Angel’s Song

Better late than never! Unlike most of my Christmas series, which have been rewritten and revised several times, this story was nothing more than a vague idea in my mind a week ago. We love to sing about the angels, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, and The First Noel, among other Christmas favorites. But what is their story, what is going on in that mysterious realm of angels and demons on the most famous day in history?

This story is what I think may have happened.

You will notice that this book cover doesn’t have a figure from an old nativity set. Want to know why? Because I decided that the sappy, serene and aloof look of most nativity angels I have seen simply don’t fit the power of their story. Scriptures say that the angels celebrate in Heaven when one who was lost is redeemed. I think that pales beside their celebration on the day when the redemption becomes possible. The angels  echo the Joy of the Father when Jesus is born. And that is not a sweet and sappy smile, but a powerful burst of jubilation that rocked Heaven to its foundations.

So rather than put a substandard angel on my cover, you will have to just imagine the joy that filled them on that very special day.

 

The Angel’s Song  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R1FBPEM  is available on Amazon for Free through Dec. 21.

Don’t forget to check out:

The Shepherd’s Tale  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PUZ9AD8

The Innkeeper’s Guest  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QOA67OS

 

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Thomas’ Doubt Part two

124 Thomas walked without seeing. He did not stop until he was beyond the walls of Jerusalem. The road climbed under his feet and a sickly smell of decay made him lift his head.

Why had he come here to this horrible place? The upright sections of three crosses speared up into the darkening sky. The setting sun lit them with a fiery glow painting dark stains on the wood. Thomas forced himself forward to the foot of the middle upright as he had not had the courage to do when Jesus had hung there. Although three days had passed, the smell of blood and death lingered.

“Lord, You said you were going to leave us. You said we would know the way. But, Lord, I don’t know the way. Must I allow myself to be killed as you were?” Thomas reached out a trembling hand and touched the blood soaked wood. He realized he had been hoping for some lingering sense of the Lord. Something to give him direction and hope. But there was nothing. Nothing except an empty piece of wood. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me.

“How am I to trust, Lord? You are no longer here, You would not even allow us to fight to protect You. You said you had come to save the world, but I do not feel saved, Lord. I feel lost.” Thomas let his fingers fall away from the splintered wood. Jesus was not here, there was no reason to stay. He turned away and headed toward the nearby garden. His steps slowed to a stop still many paces from the tomb. The last rays of the sun had faded into darkness and the rising moon, just past full, had yet to reach this shadowed place.

Thomas found himself shivering although the night was not yet cold. The mouth of the tomb gaped wide like a giant’s hungry mouth. Thomas paused. The only sound was that of his own harsh breathing. Something rustled in the brush behind him. Thomas whirled, but nothing was there.

“Lord, are you there?”

Only when the words were spoken did Thomas realize that he had been hoping that Mary and John were right. Hoping that Jesus was alive. There was no answer in the darkness. He pulled his outer cloak tight around his shoulders against the chill night air. He watched in silence as the moon cast silver shadows through the quiet garden. He was watching still when dawn showed pink and gold in the East.

“Lord, are you here?”

There was no sound but that of birds singing their joyful greeting to the sun. Thomas rose stiffly from his seat. With weary steps he returned to the upper room. His Lord, his friend was gone.

Thomas raised dazed eyes, heavy from lack of sleep, to the occupants within the room. Gone were the sober expressions and tears of sorrow. In their place were songs and laughter, dancing and joy. Thomas stepped into the room, the crash of the door silencing the laughter.

“Have you all gone mad? Are you possessed that you can sing and laugh when your hearts should be grieving?”

“But we haven’t lost anything.” John rushed up and clasped Thomas in a close embrace. “My brother, Jesus is alive and I have seen him. Right in this very room.”

Thomas pulled away from the hug. His eyes scanned the room. Each face he saw stared back at him, glowing with happiness. “How can this be?”

“It is true. After you left last night, Jesus appeared in this room, even though the door was locked.” Peter came to Thomas and laid a strong hand on his shoulder. “If you had stayed with us, you would have seen him, too.”

Guilt and sorrow flooded Thomas’ heart. He had gone out and followed the path of Jesus’ last journey from cross to grave only to find emptiness. He shook his head. “No.” His voice rose in denial of the false hope. “No, I don’t believe it. Jesus is dead. Until I see the nail marks in his hand and place my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it!”

Thomas stormed to a dark corner of the room and pulled his cloak over his head. He did his best to block out the sounds of joy. Finally, tears wetting his beard, he fell asleep.

For the next week, Thomas kept himself apart from the others. He spoke to no one, turning away when one of the others tried to speak to him. When the Sabbath came again, Thomas had sunk deep into despair, made darker by the joy around him.

If only I was crazy, too. How I, too, long for words of comfort. The other disciples and followers of Jesus had gathered in the room and preparing to break bread together. They repeated the words that Jesus had spoken during their last supper together. Thomas unfolded himself from his corner. Do this in remembrance of Me. Thomas would remember with the others. Perhaps within memory, he could gain some measure of peace.

Suddenly the air was filled with strange perfume. Thomas looked up to see the other disciples faces light up with expectation. Thomas turned and looked toward the locked door. It remained closed. With a flicker of color, Jesus stood before him.

Bread fell from nerveless fingers. Thomas felt his jaw go slack as his knees gave way from under him. Jesus stood before him. Jesus was Alive.

“Peace be with you.” The words flowed over Thomas’s broken heart like a soothing balm. Jesus looked into his eyes and showed the scars in his hands. “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”

Thomas winced, his own words piercing his soul like knives. He closed his eyes, attempting to shut out his humiliation. For a long time, no one spoke. When he opened his eyes once more, Jesus was staring at him. There was no anger or condemnation there. only love. Tears began to fall from Thomas’ eyes.

“Stop doubting and believe.” Jesus’ beloved voice echoed through the room. The power of it shivered through the air.

My Lord, and my God.” Peace rose up in Thomas’ heart. All the doubts and fears that had plagued him for days fell away.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.” Thomas bowed his head, accepting the gentle rebuke. All his life he had believed only what he could see with his eyes, touch with his hands and hear with his ears. Now, when he had not been able to believe, he was shown. but if his Lord, his God, could conquer the hold of Death itself, how could he not believe that anything is possible.

Now we know that Thomas did indeed stop doubting. After he received his portion of the Holy Spirit, he traveled far, preaching and teaching. Tradition tells us that he established Christ’s Church in India where he is still revered for his faith. From doubt, Thomas’ belief grew into a solid foundation, never to be shaken again.

 

 

 

Thomas’ Doubt

cloudscape1Bitterness coated Thomas’ tongue. He stood in the room where just days ago he and his friends had celebrated the Passover with Jesus. Although his Lord had seemed melancholy and spoke of betrayal and denial, Thomas would never have predicted later events. No one could have. Unable to be still, he paced from door to window and back again.

Andrew approached him, but Thomas turned away. He did not have the patience to hear the man’s gentle consolation again. For three years they had followed the man he had come to believe was the Messiah. Thomas had left a good carpentry business to follow Jesus’ calling. He had left his family and friends to wander homeless with a man who had challenged authority and flirted with death. Now the authorities and death had caught him and Thomas was an outlaw. He should never have left home.

Guilt seeped through the bitterness. No, he was glad to have left. No matter how badly things had turned out, he had seen things and done things that were beyond belief. He paused in his pacing and from the shelter of the shadows looked out the latticed window. A squad of Roman soldiers marched by in close formation, their spears and shield held ready.

Three days after laying Jesus’ body in the ground, the city still huddled in fear. People cleaning up the rubble left from the earthquake still stole glances at the sky which had gone dark for hours not so long ago. Pharisees and Sadducees refused to leave the temple or perform their normal duties. There were whispers of the Great Veil tearing from top to bottom and the Holy of Holies open to everyone’s view.  God was surely angry at the death of Jesus.

Cheerful humming broke into Thomas’ dark thoughts. He watched as Mary the Magdalene walked, practically danced, over to John and offered him a cup of wine. Thomas narrowed his eyes as the two shared a secret smile. It wasn’t right for John to humor her that way. The poor woman’s mind had snapped that morning .

The women hadn’t been able to do a thorough anointing of Jesus’ body before the Sabbath began. This morning, a group had gone to finish the job as soon as the sun rose. They had all come back shortly afterwards hysterical and raving about angels and His missing body. Peter and John had gone to the tomb and verified that the body was gone but were quiet when they returned.

Mary had come back much later, singing and dancing. She spoke of seeing Jesus himself, not dead, but alive. She claimed he had spoken to her and called her by name. Peter didn’t say much, still berating himself for denying Jesus during the trial. John sided with Mary, claiming that the Lord has risen. At least John didn’t claim to have spoken with a dead man. Thomas thought that the soldiers had taken the body and desecrated it further just to show they could.

Thomas stalked over to the two of them.  “You should not carry on so, it is not right to make light of others sorrow.”

“Thomas, what do you mean?” John looked puzzled. “Why should there be sorrow among us when our Lord has conquered Death itself?”

“He has not conquered death, He is dead. Let us mourn Him properly.” A muscle in Thomas’ jaw clenched. They were unreasonable.

“Jesus did conquer death. Were you not standing with us when he raised Jarius’ daughter, or the son of the widow in Nain? Did you not see our friend Lazarus when he emerged from his tomb?”

Thomas shrugged. “I saw those things , but it is one thing to be filled with God’s holy power and raise someone else from the dead. Elijah and Elisha also raised people from the dead. But no one can raise themselves.”

“But I saw Him, Jesus appeared to me in the garden and spoke to me.” The light in Mary’s face dimmed. “Why don’t you believe me?” she placed her hand on Thomas’s arm and her eyes pleaded with him to understand.

“You are deluded by your grief. You want Jesus back so badly, you imagined him speaking.” Thomas pulled away from her touch and unlocking the door, descended into the street. Wrapping his headscarf across his face he stalked away.

To Be Continued. . .

 

Prodigal Me

You know that story in the bible that Jesus tells, the one about the son who squanders his inheritance with wild living? Well, guess what;

I am a prodigal.

Ok, I never really did much wild living, I am an introvert after all and parties are not my thing. I have never done drugs or developed a taste for alcohol. All things considered, I prefer to spend my free time snuggled on the couch with a good book or sitting at my computer writing, playing games or generally wasting time. Many people would look at my life and wonder where the prodigal part comes in.

Well, let me tell you.

The story of the prodigal son is not so much about the wine, women and song that the young man spent his money on. Rather, it is about disobedience, disrespect and distance. The man publicly humiliated his father by asking for his inheritance early. In effect, he was saying

“Dad, I wish you would kick off so that I could get my cash now. See, my buds and me, we want to take off for California and hang out at the beach. That is where the real living is. So gimme what I got coming to me.”

The Dad would have been the laughing stock of the town. I can just see his neighbors shake their heads and whisper behind shielding hands about how they knew that boy would be trouble and how Dad had never been able to control him. What a shame.

But Dad let him go. He probably stared after the retreating back of his son until long after he disappeared into the distance. Every day, week, month and year that followed, Dad would stare down the road watching for his son. Maybe today would be the day.

Then finally, one day, Dad looks up. Maybe today will be the day. He peers down that long dusty road. Something is moving. Just a tiny speck. Is it a traveler passing through? Or a peddler on his way to the next town? Or maybe the road is crowded with travelers, it is market day and everyone is headed into town. Out of all those people, Dad sees something. A beggar is shuffling along the side of the road. No one else seems to see him stumble with weakness. He is walking hunched over, one arm wrapped around his belly as if he is in pain.

Dad recognizes him. There is no physical resemblance to the proud, strong young man who had walked away so long ago, but a father knows his children. Dad drops everything. He begins to walk toward that shambling figure. He walks faster and faster until he is running. His robe is hiked up around bony knees as his feet move faster than they ever have before. His heart is pumping with exertion but over the pounding of blood in his ears, Dad’s spirit is singing with joy. He is home!

When Dad reaches the filthy creature, he pulls the boy into a close embrace. Dad doesn’t care that his son is dressed in filthy rags. He takes no notice of the stench of the unwashed body, ripe with the odor of animal dung and sickness. He doesn’t see the smears of mud and worse that are transferred to his own fine robes. All he knows is that his son has come home.

So how am I a prodigal?

By society’ standards, I am not so bad. But I know the truth. I know how God wants me to live. I know that I should be making the most of the gifts of the Spirit; love, faithfulness, joy, self-control, gentleness, patience . . . the list goes on. Those are my inheritance. But do I use them consistently? Do I pray and strive to grow closer to the goal?

No, not so much. I am critical, selfish, moody, impatient, pessimistic and my self-control is sadly lacking. I squander my days with unimportant distractions.

I am so grateful that every time I turn aside from the path where God is leading me, He is always right there waiting for me to turn back. As soon as I do, He races to meet me. He loves me that much.

Amazing.

Lord, thanks for being patient with me. You know my weaknesses better than anyone, even me, but You never turn me away or lose hope. I often lose hope, as You well know, I am frequently ready to give up, but You keep cheering me on. It is a precious gift and one that I often fail to appreciate. Thank you for not giving up on me.                

Amen

 

A Christmas Tale

“Grandpa, what do the stars say tonight?” The young boy looked up into the sky. He shivered just a little as the breeze danced through his hair. He shrugged the thin coat higher up on his neck. The old man beside him looked up as well and smiled.
“Well, boy, you see that one in the western part of the sky, the one that is so much brighter than the others?”
“Yes, Grandpa, that one is Jupiter.” The boy was proud of himself for remembering. He and Grandpa have been coming out nightly so that the old man could teach him the language of the stars. Some of the names were hard to remember, but he knew Jupiter was the brightest one in the sky.
“Yes, but did you notice that it is especially bright tonight?” The boy looked again and the star did look much brighter than when they had seen it a few nights ago.
“Why is it so bright, Grandpa?” The more the boy looked at the star, the brighter it seemed, as if it wanted his notice.
“It is bright, because while clouds and storms have been hiding the stars, it joined with another one. My Grandpa told me long ago, that if it ever happened that I should take special note because something wonderful is going to happen.” The old man paused, his hands clasped behind his back.
“Like what?” the boy whispered. There was little in his short life that was wonderful, so just the thought made him breathless.
“Like a king being born.” The old man’s voice was low, nearly too quiet to hear.
“A king, really?” The boy bounced on his cold toes. A king was defiantly exciting, especially since Israel used to have kings before Rome came and killed them all.
“But not just any king, a special king.” The old man wiped his eyes before looking down at the boy beside him. “I have seen these two stars come together three times in the last year. Three times, something neither my grandfather nor his grandfather ever saw. Three is the number of Yahweh, the number of Divine Perfection. When we see it, we are to pay attention.”
“But, Grandpa, what does it mean?” The boy had gone from nervous excitement to quiet wonder.
“It means, my boy, the Messiah has come and while I am too old to know him, you must be on the watch for him in the coming years.”
“But how will I know him, Grandpa? What will he be like?”
The old man thought before he answered.
“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy.” The man looked toward the west where the small town of Bethlehem nestled beneath the brightly blazing star. “Pay attention to the teachings of the prophets and listen to the whisperings of your own heart. Then you will know the Messiah when he comes.”
All through the long cold night, the old man and the young boy stood and gazed toward the star. Only when the sun rose and the bright light of the star gave way to the brighter light of morning, did the two turn back to their tent.
Many miles away, in a dim stable surrounded by animals, a tiny baby clung to his mother’s breast.

May the Stars watch over you and the child in the stable bless you. Merry Christmas

Clinging tight to Jesus

This Sunday my pastor’s message was about what to do when the ‘stuff’ hits the fan. It basically boiled down to accepting that life happens and when we are struggling in our lives, when we are hurting and feeling like our world is crumbling around us, we need to cling that much tighter to Jesus.

We do not live in a perfect world. We are not perfect people. The people around us are not perfect either. You bring all those things together and guess what, it hurts.

It is OK to hurt.

It is Ok to be discouraged.

It is Ok to be angry.

But it is not Ok to stay there and use the pain as an excuse to pull away from life, other people and God. He knows that we hurt and is right there to carry us over the burning coals. He sends other people to comfort and encourage us. And he still has a job for us to do on this world we live on.

When I am in that place where depression is reaching out to drag me down to despair, when my task looms dark and heavy before me and my heart quails with the fear of failure, I seek the arms of my loving heavenly father. I bury my face in my pillow and ask why; Why is it happening? Why is it so hard? Why do I have to continue?

When the tears have cried themselves out, when my battered heart lies quietly throbbing in my chest, my Lord whispers;

My child, I love you. I am with you, through the good times and the bad. Trust in me. I will lead you through to the other side. I will never leave you or forsake you, You are mine and I love you.

Sometimes I have to go through hard things so that my heart is soft enough to hear his words. I most often go my own way and do my own thingdouble rainbow

rather than listen to his leading. It is only after my heart is broken, that I remember how to lean on him. I wish I could learn to do it daily, but so far I

have been a reluctant learner.

Good thing for me, my God will not leave me or forsake me and never, ever will He give up on me.

Father, forgive me for my hard and stubborn heart. I am sorry that I trust you so little. Teach me daily to lean on you. In this time of trouble, help me cling tight to you.