"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." – Luke 1:26-33
Have you ever been fearful about something God was prompting you to do? Something He was clearly calling you to?
In Mary’s case, she knew well the prophetic promise that the Messiah was coming. But she certainly didn’t know when, or by what means, the Lord of heaven and earth would accomplish that promise. So, when the angel informed her that she would be the one to conceive and bear the longed-for Christ-Child, she was “greatly troubled,” as in terrified.
We, like Mary, also long for the promises of God to be fulfilled in our lives, and in the lives of our family and friends, don’t we? We wait with hope, praying and yearning… looking ahead with expectation. And, yes, we are often afraid.
But remember what Mary’s journey revealed: The God of the universe—our loving heavenly Father—was with her. Emmanuel, God with us!
This Advent Season, if we are tempted to fear, we can remember that God “is working in” us, giving us “the desire and the power to do what pleases Him,” and we can completely trust in that…for always.
Wishing you an inspiring and memorable Christmas!
"I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds." – Psalm 9:1
Recently, I was organizing greeting cards from my family and friends, as well as old photos taken after I won the little Brownie camera in first grade. I paused to count the small blessings...thankful for the little things, like the friendship quilt made in 1927 for my shunned Grandma Ada by the women in her husband's first congregation and the ficus tree I managed to bring back to life with God's help after my mother passed away and Daddy forgot to water. The little New Testament given to me by a 90-year-old church friend years ago. And, oh, the very creative cards my sister, Barbie, makes, which I've saved for decades.
I thanked God for the New England hikes I've been blessed to enjoy, the lone red leaf brought home in a book recently, the dearest smile on our younger daughter, Janie's face when we visited her and her brother last week. The seemingly minuscule blessings, which accumulate through the years, amidst the challenges in all our lives—the loss of loved ones, struggles with health, and the disappointments, too.
Today, and every day, let's offer our sincerest gratitude to our heavenly Father for each and every blessing, great and small.
Wishing you a reflective season of gratitude!
Writing Update: My autumn visit to Lancaster County Amish farmland was partially spent gathering more information (and photos) for my Fall 2020 novel, The Stone Wall, which I'll be revising and polishing this month. Perfect timing! Also, my wonderful publisher has recently offered me another 3-book contract, I'm happy to share with you! So, I've been making notes for my Fall 2021 novel, yet unnamed, but will likely take place in that beloved setting of Hickory Hollow...with a well-loved character. Stay tuned for more on this exciting news!
"Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen." – Hebrews 13:20-21
There is an old, old hymn, written in 1729, that presents a thought which might be timely to consider. The exquisite wording expresses the depth of spirit, while written in the Old King James.
Here's the last section of the hymn, as though a prayer to our Lord:
May I ceaselessly adore Thee,
And in all,
Great and small,
Seek to do most nearly
What Thou lovest dearly.
– Gerhard Tersteegen
Can you imagine what our world would look like if for only one day each of us would "seek to do most nearly" the things that God loves dearly? Every single life on the planet would be different if we lived to please God instead of ourselves. Every home, school, house of worship, hospital, airport, community center, sports stadium and so on, would be radically changed.
And, then, if that one day were, indeed, so peaceful and joyful, wouldn't we all want to continue living that way, never to return to the old, selfish ways?
This splendid, shining autumn month, what if each of us, in our own small corner of the world, set out to live to please Christ above all else?
The benediction verse above informs us that God has already made it possible for us to live this way. Let's challenge each other to accept the power that Christ is producing in us, day by day. From glory to glory.
Writing Update: As I write this blog, I am two chapters away from finishing the first draft for The Stone Wall, releasing Fall 2020, a stand-alone novel set in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, the very heart of Lancaster County Amish farmland. If you have the opportunity to visit there, you will see several beautiful, historic stone walls...and one, in particular, which conceals a 70-year secret (well, it does in my novel, anyway!). Stay tuned for the book cover reveal soon. And thanks so much for your gracious support of my newest novel, The Timepiece, and for your prayers for my continued writing ministry, dear reader-friends!
"Jesus said to his disciples, 'Suppose one of you has a friend. Suppose you go to him at midnight and say, 'Friend, let me borrow three loaves of bread. A friend of mine on a trip has dropped in on me, and I don't have anything to serve him.' Your friend might answer you from inside his house, 'Don't bother me! The door is already locked, and my children are in bed. I can't get up to give you anything.' I can guarantee that although he doesn't want to get up to give you anything, he will get up and give you whatever you need because he is your friend and because you were so bold.
So I tell you to ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. Everyone who asks will receive. The one who searches will find, and for the person who knocks, the door will be opened." – Luke 11:5-10
If you read the scripture verses above carefully, you caught it. You saw that Jesus tells us to pray boldly, and with persistence and expectation.
You know the saying “Go big, or go home,” right? So, if we're going to tap into the most powerful Source in the universe, let's ask for big things. Significant things, like healing for a friend's lung cancer or urgent sole custody for a child or a much-needed job. Let's ask for the lost to come to Christ.
Remember, God cherishes us. He is the best-ever Father, like a loving dad who sits up all night in the hospital room of a sick child, wanting to be there through the illness, the pain, the displacement. Willing to lose sleep, not eating, to be present with his precious son or daughter.
God is with us in all of our suffering and troubles—the greatest role model for any parent. So, when we're messed up, feeling weak, and needing divine help, it shows that unless we are helpless we cannot be helped. We have to reach out and grab the Lifebuoy so we don't drown. Otherwise, we're not ready for intervention. We have to recognize our helplessness, so we won't become hopeless. We are in Christ, not doing life alone.
A side note here: My dad was the preacher in our family, but every so often I feel impressed to share some of his vision in my monthly blogs. I've seen firsthand the power of prayer from my parents. They lived by faith, literally, even praying in groceries when they were church planters, back in the day when it was actually called "pioneer pastoring," and were paid with chickens from their small congregation. Living by faith meant storming the Throne of Grace when my mother was diagnosed with inoperable ovarian cancer and given six months to live, when I was just a small girl. And, believe me, we prayed repeatedly for her healing! (Read the account of this miracle story, if you wish, in my book, The Sunroom). Like Jesus said, we must be persistent in our prayers...and wait with great expectation.
Writing Update: Some of you have asked, and yes, I am on deadline, currently writing my Fall 2020 book (a stand-alone novel set in Strasburg, PA, the heart of Amish farmland in Lancaster County). Please stay tuned for the title reveal soon.
Also, the conclusion to The Tinderbox releases two weeks from today, so if you want it to read The Timepiece on its release day (September 17) you may want to preorder online or at your local bookstore. Thank you so much for following me faithfully all these years, and for being such amazingly devoted readers!