BREATHING LIFE INTO A CHILDREN’S STORY

Five years ago, after my husband Bert’s stage 4 cancer diagnosis, I maintained a stoic front. Inwardly, I believed God and took Him at His word. But in my quiet moments I felt and acted more like Jacob. I didn’t have a wrestling match with the Lord, but an intense spiritual battle had begun. Especially after I’d looked up the statistical prognosis regarding Bert’s disease. “Hopeless” fit the percentage. The doctors had told us as much. But faith said that number was unacceptable.

The Lord invites us in Hebrews to come and reason with Him .

I came, but I was beyond reason. I cried out to Him asking, wanting, needing something personal from Him. Something to show me that even though I didn’t see it, He was still working, still moving on our behalf. That He cared about what was happening to Bert. To me. To our four children, to their spouses, and to our grandchildren. That every promise in His word was still true, still ours. Jehovah was still faithful, able, and in control of every aspect of our lives.

I pictured the crossroads in Sacramento, CA, where I first became a believer at age 19. I reminded the Lord how He had shown me His many promises throughout all generations. He’d shown Himself to be Emmanuel–God with us. I recited His miracles and His gracious healing hand. His might and power. I prayed, Show me again, Lord.

Crickets.

I got in the car to go to lunch with a group of Bible study friends. As I pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, I again asked God to let me know He was with us. With me.

Beyond frustrated with this unanswered prayer, I walked up to the restaurant, and exhaled a deep breath. That’s when it hit me.

God had answered my prayer through that simple act. Genesis 2:7 says “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…”

Every breath was, is, and always will be proof of God’s existence and love. I had the “something special” I’d requested all along.

My wrestling ended there and then. The Lord had given me the proof I’d asked for.

That afternoon, in an effort to capture what God showed me, I penned the first words to A Snowflake’s Adventure.

…five years later, my husband is living with cancer and doing well.

A Snowflake’s Adventure is a story of God’s personal love. To my husband. To me. To every child He’s ever created. Unique. Purposeful. We are His one-of-a-kind design. Each. And. Every. One.

By eMarie

(To the glory of God, we donated this #1 Amazon children’s book through OCC/Samaritan’s Purse to 500+ children around the world on Christmas Day 2021!)

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THANKFUL FOR: GATHERING

Adrianus Valerius wrote this to celebrate a victorious battle against Spain’s King Philip II. Because the king was Catholic, he forbade Dutch protestants from gathering to worship. But when God brought about this victory, protestants were free to meet – a huge reason to praise and sing!

Composed to the tune of a familiar Dutch folk song, the hymn first made its appearance into an American hymnal in 1903—more than 300 years after its 1597 composition. As the song gained popularity in the States, various religions added it to their hymnals. During WWI and WWII, its popularity soared because folks could relate to the lyrics about the cessation of the wickeds’ oppressing.

This hymn was sung at Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ funeral mass, and an episode of West Wing referred to it. General Hospital, an American soap opera, generally had the hymn sung by their revered family, the Quartermaines at Thanksgiving.

When I was a child, we sang this song in church every Thanksgiving service. And during Thanksgiving plays in school. Our children have no recollection of the hymn, and I doubt our grandchildren know it.

Have you guessed the name of the hymn yet? Here’s a beautiful hint.

I have to admit that until I sat to write this blog, only the first two lines of “We Gather Together” came to mind. And though the hymn’s lyrics weren’t penned specifically for this purpose, the unending hope we have in Jesus to sustain, to make a way where there is no way, comes through loud and clear.

Oppression is nothing new and unfortunately continues all over the world. As in Valerious’s day, Christians/protestants are prohibited from gathering and speaking the name of Jesus in public. Yet, daring souls meet underground to worship, despite unimaginable, grave consequences.

What about here in America? In my humble opinion, we take our liberty to gather in the name of the Lord for granted.

This Thanksgiving, as we gather together with little or much, many or one, let’s pray for these dear, faithful Christians who are oppressed. Whose freedoms are restricted or denied. Who still whisper the name of Jesus with gratitude.

Let the name of the Lord be praised,
    both now and forevermore. (Psalm 113:2, NIV)

Happy Thanksgiving!

By author eMarie

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THANKFUL FOR: COUNTLESS BLESSINGS

With over 5,000 hymns to his credit, this songwriter had a much different aspiration for his life. Thank God, His wonderful purpose for this man’s life continues to bless us all.

See if you can guess who this hymn writer is.

He was born in Medford, NJ, in 1856. His father had an excellent voice, and this boy traveled with his dad to his many singing engagements. At a young age, he aspired to following in Dad’s footsteps.

Though he become an ordained minister at age 19, his preaching left something to be desired, and his ability to sing? Well, let’s just say he wasn’t his dad.

None of these setbacks diminished this man’s desire to love and serve the Lord and to preach the Good News. And the Lord honored his commitment.

In 1892 at age 36, he put his pen, faith, and musical talent together and began composing one brilliant song after another – for others to sing. From that time on, he wrote an average of 200 songs a year.

Early in his songwriting career, he penned the dedication to a book as follows:

Let others sing of rights and wrongs,
Sing anything that pleases;
But while they’re singing other songs,
I’ll sing a song for Jesus.

And he wouldn’t accept more than one dollar for a hymn.

Maybe some of these titles can help you identify him:

Higher Ground
No. Not One

I Know He’s Mine
Almost Home
Sweeter Than All
When the Fire Fell

I’ve saved one of my favorites for last.

Along with thousands of other songs, Count Your Blessings was written by Johnson Oatman.

We overlook so many opportunities to thank God for all He has done, is doing, and will continue to do for us. Johnson conveyed reasons to pause and give thanks – for the large and small things, and especially for salvation. Each and every day.

Should we do any less?

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so…” (Psm. 107:1-2a, NKJV)

By author eMarie

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THANKFUL FOR: FREEDOM

So often, the debate rages whether or not America was established on Judeo-Christian principles.  Here’s an interesting quote from June 1926, when the U.S. Congress established November 11th as the day to commemorate our military veterans:

“Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary(bloody), and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations … this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations ….”

Though first imprinted on U.S. coins during the Civil War, it wasn’t until 1956 during General/President Eisenhower that “In God We Trust” became the national motto. In 1957, it was then printed on U.S. dollars. Incidentally, it was the Eisenhower administration that added “under God” to our Pledge of Allegiance.

Could it be that a man who faced the horrors of war realized America’s need for reliance on our Almighty God?

A myriad of stories introduce this quote including, before entering a prayer meeting with a group of ministers, one said, “the Lord is always on the side of the right” to which Abraham Lincoln replied, “yes, but it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation may be on the Lord’s side.”

To anchor the debate about our Judeo-Christian foundation, I yield the floor to a gallant orator of his time.

Yet, the Supreme Court removed the Bible and prohibited prayer in schools in 1962 and 1963. In 2015, the Court ruled that except in a historic context, the ten commandments had to be removed from government property.

The property belonging to the Judeo-Christian based government.

In 1981, then high school student Kelly Strong wrote a powerful poem entitled, “Freedom isn’t Free” – a tribute to his father who served as a marine in Vietnam.

President Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected…”

Beginning with our Founding Fathers to today’s veterans, many have paid an enormous price for America’s freedom. We have the freedom to debate, to take our case to court, and even to snuff God out of our country.

Since nothing is free, what does Christianity cost?

Ah, there’s the catch!

Becoming a Believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is free to all because Jesus paid our eternal price.

2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

God bless our Veterans. God bless America.

By author eMarie

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THANKFUL FOR: TRAVELING MERCIES

Has God ever given you a startling reminder of His divine protection? One that leaves you with unspeakable awe?

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, that’s what He did for my hubby Bert and me.

Two weeks ago we were driving home from our annual family retreat in Sunriver, OR, when our first near collision occurred. We’d spent five wonderful days with our four g’kids and their parents. We played games, sat in a hot tub, took long walks, and caught up while stuffing our faces. Our idea of a relaxing family time.

On the two-lane road that takes us home to Idaho, we listened to a favorite pastor’s sermon. The beautiful autumn leaves, the crisp air, and two hot coffees to-go make the six-hour drive enjoyable.

About four hours into of our drive, we began the descent from the mountainous pass. Without a guard rail, the narrow shoulder plummets into a valley.

From the opposite direction, a sedan decided to pass a semi-truck in front of it. Seeing the driver’s brown eyes and chin-length brown hair up close, we breathed, “Oh, Lord.” God performed a miracle in that moment. As if a median appeared, her car passed between the truck and ours. Our faithful God proved His hand is never short, and always outstretched toward His children!

The following week we were on our way to a prayer meeting that began at 8:45 a.m. at our church. In typical fashion, I was running two minutes late. I announced, “We should’ve left the house at 8:30. It’s 8:32.” My long-suffering husband said nothing, dutifully started the car, and we were on our way.

I looked at the dashboard clock and cringed. 8:45. We had two more 4-way stops before we’d arrive at church. “Lord, I promise to get up five minutes earlier next Sunday.” That was my prayer when I heard Bert say, “Oh, God.” Mind you, he never says, “Oh, God.” Gosh or goodness, yes. But he sincerely meant, Oh, God!

An SUV in front us had turned left at the intersection. A car from the opposite direction broadsided the SUV at full speed. He hadn’t seen his stop sign. The SUV hit one of the stop signs, preventing it from going into a ditch, and rolled over onto the other driver’s car.

By God’s grace, both drivers walked away from the accident! Bert helped the woman in the SUV, who had minor cuts and scrapes. The other driver’s airbag had deployed, but beyond shock and sincere sorrow, he was fine. I called 9-1-1, and then directed traffic through the 4-way stop.

Yes, that SUV could’ve been us. But the moral of the story isn’t – be late for prayer meeting/church! It is, however, to pray and praise the Lord. Whether we feel or see it, He is always working for our good and for His glory.

Now, no matter the distance, neither Bert nor I will start the car without asking for the Lord’s protection.

If you’ve been driving for any length of time, you’ve probably had similar situations. We take for granted that we’ll get here or there safely. But what if we do what Paul says:

Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1Thess. 5:17-18, NKJV)

By author eMarie

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TRICK OR TREAT

This interesting adage first appeared in a 1523 book on animal husbandry. A shepherd contended that if a pup wasn’t taught early on to keep his nose to the ground, he wouldn’t be able to sniff out wolves or other predatory animals later in life.

More than twenty years later, the saying found its way into John Heywood’s book of proverbs.

In a speech given by Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, he quoted the adage as, SPOILER ALERT,  “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Then he added that no matter their age anyone who stops learning is old.

What about humans? What does God’s Word say about how well we can adapt, learn, become more like Him? Do we get a “treat” (reward) in return?

. . .put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:24, NIV)

God makes it clear that it’s never too late for Him to transform us. He rescued us from the gates of hell (the animal shelter, if you will) and opened wide the doors. He didn’t look at our age, our size, or what caused the mange on our coats. We weren’t so sick that He bypassed us. Nor have we made a mess He can’t clean up.

With His power, strength, love, and forgiveness, He frees us from eternal death. He creates in us a clean heart. We don’t have to perform a trick, sit and beg, or roll over. His word says if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead, we’re saved (Rom.10:9).

God treats us tenderly because He is merciful. He loves us and longs to have a relationship with us. He wants to teach us to be like Him. To do this we pray and read His word, and obey and trust Him. And, even though we might stumble and fall, or miss sniffing out a wolf, Our Shepherd is there. Constant and true.

And, He’s the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Heb. 11:6, NKJV)

By the way, it turns out the adage that old dogs can’t learn new tricks has been soundly refuted. With consistent training and verbal commands, and use of treats, even older dogs can learn new tricks.

What about you? Ready to walk with our Savior? He created us to do just that. No leash required. Just put your hand in His and receive His rewards beyond measure!

By author eMarie

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OF PENS AND SWORDS

This adage has had several words transposed but its truth cannot be denied.

One of the earliest versions said: “The tongue is mightier than the blade.” Several years later, it read, “The word is mightier than the sword.”

Thanks to olde English, here’s an interesting turn of words: “The dashe of a Pen, is more greeuous than the counterbase of a Launce.”

Even William Shakespeare couldn’t resist putting this thought into Hamlet, Act 2: . . .”many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills.”

It is said that the adage decorates a wall of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.

So what’s the Biblical wisdom, the origin, the truth of this adage?

Proverbs 18:21 advises to use our tongue cautiously because it is a weapon wielding the power of life and death. In other words, just by opening our mouths we can cut others down or we can build them up. Proverbs also says that evildoers can be trapped by their “sinful” talk, which allows the innocent to escape!

In fact, the author of Proverbs touts the wisdom of holding our tongues, weighing our answers, and using our tongues as a tree of life.

The Apostle Peter gives another really good reason for controlling our tongues. He says that if you love life and want to enjoy good days, keep your tongue from evil. (1 Pet. 3:10)

In my opinion, this one of the sweetest verses with regard to our tongues:

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col.4:6, NIV)

Sure, seasoning makes food taste better. Which is why grace, God’s unmerited favor, coupled with well-seasoned words, adds wisdom to our answers.

The Bible certainly shares a lot of food for thought, pun intended, about our tongues. But what does God’s word have to say about the pen is mightier than the sword?

Hebrews 4:12 tells us:
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Able to cut on both sides, a  two-edged sword is an offensive and defensive weapon. And because God’s word is both written (penned) and alive through the Holy Spirit, there is no denying its truth and might.

If we feel ill-prepared for daily battles, let’s practice using our sword (the Bible). We’ll find each word as sharp and true as ever.

By author eMarie

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LIVING PROOF

In the 1300s, the original adage was longer. Meatier, one might say. That’s because the dish included minced meats (dried fruits, nuts, spirits, and fats, etc.), spices, cereal, and sometimes blood. These ingredients were then stuffed into an animal-type casing and cooked. Not to culinary or temperature-controlled specifications. Hence, the danger in eating such foods.

A portion of this adage was then lopped off in 1623 in William Camden’s Remains Concerning Britain. Aware that such sayings were vanishing with the passage of time, Mr. Camden sought to memorialize them in his book.

But even earlier, in fact thousands of years earlier, kings had cupbearers who would sample their wine and taste their food. If the cupbearer didn’t die, the king would then partake. He had proof the food would do him no harm.

From the above information, have you guessed the adage?

SPOILER ALERT: At one time, it was said that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If said at all, the now antiquated adage is the proof is in the pudding.

There are several Biblical references that predate the pudding. Here’s one of my favorites:

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Ps. 34:8

How lovingly the Lord calls us near and extends the challenge to, in modern terms, check Him out. He has no fear that He’ll pass the sniff test! In other words, He is as trustworthy, as good, as faithful as He claims He is. When we pray, He hears our cry. Digging into His word, we’ll find Him there.

Moses found the Lord in the desert’s burning bush and again as the Red Sea opened. At an advanced age, Sarah saw the goodness of God in her baby Isaac’s face. Ascending to the throne, David experienced anew the faithfulness of God. Paul and Silas left the prison, not because the jailer freed them but because God’s power loosed their chains. John wrote what he saw on the Island of Patmos, because God again revealed Himself there.

Because God’s love couldn’t allow Him to enjoy the beauty of Heaven without  each of us, He sent Jesus to pay the price in our place.

Jesus, the promised Messiah in the Old Testament and the risen Savior in the New, still says ‘You’ve tried the rest, now come, put your trust in me. I’ll give you living proof.’

By author eMarie

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BY HIS DESIGN

Though oft-quoted, this adage has been challenged, tested, rejected, and accepted. It has even been used as a book title. But few have applauded its origin.

In John Heywood’s 1546 book of proverbs written in the Old Englishe tongue the line reads:
some heads haue taken two headis better then one: but ten heads without wit, I wene as good none.

Were you able to decipher the adage?  🙂

A 2010 article in Scientific American entitled, “Are Two Heads Better than One? It Depends,” set out to prove a problem-solving premise: do we perform better and make smarter decisions when we work together or alone?

Turns out, two heads are better than one. Other factors that play a role in two-headed or team success are included in the article.

In 2016, a Psychology Today article cites research by a Carnegie Mellon University professor suggesting that a group’s intelligence can surpass its individual members.

So who should we thank for gifting us with this astute adage?

“It’s just a very old proverb . . . from John Gower’s ‘Confessio Amantis’ written in 1390.” *

Not so according to Ecclesiastes 4:9.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.”

The author of Ecclesiastes went on to explain that if one of the laborers falls, the other will pick him up. But if someone labors alone and falls, he has no one to lift him up. Together, we not only avoid pitfalls but are apt to work faster, smarter, better.

Ah, but that wasn’t the first spotlight the Bible places on this adage. No, no. We have to go back to where our story begins. In Genesis 2:18, the Lord God said “it is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Not lesser, not better but “comparable” (like, similar, equal to. . .).

God created us to share each other’s burdens, to gather together (Heb.10:25), and to live in unity.

Sure, we also need time alone with the Lord in prayer, in His Word, to fulfill His call on our lives, to catch a fresh glimpse of God’s goodness.

But, God, in His wisdom, made us better together. He provided a way for a more enjoyable, lighter workload with greater rewards. By His design, two heads are better than one!

By author eMarie

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* www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/59/messages/34.html

 

PENNY, POUND, PLOW

In his 1695 play, “Canterbury Guests,” writer Edward Ravenscroft used this phrase.

Ever since that time, many writers (especially British) have used the adage. In fact, Charles Dickens used these words in “Nicholas Nickleby,” “Oliver Twist,” and “The Old Curiosity Shop.”

Have you guessed the adage yet?

All but vanished from usage, the expression taught commitment. One shouldn’t undertake anything half-heartedly.

In 2016, American composer Henry Threadgill won a Pulitzer Prize in Music for his album with the name of . . . ready for this? In for a Penny, In for a Pound.

What’s so fascinating about this phrase?

It’s Biblical origins, of course! Of the many Bible verses that have to do with commitment, here’s one of my favorites:

But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62, NKJV

As they say, context is key.

In the agricultural area in which Jesus was teaching, farmers understood this statement well. Looking backward while moving forward does not make for plowing straight rows. Fewer crops due to poor land use means less harvest.

On the face of it, the request from the young man (to go bury his father) seems reasonable, compassionate even. But Jesus knew his heart. He knows our hearts, too. We are not fully committed to Him when we choose to look or go back. Leave. Move in a different direction. We’re either going forward with Him, our hand in His, or we’re going our own way.

Two words that have taken the place of commitment these days are “all in.” Jesus said He would rather we were all in than lukewarm. His command is that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength.

If we’ve had difficulty with our harvest lately, maybe it’s time to recommit our hands to the plow. No looking back. Just straight rows ahead.

We’re not only in for a penny or a pound. We’re plowing and planting for eternity.

By author eMarie

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