What does 2021 hold?

The great Scottish poet, Robert Burns, once wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley.” I would roughly translate it: our best plans usually mess up.

My husband and I made 2020 plans, but the Lord saw fit to change them up, show His hand in the solutions, and guide us through. We are thankful. Many days, I had to consciously choose to worship, and it was the best theme word for the year I could have chosen. (Scroll down to the previous post to read the specifics.)

Now, we’re beginning a New Year. It brings with it some bright hopes and also trepidations. Optimists see it as a clean slate. Pessimists are scared to crack the door open to 2021. I personally look forward to getting settled, if God permits.

Last year–seems funny to say that–we sold our home back in Spain, moved to the United States, and are presently living with family. My husband and I look forward to having our own home and we’re actively working on that. Everything on this side of the ocean is new and different. Most proceedings require paperwork and patience, and I foresee more of that.

What does 2021 hold?

Only the Lord knows.

The Bible gives some great advice: Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that (James 4:13-15).

In the great scheme of things, our lives are so short, the Lord compares them to water vapor. We are fog, clouds, steam-like. Ephemeral. With eternity in view, our lives are mere blips on the time line.

But, this doesn’t mean our lives are unimportant or insignificant. They are. God is involved and He will guide us well. If He wills, we shall live and do this, or that. It’s a great way to live and the right way to die. For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death (Psalm 48:14).

If I had made my own plans last year and everything had gone perfectly according to them, I would not have been able to watch God do the impossible, move “mountains,” and give supernatural strength. I would have depended on myself to do it all—and would’ve failed miserably. The reason we are where we are today is because of God’s guidance, enabling, and provision.

What does 2021 hold?

It’s an opportunity to trust the Lord even more. We can hold onto His hand and follow Him. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Matthew 16:24). Following Jesus means denying self and identifying with Him.

What an opportunity! We get to follow God as He leads us perfectly. As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him (Psalm 18:30).

The word buckler is a shield. It is better than any corona virus shield or vaccine. God Himself is a body shield for us. His way is perfect, and His Word has been proven.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105).

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee (Isaiah 26:3).

But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee (Psalm 5:11).

I am going to choose JOYFUL as my theme word for 2021, knowing that I can be joyful in Jesus, whatever my circumstances.

If you choose a theme word or theme verse or phrase for this New Year, please feel free to share it in the comments.

Happy New Year!

Emmanuel: God with us

The miracle of Christmas is tied up in this name: Emmanuel. This name first appeared in a prophecy going back 700 years before Jesus’ birth. 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).

The virgin birth involves a whole series of miracles. We have the miraculous conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit. And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35).

Even though Mary couldn’t understand the supernatural science, she was willing. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word (Luke 1:38a).

In the Gospel of Matthew we read: Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (Matthew 1:23). This is a direct quote of Isaiah, with the addition of the meaning of the name, Emmanuel.

God with us.

What an amazing concept! God presents Himself in human form—in baby form—to mankind. He lives among us. God with us.

Its significance is enormous. Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:6-8).  The Creator makes Himself like the created in order to save His own creation. It is awesome, unfathomable.

Jesus means Savior. This was His human birth name. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Emmanuel. God with us.

Jesus. Savior.

Isaiah’s prophecy adds these names for Baby Jesus: Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace (9:6).

God with us.

Jesus said, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (from Matthew 28:20).

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:16, 26).

Emmanuel wants us to be content with His presence. Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5). True contentment is in Him.

Do you know Emmanuel? Is the Holy Spirit with you and teaching you?

Are you content in His presence?

Have a Merry Christmas!

Christmas whenever it happens

For a bit of background, we were officially missionaries from 1982-2020, when we retired. Over 36 years of that time, we lived in Spain. Our children were small in the eighties and nineties.

Those were times when packages usually came by boat, meaning that some came quite early—kudos to churches that did Missionary Christmas in July. Some came very late, like in the spring. Of course, being on the receiving end, we never knew if anyone had sent any surprises or not, so we never expected anything and were delighted if and when anything arrived.

Back in those days, import customs taxes were handled differently. I believe we only paid high taxes on one item, and I can’t remember what it was. Nowadays, however, it is better to send a gift card or money to missionaries in Spain, as it will cost them as much or more to receive the gift as it cost you to send it. Sad, indeed. (Note: Always ask your missionary what the situation is in his country before spending your time and hard-earned money to send them something he might have to sacrifice to receive.)

Oh, how we—especially our children—loved those boxes! It didn’t matter if they arrived in January or March. It was Christmas all over again. The delight on our children’s faces was worth every penny spent—and the long boatride across the ocean. Sometimes, people even included books, CDs, and post-its and other goodies for my husband and me. We felt loved.

Gifts are especially important for children. I was in dollar store the other day and spent a whopping two dollars on two gifts for our grandchildren. They will love them. And, they will feel the love. They won’t know where I bought them or that I spent only a dollar on each. It is the thought and the gift that count. Shh! Don’t tell. They will be delighted on Christmas Day.

I know that some Christians are against the commercialization of Christmas, and I totally understand. Some don’t exchange gifts at all. Other families draw names. People have the freedom to decide how they will or won’t celebrate Christmas.

For our family, especially when we were abroad and not with the children’s aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, we felt we needed to have two especially festive holidays a year. What better than Christmas and Easter—celebrating Jesus’ coming and His resurrection?

We would go with our co-workers, dig up a tree—not allowed to cut trees, there—and string lights. I always put up at least one manger scene in our home. I even had a small one in the kitchen. We taught our children about Jesus and giving and the wise men. Our co-workers usually hosted a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day meal. It was a happy time.

As for gifts, we enjoyed another Christmas whenever they arrived.

Jesus is the Best Gift ever. We don’t know when He arrived. December 25 probably isn’t the actual day. The date is a tradition that began many years after His birth. But, the truth is, Jesus came to earth as a Baby. He was born to Mary. Shepherds worshipped Him that night, and Herod later sought to kill Him.

The Bible says, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Salvation is a gift from God. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

As with any gift offered, salvation through Jesus must be received. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).

Think about it. Have you received the Gift of Christmas: Jesus? Do you possess the gift of salvation from your sins?

Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.

Merry Christmas!

I thought “Jingle Bells” was a secular song

In my youth, we sang “Jingle Bells” along with such happy-mood Christmas songs as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” “Let It Snow,” and “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”

In the 1980s, our family moved to Spain, and to our surprise, we opened our hymnals to find “Jingle Bells” ensconced in hymnology. The song title is “Navidad” (Christmas), and the Spanish version has the same tune as “Jingle Bells.” (I always want to shout “hey” at the end.)

It is about the story of Christmas: Jesus, the Baby of Bethlehem. The song speaks about salvation.

A rough translation of the main verse goes: The Baby of Bethlehem brings us salvation; / With boundless joy, we sing the song. / I love You, my Jesus, to You I will sing. / In this happy day, I will rejoice.

The Baby Jesus brings salvation.

God’s plan of redemption boggles the mind. The whole concept of God taking human form—along with everything that goes with it—and coming down to mankind in order to sacrifice Himself for humans is almost incredible. But it’s true. God chose to limit Himself to flesh, live a perfect life, and die a horrible death, then rise again in victory to save lousy, sinning people.

I love the way Philippians explains this: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (2:5-8).

We’re supposed to have that kind of servant mindfulness as Jesus. Do we?

God planned this before Creation. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God (1 Peter 1:18-21).

Jesus was conscious, even from a fairly early age, that He was here for a purpose. When He was only twelve, He said, Wist (know) ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? (from Luke 2:49) 

Before He died on the cross, Jesus clearly said exactly what would happen. The disciples didn’t seem to comprehend until afterwards. The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day (Luke 9:22).

Jesus knew the plan, announced it, and was willing to obey the Father and carry it through.

His motivation?

Love.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16-17).

This Christmas can be your happiest. Look what Jesus did for you. Confess your sins to Him, ask His forgiveness, and thank Him for being your Savior.

Navidad, Navidad, Hoy es Navidad. Es un día de alegría y felicidad. Christmas, Christmas, Today is Christmas. It’s a day for joy and happiness.

(Hey!)

Missing people: not this year

Label me sentimental if you like. This year is the first Thanksgiving in many that we were with my family for Thanksgiving Day. It’s the first one where we were in the table pictures—the ones that try to squeeze in all the family around a long table.

Living over 4,000 miles away, it was impossible for us to be included.

Most Thanksgivings, even with the empty nest, we spent with at least one other person, but there have been a few Thanksgivings when my husband and I celebrated all by ourselves, just the two of us. We made special foods and enjoyed being together, but Thanksgiving is simply not the same without family.

I grew up going every Thanksgiving to my grandfather’s home in the middle of nowhere. It’s a two-story farmhouse surrounded by porches, on a two-hundred-acre spread. My aunts and mother would take enough food for several armies, and they would labor over the gas stove to bring us the most amazing Thanksgiving fare, beyond most people’s wildest dreams. Over the weekend, we would eat and talk and eat and talk. Insert a lot of laughter, and you can imagine.

We children would play outside and read inside. Field & Stream and old Reader’s Digests abounded. I always took several books of my own.

Thanksgivings meant playing football in the cow pasture and Hide and Seek with our cousins. My great aunt made homemade bread and butter, sausage gravy over homemade biscuits and much, much more. Pies, cakes, frog-eye salad, real mincemeat (venison)….

The men went hunting, and the rest of us just enjoyed the company. Sometimes, neighbors would stop in for visits, and usually we’d attend the little country church where my parents were married “up the road.”

We gave thanks for Thanksgiving down deep in our souls. It was family time and free time—to do whatever we wanted, roam wherever we wanted. Thanksgivings were wonderful.

In 1984, our little family of three moved to Spain. Our co-workers celebrated Thanksgivings with us, many times inviting friends. One memorable Thanksgiving, we invited American basketball players to join us. Two of them were 6’11” tall, and one of the ladies was well over 6 feet. I will never forget them, as they became good friends.

But, the Thanksgiving weekends of my youth were gone. You simply cannot experience a weekend like that in an apartment in Spain.

Years passed, and we did our best to always enjoy Thanksgivings with our children. I am not sure they liked the pumpkin pies, but we made them.

After the children left home, we received photos of parents, siblings, their children and grandchildren around the table. The only ones missing were us—always us. I confess I shed a few tears every year. How I wanted to be in those photos, with those people.

This year, we weren’t missing.

We were with our family, enjoying the traditional foods of the season–and, there was an extra Thanksgiving vibe in our hearts.