Moore’s “My Perfect Color” web site. There, I can peruse colors that match my mood, from sleepy — “Moonlit Sidewalk,” “Silver Clouds," “Quiet Haze” — to bold and adventurous – “Deep Mystery,” “Kilimanjaro Thunder," “Australian Desert.” I've learned that any color I can imagine exists somewhere as a paint chip, each one inspired by something in God's creation.

Last week, I read two books that fed my passion for color, “Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back” (Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent, Published by Thomas Nelson) and “90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death & Life” (Don Piper and Cecil Murphey, Published by Revell). Each tells the story of a near-death experience, and each provides a hint of the colors in heaven. Both are strikingly similar as they suggest that heavenly colors are beyond any earthly description.

Little Colton Burpo tells us that there are “lots and lots of colors” in heaven. Using a preschoolers’ vocabulary, he can only describe them by saying, “That’s where all the rainbow colors are.” Don Piper takes us one step further in his book. He writes, “As I looked around, I could hardly grasp the vivid, dazzling colors. Every hue and tone surpassed anything I had ever seen . . . Everything around me glowed with a dazzling intensity. In trying to describe the scene, words are totally inadequate, because human words can’t express the feelings of awe and wonder at what I beheld.”

Some of the first words that God spoke to us through the Bible were, “Let there be light.” (Genesis 1:3). As He expanded His creation from light to the sky and the earth, God created colors that He allowed man to name. As I write this blog post, I look around me soaking in all those colors and marveling at their beauty. Then I imagine, beyond my big box of crayons and seemingly infinite number of paint chips, the colors that exist in heaven. Vivid colors. Dazzling colors. Colors so stunning and so indescribable that only God can speak their names.

What effect do earthly colors have on your relationship with God?

Are You Home Yet?

“I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. . .”
Jeremiah 2:21a (NIV)

Is there a place that beckons to you? Someplace that tugs at your heart? A place where you always feel at home? For me, that place is Lake Michigan. It captured my heart on the day I was born.

I was just hours old when my parents brought me home from the hospital in a February snowstorm. I imagine that as they took me from the car and into our house across the street from the lake, wild, gray waves crashed over mountains of ice on the shore. Those waves were some of the first sounds that I heard. As I lay on my parents’ bed, bundled in warm blankets, Lake Michigan’s waves sang me to sleep. Their soft, rhythmic rushing brought comfort on many a night when I lived in that big, old house on Fifth Avenue. As I grew, from dawn until dusk Lake Michigan was my constant companion, my playground, my classroom, and the place where I felt closest to God.

I have never strayed far from the lake. I went to school at a university near its shore, my career as an editor took me to live in some of its port cities, and now I am settled just a few city blocks from this vast body of water that behaves like the sea. Often, I stand at the water’s edge in awe of how the sun reflects, like diamonds, on its surface and how the gentle waves make music as they wash over smooth stones. “Thank you, God, for planting me here.”

Do you know that God plants His people? He says, in Isaiah 60:21, that people are the shoot He has planted, the work of His hands for the display of His splendor. I believe that God not only has a plan for His people here on Earth, but also a place. Some find themselves firmly planted from the day they are born. Others God picks up and transplants where they are supposed to be. Wherever our place is, we will know it when we get there because it feels right. It feels like home.

Have you thought about it? Are you at home where you are, or is somewhere tugging at your heart and beckoning you to come? Even if you haven't yet found your place here on Earth, you can be sure of this: Jesus has gone to Heaven to prepare a place for you, and some day you will live there with Him forever.

"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." John 14:3 (NIV)


I'm proud to be a contributing author to the following series of humorous devotionals.
And check out my "Kid's Bible Dictionary" and pre-teen mysteries, also from Barbour.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.
Click on the picture.
I am the author of these books, but I have not been compensated for mentioning them on this blog or linking them to the seller's website. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

By Max Lucado, Published by Thomas Nelson
Max Lucado has a unique way with words, and his children's book Hermie A Common Caterpillar is no exception. With simple text and bright, watercolor illustrations, the story of Hermie unfolds.

Hermie wonders why he looks and feels so common. Whenever he asks God why, God simply answers, "I'm not finished with you yet." Then, one day, Hermie feels very tired. He gets into his cozy, leafy bed, and he sleeps. And while Hermie sleeps a transformation takes place. When he wakes up, Hermie discovers that God has done something grand. You can guess what it is. Every caterpillar that lives to adulthood knows the end of the story.

Parents, please share this book and its powerful message with your children. We are all special because God loves us, and He has a unique purpose for our lives. Whenever we slump into feeling ordinary, we know that we have hope because . . .God isn't finished with us yet!

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

©text on this blog copyrighted 2012 by Jean Fischer unless otherwise credited. You may link to the blog, but please don't reprint the text without my permission.

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