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The Old Paths: The Thrill of the Scare

**This was originally published on Thursday, October 31, 2013, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column may be updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**

“Where is my golden arm?”ghost stories

Just hearing those classic ghost-story words around a late-night campfire always made the hair rise up on my arms. I wouldn’t go to the bathroom alone on the way to bed, and I would lie awake in the darkness for a bit longer than normal, just expecting to see the dead man looking for his golden arm.

Oh, you did that, too, huh?

And how ‘bout the one where the couple picks up the hitchhiker who mysteriously disappears from the backseat or the one where you’re working a jigsaw puzzle late at night and when you get done, you realize it’s the very picture of your room with a man’s face staring in through the window behind you?

Versions of these and other stories have long been part of the old paths of campfires and sleepovers. And if you were lucky back in the day, your friends’ parents would let all of you pajama party kids stay up late to watch “Shock Theater.” You’d all scramble into your sleeping bags in the living room floor after that creepy show—feeling cold chill bumps upon cold chill bumps, scared to talk above a whisper.shock theater

Everything seemed magnified in that atmosphere of fear. What might have been the family dog banging his tail on his doghouse suddenly becomes the ghost of Great-Aunt Marge rap-rap-rapping on the door to take revenge on the family. The leaking bathroom faucet down the hall becomes blood dripping from the ceiling.

Yet you giggle and shiver simultaneously, knowing that you’ll tell the same stories at the next sleepover or on the next camping trip. How can something so spooky be so fun?

I don’t get it. Why do we LIKE to be scared? It is obviously part of human nature, because children (and adults) have told ghost stories throughout history. There is something in the human psyche that finds such fear “delicious.”

Why else did we all rush right out to see “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th” years ago? And then we watched sequel after sequel of these and other cult classics. Scary movies are big business. Hollywood ain’t dumb.halloween movie 1978

When I taught high school, my 11th-grade American Literature students might drowse through the Puritan poets or Longfellow. But let me start teaching Edgar Allan Poe, and those kids were on the edges of their seats. Not one student ever told me they had had enough of Poe.

Yet his writings were macabre, dark, depressing. Someone is bricked up to die in the cellar. A tell-tale heart beats underground. A raven is rapping at your chamber door “once upon a midnight dreary.”

Yet we cry, “Give me more, give me more!” Sometimes I would like to reply, “Nevermore! Nevermore!” (Kudos to those who get the Poe reference.)poe book

I know I am in the minuscule minority, but I don’t like for my children to tell ghost stories or watch scary things on TV. They still inevitably do when the cousins get together. “Scared?” you may ask. Goodness, no. My hubster laughs at my irrational fear of mice because he considers me a woman who is pretty much fearless and would fight a roomful of literal demons.

But I believe that what we fill our minds with becomes a part of us. To make a Sunday School reference, the Bible tells us to think on things that are lovely, pure, honest, praiseworthy. It also says that however a man thinks in his heart, so will he become.

Whether or not you subscribe to the Good Book, you must admit that even logic tells us that whatever we feed ourselves is what we become. Junk food will eventually beget a junky body. I tend to believe that theory holds true for things that go deeper than the physical.think-on-these-things--brain

A Purdue University professor, Glenn Sparks, did extensive research on how scary movies affect us physiologically. He found that palms sweat, heartbeats increase as much as 15 beats per minute, muscles tense up, skin temperature drops several degrees and blood pressure spikes. Sparks says that although we tell ourselves what we’re seeing is not real, our brain hasn’t adapted to technology and still reacts as though what we see is factual.

Shouldn’t we be conditioned to seek things to give us pleasure rather than what elicits these unpleasant side effects of fright? Being thrilled AND scared is paradoxical, isn’t it?

Media researchers have found that indulging in this type of media actually makes the viewer feel more hostile, view life in a more hostile way and be haunted by the images that have entered their brains to make a memory—whether real or not.brain--horror movies

Joanne Cantor, PhD, director of the Center for Communication Research at University of Wisconsin, Madison, is acclaimed as an expert in this subject. She has found in surveys of her students that almost 60 percent of them admit that scary things they watched before age 14 had created disturbances for them, both while sleeping and awake, to this present day. She notes hundreds of students who have told her they became afraid of clowns or battled horrible images running obsessively through their minds for years after watching frightening movies.

Her thought is that the brain possibly stores the movie images as memories in the amygdala—the storehouse of memories which generates emotions based on them. If this is true, the same emotional problems that can be caused by memories of actual trauma from childhood can also be caused by memories of fake violent, frightening images in movies since the brain may not be able to differentiate between reality and the big screen.

That makes me question how many adults are struggling through life with depression or anxiety and panic attacks or horrible nightmares and sleepless nights because their brain stored up the scary movie images as real. These people wonder what’s wrong with them and wonder how to get to the root of the darkness in their lives……never thinking to question the horror movies and scary images they filled themselves with once upon a time……

I know, I know—I’m a spoil sport on Halloween, aren’t I? Go ahead and see the latest horror movie without me; at least you’ll save money by not having to buy me a ticket. Keep the machete; I’m running through fields of daisies. And the only man with a golden arm that I’ll acknowledge is whoever wins the Cy Young Award next baseball season.

To each his own, I suppose. However, just know that if I come to your campfire gathering, I’m gonna sing “Kumbaya” or something. Here’s hoping you’ll join in!

whatsoever things

The Old Paths: One Day When the Glory Comes

**This was originally published on Thursday, January 22, 2015, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column may be updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**

selma_posterAlthough my busy schedule doesn’t often allow moviegoing, I am a sucker for a cheap matinee. On rare occasions, I’ll choose to see the same movie again, but it has to be a doozy. I set a personal record with Facing the Giants and Pride and Prejudice—six times apiece in the theater. But normally I wait for the DVD.

Not so with Selma.

I started my Selma sequence with the hubster in early January 2015, then took four of my five kids to see it on the Friday before MLK Day to prepare them for that, and finally went with the fifth kid for the thrill of seeing it on MLK Day in a full theater. When my teary-eyed teenage son left the theater, he said, “Mama, everyone in America needs to watch that movie.”

I agree. If you could somehow edit out LBJ’s frequent cursing, you could even make it required watching for school children each January.

Selma is a movie that will make you think about preconceived notions—something we all need to do. So often we are locked into our iron stereotypes that first began to enchain us in our younger, more formative years. But typically, stereotypes are based on falsehoods whose fabric is actually more like gossamer-thin spiderwebs than the iron chains we perceive. They look scary, they are uncomfortable to deal with, but in the light of truth, they can easily be brushed aside. Selma indeed brushes aside some of those stereotypes.

The ultimate white racist would say “all black people are alike” and vice-versa for the black racist. It’s simply not true. Are we so simpleminded that we can’t see how ridiculous such thinking is? Where there was the young black man wanting to use violence against the militant whites in Selma, there was the somewhat older black man saying violence would accomplish nothing. Where there was the one black student leader practically idolizing Dr. King, there was another such black student criticizing the esteemed leader. All black people are alike? I think not.

Where there were vicious white people in the movie who used weapons to brutally attack the black protesters, there were other white people who watched the TV coverage of the violence and wept at the injustice. Where there were ignorant white people who taunted the nonviolent black marchers with heckling, middle fingers and overuse of that detestable “n” word, there were many other enlightened white people who thronged to Selma to march with Dr. King. All white people are alike? I think not.

People are people—some good, some bad and a whole lot in-between. Color of skin is meaningless in the reckoning of human hearts.selma-movie

As a white woman, I’ve often heard Dr. King degraded by white people who point to his alleged indiscretions. In the movie, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called Dr. King a “moral degenerate.” And no, the Civil Rights leader is not painted as a saint in Selma; his wife Coretta calls him out on the issue of other women, and he does not deny it.

So does this mean we don’t listen to a thing he says because he was a flawed human being in some ways? Oh, and you’re not? And I’m not? He who is without sin stand up and lead the way for us. Oh, wait—that wouldn’t work, would it? We would be without leadership. We certainly exalt the Founding Fathers despite some of their indiscretions. We don’t throw out the Declaration of Independence because its primary author, Thomas Jefferson, may or may not have fathered children by a slave woman.

I feel a disturbance in the Force, as Obi-Wan Kenobi said in Star Wars. The Ferguson events from a few years ago and similar ones since then seem to be fueling the fire for racial issues to once again take the forefront 50 years after President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. If you are one of the ostriches with your head in the sand who keeps saying, “Oh, there’s no racial injustice anymore. That’s past. Things are all better”—I would ask you respectfully to come back to reality.selma_poster-2

One thing we can do is to open up lines of communication and dispel ignorance through education and hands-on interaction. Dr. King once said: “Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.”

I read a news story of a black man who encountered the Ku Klux Klan. Rather than direct hatred toward them, he decided that if the white people in the KKK could just get to know him, they would like him and thus change their worldview. He went out of his way to befriend some of the members, and it worked. Some of them eventually left the KKK after getting to know the black man. They admitted to the news reporter that their generations-old ignorance of black people had bred distrust in them and that the distrust had led to hatred.

Tools like the movie Selma, Black History Month each February, community-wide events like the STOKES STOKED Youth Rally I organize in my hometown of Walnut Cove, N.C., every August (where it isn’t just the few token black people at a white-themed church service or a few token white people at a black-themed service but rather a true mixture of different worship styles)—these are opportunities to open up meaningful dialogue and dispel ignorant stereotypes.racists-blood-the-same

It’s easy when you’re in the majority to purposely ignore and downplay the cries of the minority. From that vantage point, it’s convenient to point to the laws for equality that look good on the books. But when you’re a minority—whether black, Hispanic or perhaps a female in a male-dominated profession—it’s easy to see that there many legal loopholes that allow discrimination to still seep through.

Despite the fact that history has always been thus—even Jesus’ people, the Jews, have long been an oppressed minority—we cannot let up in this war for equality, understanding and consequently, LOVE. May those who fight for such justice become the true majority—a moral majority who believe that the war CAN be won.

As the theme song from Selma says:

“Now we right the wrongs in history

No one can win the war individually

It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy. . .

When the war is won, when it’s all said and done

We’ll cry glory, oh glory!”

when-the-glory-comes

 

The Old Paths: A Manic March

**This was originally published in a similar form in The Stokes News on March 21, 2013. When the publishers changed websites a few years back, all links to archived articles were tragically lost. I am attempting to republish in my blog all of my columns that once appeared in the newspaper. I have updated this column to reflect life in 2016.

March--hello--spring

I have always told people that June was my favorite month. Yes, yes, I’m biased because June is my birth month. But I’m wondering if I might have to change my favorite month to March. With the madness of March, you wouldn’t think it appeals to me, but it does.

March madnessThe term “March Madness” is technically a reference to the intensity of the NCAA basketball tournament and the conference tournaments that lead into it.
But the phrase also pretty much sums up my life in March for the past several years.

In fact, this year’s March is downright manic. There is so much going on that you barely have time to breathe and sit a spell. (You, too, huh?)

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Easter comes in March this year. Most of us identify Easter with April, but every so often it hits in late March. That makes for a much busier month.

Add to that the fact that it’s time for my hubster’s adult baseball team to start practicing. Since my son is now on that team—having graduated from high school baseball—you will probably find me headed to practices as I did on the old paths of his childhood baseball career. Opening Day of the season is in early April, so March is preparation month. (My sportswriter friend Dennis says the sanctity of the first day of the Major League Baseball season demands proper-noun-like capital letters: Opening Day. I have taken the liberty of using the caps for my family’s season-opener as well.)

DSCN8955

My son Elijah batting for the Twins adult baseball team in 2015.

Let’s throw something else into the mix—Daylight Saving Time. On the old paths, DST started the first Sunday in April. But the U.S. government passed an energy bill in 2005 which changed all of that. Since 2007, DST has begun the second Sunday in March.

That may not seem like such a big deal, but since it takes a few weeks for most people to physically acclimate to the time change, it is an especially huge deal this year with such a busy March. Many of us may feel draggy, blah, sleepy, even sick once we spring forward on March 13. Yes, our bodies’ circadian rhythms are so delicate that a mere hour’s change affects us in myriad ways—even resulting in more heart attacks and auto accidents the first few weeks after the time change. (Let’s don’t claim that—okay?)DST--Frodo

So just when we need that extra energy—to start running the kids to baseball, softball and soccer practices; to fill out our tournament brackets and get pumped over “one-and-done” basketball games; to start dying ye old Easter eggs and plan the family Easter gathering—we are zapped, slammed, run over by a time truck that took an hour of our sleep.

But lest we become despondent, let’s look at the joy that is March. The energy-sapping time change has given us more time in the evening after work to throw ball with the kids, start tilling up the garden spot, sit out on the porch and feast our eyes on the forsythia.

Then there’s St. Patrick’s Day—a holiday I am particularly partial to, given my love for Ireland and for St. Patrick, that phenomenal man of God who evangelized the Emerald Isle. We don the springlike green clothing and playfully pinch party-poopers who refuse the wearin’ o’ the green. We eat corned beef and cabbage followed by doughnuts or cookies decorated with green icing. Some drink green beer and Irish dance in parades and Celtic festivals.

DSCN4188

My kids and I at our 2014 March 4-H meeting!

And if that’s not enough joy for you, there’s that most excellent and bodacious day of the year—the vernal equinox. Before you wrinkle your brow, let’s put it in simpler terms—THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING!

I would lobby to make this a government holiday and give everyone the day off. We should celebrate the day we cross the line into more light than darkness. “Equinox” is the word for the day of the year that the periods of daylight and dark are equal. “Ver” is the Latin word for spring, so we arrive at the “vernal equinox” when hours of light begin to outnumber the dark…..until the autumnal equinox in September.Spring--1st day

We should all wake up rejoicing on this day—the cold winter has ended, buds are sighted on the trees, early flowers are blooming, days are steadily warmer on the average. We need a day off to drink in this nectar of nature’s new life, to sip this ambrosia of nodding yellow daffodils and cheerful red tulips, to lap up every last morsel of morning birdsong and evening peeper sounds from the creek.

Who’s with me? Let’s march on Washington! (It’d be nice to see the cherry blossoms anyway, wouldn’t it?)

And this year, we get the added bonus of Easter in this manic month of March—a celebration of spiritual resurrection paralleling nature’s resurrection. In the midst of it all, we figuratively hold our breaths for the beauty that is to come: azaleas, redbud trees, dogwoods, lilacs and more. No wonder I have spring fever all winter long!

Yep, March is closing in on June as my favorite month. I could do without the chilly gales and blustery breezes, but there’s much else to be thankful for.DSCN2611

I have always said spring is such an evanescent and fleeting season that we must savor every second of it before it’s gone. The British poet A. E. Housman was only 20 when he realized the poignancy of how quickly spring is past. He penned a poem called “Loveliest of Trees” in which he speculated that he may only have 50 years of life left. And so he wrote:

“And since to look at things in bloom

Fifty springs are little room

About the woodlands I will go

To see the cherry hung with snow.”

No matter how busy this manic March finds you—watching basketball, perfecting the Easter cantata, practicing baseball—don’t forget to get out into the woods and imbibe the essence of spring before it’s gone.DSCN2609

A Veterans Day Remembrance: Jay Kitts

(I wrote this back in 2012 when I was a reporter for The Stokes News. It was originally published as “Just in time for Veterans Day. . .Walnut Cove soldier returns from Afghanistan” on Nov. 15. The subject of the story, Jay Kitts, passed away on June 13, 2015, from cancer at the age of 54. The article has been edited accordingly.)

vet jay--pam and guysVeterans Day holds a special significance each year for Pam Kitts of Walnut Cove. Not only did she have a husband in the military but a son as well. In 2012, with her husband Jay still deployed with the U.S. Army Reserves to Afghanistan after 14 months and her son Nathan stationed with the Coast Guard in Ohio, the upcoming holiday was destined to be bittersweet.

Or so she thought.

Just a week before the Nov. 11 holiday, Pam received word that Jay would be coming home. He landed back on American soil in Texas on Nov. 5 for medical checks and briefing. It looked to be perhaps a couple of weeks before he would make the flight back to North Carolina.

But then Pam got the call that made her heart rejoice. Jay would be flying home on the eve of Veterans Day–Saturday, Nov. 10.

“The unit in Ft. Hood, TX, worked overtime to try to get the soldiers home for the Veterans Day holiday! We were not expecting them for another week,” Pam explained.

Before she knew it, she was on her way to PTI Airport in Greensboro. “I was anxious and so excited,” she recalled her emotions. “I just couldn’t wait to see and hug him!”

Waiting for Jay to arrive....

Waiting for Jay to arrive….

Pam and several family members and friends were on hand with banners and American flags to welcome Jay home late in the day that Saturday. Before long, he was back in the arms of his wife and home just in time for the day that honors him and all of those who serve in this nation’s military.

“I was ecstatic to see my family and friends and grateful to be back home!” Jay said.

vet jay--airport crew

Jay is home at last!

The Kitts family reunited!

The Kitts family reunited!

It was a long time coming. Master Sergeant Charles Jay Kitts had been deployed three times overseas, serving active duty in Desert Storm and stationed in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. He was also deployed another time stateside as an RDO (Rear Detachment Officer).

But that most recent deployment with the 378th CSSB (Combat Sustainment Support Battalion) out of Fort Indiantown Gap, PA, may have been the toughest. During the two months of training in NJ and then TX, followed by 12 months in Afghanistan, Jay’s father-in-law passed away, Pam had two surgeries and his 14-year-old daughter Katelyn underwent three surgeries.

“It was hard leaving behind your family and worrying about what’s happening with them and not being there for all the hardships and milestones,” Jay admitted. “I kept my faith in God and trusted that He would keep my family and me safe and bring us back together soon.”

A specialist in logistics, Jay worked 12-16 hour days in Afghanistan, always with the knowledge that enemy forces were out there to bring harm to the military. He faced protestors and occasional Afghans who would try to get into the camp.vet jay--w:arabs

“It was tough,” he confessed. “Days were long.”

But during that time, there were things Jay accomplished that he was proud of. He actually helped build a forward operations base in northern Afghanistan and served as acting mayor of the base.

vet jay--on duty

In 2012, Jay had been with the Army Reserves for 30 years with six years of active duty. This Wytheville, VA native remembered first wanting to enlist because his dad served in World War II and because he, too, wanted to serve his country.

And Jay did not serve alone. Pam was right by his side. They met on the job in the summer of 1986 when he moved to Walnut Cove, quickly fell in love and married in Feb. 1988. Pam said that since she and Jay had been able to put down roots in Walnut Cove–not having to move around–deployment was perhaps harder on them.

“The toughest thing about THIS deployment,” Pam noted, “was that I had to deal with my emotions and pain of losing my dad to cancer without Jay by my side.”

Jay was allowed to come home on emergency leave for two weeks for his father-in-law’s funeral, but when he had to go back to Afghanistan, Pam said her emotions hit their peak.

“I think the shock of my dad being gone and Jay gone again was so unbearable,” she recalled. “I needed him. Jay was truly my soulmate and my rock to lean on besides God. . .but God saw me through, and friends and family helped me, too!”

One of her comforts was her daughter, then a freshman at South Stokes High School. “Katelyn helped me so much in keeping my spirits up,” Pam declared. “She showed me what a remarkable young woman she truly is!”

Pam said that although Katelyn–a daddy’s girl–had missed her dad and longed for him to be there for her, she was very proud of him and remained a trooper and big supporter for both parents.  

Pam and Katelyn were all smiles when Jay got off the plane in Greensboro that 2012 Veterans Day weekend. By their side was Nathan whose unit had worked with him to allow him to come home to greet his dad.

Pam was relieved to have Nathan there: “It’s one thing having to worry about your husband, and then it makes it tougher to worry about a son, too! I am proud of my husband and son, but I have to say I pray a lot that my son never experiences having to go overseas or any war. I worry a lot about that.”

But Pam put those worries out of her mind that weekend when her family was finally reunited. They spent Veterans Day together in a church service that was dedicated to veterans and included a testimony of thanks from Jay and a special outdoor flag presentation by the South Stokes High School JROTC. They hung and flew the US flag that Jay had flown over Afghanistan in honor of Germanton Baptist Church for their support of him and his troops.

Home at last!

Home at last!

When he got home, Jay said that he planned to transition back with his family, spending quality time with them while getting back into the routine at his job.

Pam remembers being overjoyed to settle back into life with him. “There were so many things about my husband that made me so proud of him,” she declared. “Jay was dedicated and loved God, family and country. He truly stood for what he believed in.”

RIP, Jay Kitts–you are missed every day by those who so loved you. But they will be with you eternally one day!vet jay--abroad

Into the light. . .

spring-forwardBlustery cold wind and the threat of snow the first week of March, sun and unseasonable warmth predicted for the second. This weather whiplash makes a body do a double-take. But if you find yourself feeling out of sorts in the coming weeks, it may not be the weather. It could be the time change.

Yep, it’s that time of year again–the time to SPRING FORWARD into Daylight Saving Time. In the wee hours of Sunday, March 10, you will lose an hour of sleep. But for the next eight months or so, you will have gained an hour of light each day. (Well, I suppose it all depends on when you get up, doesn’t it? Your life may not change at all, but the clock will.)

We owe it all to an Englishman who made the first real push for Daylight Saving Time (not “Savings”) in the early 1900’s. He was an avid golfer who wanted to be able to take advantage of an extra hour of light. His DST idea never really caught on.

Saving-DaylightThe real beginning of DST was in 1918 during World War I–for the purpose of saving energy–but it wasn’t a popular idea. It faded away only to resurface in World War II. During the ‘50s and ‘60s, different regions could do whatever they wished as far as observing DST or not.

Because of this freedom of choice, at one point in history, a 35-mile trip from a small town in West Virginia to another town in Ohio meant resetting one’s watch seven times! Finally, in 1966, DST became standard practice legally.victory--daylight-savings-time

Most areas of our country observe the time change. Some have been granted exemptions: Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and much of Arizona.

Be that as it may, DST is an annual fact of life for us, whether or not we want to spring ahead. Another given is that the change will probably affect most of us physiologically. Science has proven this conclusively, so get ready. I’ve always noticed that I feel draggy for a few days after the change, a little “out-of-sorts,” somewhat lethargic. I’ll bet some of you feel this apathy and exhaustion, too.

One explanation is that our bodies have their own clocks—something called our circadian rhythms. When the body’s clock is interfered with, bodily functions will naturally be affected. Take heart–the first few days are usually the worst. However, a disruption in our circadian rhythms can cause problems for a few weeks or until the natural rhythms of our bodies are reset and humming along in the new beat of life.

Princess Bride--daylight-savings-time-15355The time change can even be dangerous. Studies show that there is an increase in heart attacks immediately after we spring forward, as opposed to a decrease when we fall back in November. The number of traffic accidents also jumps up for a few days after the time change in March. (Once we acclimate to the switch, traffic accidents actually decrease, studies say.)

Here are some good tips I have found that help me adjust, since my body seems especially affected by changes in light. For some reason, standing in bright light early in the morning speeds up the regulation of the body’s clock. Some experts recommend limiting strenuous work for a couple of days after the change. (I’m okay with that; how ’bout you?!) Keeping a light schedule and driving less are also smart ideas.

Just think–it won’t be long before we should be sweet and energetic again after a few days of orneriness and slothfulness! And the added advantage is that we can stay outside longer at night after a hard day at work! YES! I am a DST kind of gal.daylight-savings-time-cartoon1

But just why do we need to make the time change each spring? I’ve always heard that we make the switch to conserve energy. In reality, studies haven’t proven conclusively that this is true. In fact, DST may increase energy use. People tend to do more driving with the extra hour of light. They golf and shop more. They even grill out more often. Just because we may not have to turn on the lights until later at night doesn’t mean we aren’t using more gasoline and/or power.

Despite the indications that DST may not avail us in the energy realm, I must admit that I heartily anticipate the extra hour in the evening. Isn’t it thrilling to be outside at 9 p.m. in June while the sun is still up? Yes, I always dread losing that hour of sleep when we make the switch, but it seems worth it to have the light. And when autumn comes, I never look forward to going back to “real” time.

In a sense, though, it’s all an illusion. Moving the clock forward seems to increase the light, but technically that’s not true at all. We still have the same number of daylight hours as if we had left the time the same. It merely increases our time frame–and therefore our opportunities–to enjoy the light.

And how we love the light! I believe that God–who is the Light of the World–created us to be creatures of the light.

Light works wonders for the body. Many people get SAD when the light begins to decrease in the fall. And that has a double meaning: sad as in despondent and SAD as in Seasonal Affective Disorder—a negative physical/mental disturbance caused by the loss of daylight. So doesn’t it seem logical that an increase in light would make our bodies react positively?

It sure works out that way for me. Can you deny the lilt in your step when the March days begin to tease us with springtime? Don’t you feel even more joyful to be alive on such days? It makes me think of a Robert Louis Stevenson poem I have often read to my children. It’s called “Happy Thought” and is very short: “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”

As the Cowardly Lion says in “The Wizard of Oz,” “Ain’t it the truth? Ain’t it the truth?”

That’s the way I feel, and I hope you do, too. The economy may still look dismal and politics are a mess, but when life gives us lemons, join me and let’s make some collective lemonade. We have eight long months ahead of us to enjoy an extra hour of light each evening. And spring arrives in just few days. I say, “Bring on the light!”spring is coming--purple

The Old Paths: Keep on keepin’ on with Dr. King’s dream

Keep on keepin' onWhen I was editor of The Stokes News, press days often meant 18-hour work days and going to bed just barely before the birds started chirping. For the last few hours of the press night, I was usually all by myself in that tiny office in Walnut Cove. When I’d feel myself getting discouraged by the work load, I’d play gospel CDs to encourage myself.

One of my favorite songs was by Bishop Carlton Pearson. He told of Mother Sherman, a little old lady at his church when he was a boy. Each Sunday she’d ask him, “You yet holdin’ on?” When he’d answer yes, she’d encourage him, “Well, you keep on keepin’ on, baby.”

On many a rough press night or tough day of life, I have told myself to “keep on keepin’ on.” Haven’t you? And have you ever had someone who encouraged you with words that made you want to hang on and keep a-pluggin’?

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My sons Elijah and Malachi walking today in the MLK March in Walnut Cove.

A moment in my life that I will never forget and which illustrates the “keep on keepin’ on” idea happened last year at one of my favorite events–the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. March in my hometown. I took my children to that, as I normally do, forgetting what a long trek it would be for my youngest son’s short legs.

Sure enough, by the time we got to the middle of downtown Walnut Cove, seven-year-old Malachi was complaining that he couldn’t go any farther. Meanwhile, I dragged him on, determined not to stop. The leaders of the March were singing, “We Shall Overcome,” but Malachi wasn’t so sure that he could.

Click on this video link to see the March today as we sang, “Down By the Riverside.”

https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=4270299917342&saved

Soon, his complaints were such that I began to contemplate dropping to the back of the throng of marchers to hitch a ride on the bus that made up the caboose of our March train. People were passing us by as we stopped on the side of the road to rest a spell. Seeing them leave us in the dust made me feel a bit discouraged. And Malachi was as forlorn as could be.

But as we started off again, something happened that made all of the difference for my little mister. A local man that I had known since childhood, Reverend Alfred Warren, saw my struggling son and slowed down to speak to him. He smiled a kind smile and leaned over to be more on the level with my little bitty boy.

“What’s wrong?” he asked gently. “Don’t you think you can make it?” Malachi shook his head no. Then Rev. Warren began to encourage my son, “You can do it! I know you can. You’re almost there!”

I could visibly witness Malachi perk up. Rev. Warren began to move on ahead again but then suddenly came back to give Malachi a piece of gum that he said would help him make it. My formerly exhausted son suddenly found a treasure trove of energy. He struck an Incredible Hulk-type of pose to get charged up and took off running.

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Rev. Warren is in the blue jean jacket, smiling at my little Malachi who has begun running UPHILL!

Malachi then ran the majority of the way to Rising Star Baptist Church, with me struggling to keep up. All it took was some kind and loving encouragement. I snapped a picture as Malachi, in his newfound energy, jogged past Rev. Warren. In the photo, you can see them both grinning from ear to ear at each other on the homestretch.

When Dr. King spoke of having a dream, I believe this was part of what he meant–encouraging each other not to give up the fight for what is right. . .to be able to live in a world where race is not an issue, where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” A world where people have the mindset that they must “rise above the narrow confines” of their “individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

That’s the world I want my children to live in. That’s the world Dr. King dreamed of.

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Welcome to Dr. King’s dream world!

We went back to the annual MLK March today with Malachi a year older and his legs made stronger by his love for running laps around our house. And there was his old friend, Rev. Warren, smiling down on him. They posed for a picture before the March began. And as they parted ways, Rev. Warren bent down to give Malachi a piece of gum to encourage him on the long walk.

A grown black man and a little white boy — two people separated by age and race — but bound together by the love and compassion for fellow human beings that transcends our petty differences. Dr. King would’ve been proud.

And in that same spirit of cooperation, compassion and love, let’s keep on keepin’ on, shall we?

Click below to hear a shortened version of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It will inspire you! Below that is a two-minute version of his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech that he gave shortly before he was shot and killed. It will raise up the hair on your arms!

Feast of Tabernacles: the season of our rejoicing!

I’ve gone through yet another season of what we often call Jewish holidays (I call them Feasts of the Lord), and we’ve come to my favorite one of the year. Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles, is the most joyful feast of all to me.

It is the 7th feast, held in the 7th month, lasting for 7 days. Ahhh, perfection.

And because God loved His people so much, He asked them to extend the festival 1 more day, to tarry with Him a little longer. In fact, an ancient Jewish midrash (story, exposition, interpretation) claims that what God said to His people about His rationale for the extra day was, Your departure is difficult for me. Stay with me one more day.”

Isn’t that beautiful? Think of how much you love your significant other and what it would mean to you if he/she begged you to stay a little longer with him/her. Surely it would thrill your soul. Well, even more so when it’s the Creator of the Universe–the ultimate Lover of your soul–who asks you to linger with Him.

During this 8-day celebration, there is an emphasis on good food. I like that! Each night, observant Jews eat dinner in their sukkah (booth)–a little hut constructed in the yard to recall the reason for this holy feast: that God provided well for the Israelites as they dwelt in booths (sukkot is the plural of booth in Hebrew) in the wilderness. You might invite the neighbors over for cake and wine (grape juice for me–ha ha!) in the sukkah as you enjoy the evening air and gaze on the stars and nearly-full moon in the night sky.

Sound like fun yet?

And guess what God commanded the Jews to do during this week? REJOICE! Wow, somebody please command me to rejoice–I will definitely oblige!

But this is just for the Jews, you say. We Gentiles don’t bother, do we? Well, if we do choose to celebrate Sukkot, we will enjoy the blessing of it. The early church, which was of course predominantly Jewish by birth, still celebrated the annual Feasts of the Lord, until this practice was eventually frowned upon when Catholicism took root.

But the main reason we Christians would profit from studying and/or celebrating Sukkot is that it is a festival of hope for the future. Yes, it celebrates the past (“He has provided for us before, as in the wilderness”) and it solidifies the present (“He is providing for us even now!). But this Feast points forward to the future when His provision will be eternal.

It reminds us that we will tabernacle with our Lord forever one day. Every day in eternity will be Sukkot. You see, the Feast could’ve ended in the prescribed 7 days–7 being the number of divine completion.

But it didn’t. There is an 8th day–8 being the number of new beginning, a number outside of time as it doesn’t exist within our neat, little 7-day week. The 8th day represents eternity.

Jesus fulfilled the 4 spring feasts: His death (Passover), His burial (Feast of Unleavened Bread), His resurrection (Feast of Firstfruits) and His outpouring of the Holy Ghost (Pentecost). But the 3 fall feasts have yet to be fulfilled. A little over 2 weeks ago, we celebrated the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShanah)–representative of His 2nd coming. Ten days after that, we had Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)–symbolic of the coming Judgment Day when His atoning blood will make all the difference for those who follow Him.

What’s next after His return and judgment? Eternity with Him–Feast of Tabernacles–the grand diamond in the crown of Jewish holy days.

When you study this Feast, some passages of the New Testament make even more sense. You’ve probably read John 7 and totally ignored that the whole chapter is about our Messiah celebrating Sukkot. You’ve probably read verses 37-38 and never questioned why Jesus suddenly rose up in the Temple and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Just a random comment? No! If you understand Sukkot, you realize that each morning during the Feast, the priest drew a pitcher of water and poured it out as a sacrifice as part of a plea/prayer to God for rain during the coming winter months. After the long, dry summer, the rains, which began about November in Israel and lasted until around March, were crucial to crop development in the coming year. Sukkot was the time to beseech God to send the blessed precipitation.

So imagine that this water ceremony has just taken place in the Temple. And here comes Jesus–this “upstart” from Nazareth–who interrupts things by crying out that HE is the water they need. And the Word doesn’t say that He just spoke up. HE CRIED OUT.

Can you imagine the horror the Temple leaders felt? “Blasphemy!” they may have whispered to each other.

And our Lord wasn’t finished. The next day, it is recorded in John 8 that Jesus went back to the Temple to teach. He didn’t just haphazardly speak what is written in verse 12: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

That statement seems to come from nowhere. But if you know about Sukkot, you would know that each night of the Feast, there was a fabulous light display in Jerusalem. Not only were the huge Temple lampstands blazing, but also the multitudes of pilgrims in the city celebrating Sukkot would have their sukkahs alight as they rejoiced into the night.

The Jews at that time, who had just been dazzled by the nightly light show for a week, would totally “get” what Jesus was saying. He had just diverted their focus during the water ceremony to Himself, pinpointing Himself as the water they needed. NOW, He diverts their focus on light to Himself, declaring that He is the light they need.

What a nerve, the “big wheels” of that day must’ve thought. Their familiarity with Sukkot made Jesus’ comments even more inflammatory than what we clueless Gentiles perceive. It is imperative that we get out of our comfort zones and study the culture that Jesus preached in. It gives us knowledge we have been ignorant of for too long. Think about how we have sometimes made erroneous doctrines from things the Apostle Paul said in his letters–all because we did not understand the culture of that day or the circumstances of the people to whom he wrote.

Perhaps another reason that we would do well to study Sukkot in particular is that we very well may be celebrating it in Jerusalem one day. Zechariah 14:16-18 says this: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”

This is an endtime prophecy that pertains to us. EVERYONE will keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Wouldn’t we do well to learn about it now? The Jews see each Feast of the Lord as a “mikrah”–a rehearsal or foretaste of what is to come. So when I keep Sukkot, I see it as a rehearsal of my blessed eternity with Him!

If we belong to Him, we have already started our eternity! We are eternal beings just passing through this mortal life before we move on to our “real” life! We rejoice because He came down to tabernacle with us in the flesh for 33 1/2 years and then returned again as the Holy Spirit Who tabernacles with us constantly!

May we give Him all the glory in this the season of our rejoicing! And to think, WE’VE ONLY JUST BEGUN!

Click on the link below to watch the teaching I did on Sukkot at our church, Times of Refreshing, this past Sunday morning. Just ignore the phone ringing on camera; we are a casual group that meets in a home temporarily. Beneath this link is a handout that will help you follow along with the video. Enjoy!

FEAST OF TABERNACLES (SUKKOT)

What is Sukkot?
The final Biblically-commanded feast of the Jewish year (Lev. 23:33-44)
–Celebrated in the seventh month Tishri on days 15-21 (Lev. 23:34)
–Tishri 22–Day 8–is also celebrated (Lev. 23:36)
–A sabbath with new offerings specified (Num. 29:36-38)
–Called “Shemini Atzeret” (8th, solemn gathering)
— “Atzeret” comes from a root meaning “to hold back”
–God asked Israel to tarry 1 more day! (“Your departure is
                difficult for me. Stay with me one more day.”)
“Sukkot” = “booths” (singular is “sukkah” = “booth”)
–Sometimes called Festival of Booths
–Reminiscent of how Israel had portable dwellings in the wilderness
Also called Feast of Tabernacles
–“Tabernacle” = “mishkan”; also means “dwelling place”
Celebrates fruit harvest (grapes, olives)
–Exod. 23:16– “. . .the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field.”
–Firstfruits celebrated barley harvest, Pentecost–wheat harvest
Called “The Feast of all Feasts” (I Kings 12:32)
–Pilgrims came from all over Israel to Jerusalem (like Passover and Pentecost)

What is required on Sukkot?
First day is a full Sabbath (Lev. 23:35)
Only four things commanded in Torah for this Feast
–Live in sukkah (Lev. 23:42)
–Bring offering in addition to regular offerings (Num. 29:12-39)
–1st day: 13 young bullocks and many other things
–Number of bulls goes down each day: significant
–Gather the four species (Lev. 23:40)–probably to be waved joyfully
–Etrog (citron): “boughs of goodly trees”
–Lulav: “branches of palm trees”
–Myrtle: “boughs of thick trees”
–Willows: “willows of the brook”
–Rejoice (Lev. 23:40)
–Because harvest is done and/or repentance is successful
–Called “season of our rejoicing” (Deut. 16:15)–“. . .because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.”
Every 7th year at this Feast, a public reading of Torah (Deut. 31:10-13)

How is Sukkot mentioned in the Bible?
Solomon chose it for consecration of Temple (I Kings 8:2-4)–shekinah glory fell!
Celebrated while wall was being rebuilt in Nehemiah’s time (Ezra 3:4)
Jesus sent His brothers to the Feast (John 7:2-8) then He went secretly (John 7:10-53)
It is mentioned for the future: all nations will come to Jerusalem for Sukkot
–Zech. 14:16– “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”

What are the Jewish traditions of Sukkot?
Many Jews don’t connect this to High Holy Days
Some say living in huts comes from agricultural component (harvesters in huts in fields)
They begin building sukkah at end of Yom Kippur–families building together often
–Sukkah: temporary shelter, roof of branches/twigs/leaves to keep sky visible
–Must eat in it; some sleep in it. Rejoice in it; don’t suffer (go home if it rains!)
–Kids decorate it: fruit/flowers/paper chains/crepe paper/Indian corn/gourds
–God turned their wilderness into a garden
–Stresses the impermanence of life
Special theme of trusting God (as Israel in the wilderness)
–Don’t become entombed in the safety of your houses; trust God
Special “guests” are invited, 1 per night in order: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David (all wanderers or exiles)
–Women, too, now! Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Miriam, Abigail, Esther
They believe waving the 4 species brings a blessing of rain
–They circle sanctuary, branches in hands (7 times on 7th day)
–Number 4 is seen as symbolic–completion on Earth
Praise is recited each day (“hallel”)–often Psalms 113-118
Entire book of Ecclesiastes is read
–Stresses the vanity of life (dwell in huts), so eat/drink/be merry (rejoice)
–Festival season in spring starts with Song of Solomon (idealism of young love) and ends in fall with cynicism of old age!
Special readings are Exod. 33:12-34:36, Ezek. 31:18-39:16 (endtime war)
Special emphasis on birth: Day of Atonement wiped slate clean
–We begin over like newborns (water associated with birth)
Anticipates the messianic end of days (Zech. 14:16)
7th day called “hoshana rabbah” (“the great hosanna”)
–Should be full festival day, but adding 8th day changed that
–Seen as final day of judgment
–Solemn morning service (final seal not on Book of Life/Death until then)
–After morning service, festive meal with nuts, carrot rings (wealth)
Some stay up all night on 7th night to study Torah (Deut.)
–Old tradition: if you see your shadow with no head, you’ll die in next year
Week of great hospitality: visiting from sukkah to sukkah, having wine and cake
–Poor should be invited as guests
Theme of gathering in (harvest) and encircling (God surrounded them in wilderness)
Prayers for rainfall in coming winter months (Nov.-March), especially on 8th day
–Water libation (sacrificial outpouring) each morning at service
–Jesus knew this: John 7:37-38
Lighting ceremony each night (Jesus alluded to this in John 8:12 then healed blind man)
Some save lulav or willows to light fire for Passover to burn leaven or bake unleavened bread
–Ties festival cycle together
8th day: Torah festival
–Pentecost celebrates receiving Torah; Sukkot celebrates having it daily
–Very much a children’s festival with dancing, singing, carrying of flags
–7th day was end of perfect time cycle; 8th is a day beyond time
Strict Jews celebrate a 9th day–”Simhat Torah” (rejoicing in the Torah)
–Scrolls taken from ark then paraded around sanctuary
–Final verses of Deut. read, then 1st verses of Gen. (cycle renewed)
Entire festival has redemption theme–God redeemed them in desert
–Dry times in summer represented desert wandering

What does Sukkot mean for us as Christians?
It comes right after Day of Atonement (after judgment, millennial reign of Christ)
Celebrates harvest of fruit (James 5:7-8–“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
–Joel 2:23 prophesies of endtime when God sends former and latter rains in same month–final harvest!
Fruit planting takes place during spring rains (seed planted during Passover)
–Fruit matures during summer and is ready for harvest in fall
Celebrates God’s provision in the past (wilderness), present (harvest done) and future!
This Feast will be celebrated eternally as we dwell with Him (8th day)–mikrah: rehearsals
We are now tabernacles: I Cor. 6:19–“Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost”
–As He dwelt in the tabernacle of the wilderness, now He dwells in us!
Feast demands joyfulness; so does life in Christ
–Neh. 8:10– “. . .the joy of the Lord is your strength”
–Psalm 16:11– “. . .in thy presence is fullness of joy”
–Phil. 4:4–“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.”
Jesus was probably born during this festival: rotation of priests in OT possibly proves it
–At that time, Israel was divided into 24 districts (I Chron. 24)
–Each district sent 2 priests to the Temple each week to serve
–ALL priests went to Jerusalem 3 weeks each year (Deut. 16:16)
–Zacharias, dad of John the Baptist, priest of the order of Abijah (Luke 1:5)
–His division was 8th division to go (I Chron. 24:10)
–He ministered 9th week of year (all went up 3rd week)
–He was serving his time when he was promised a son (Luke 1:8-13)
–Gabriel came to Mary in 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy
–Would’ve been during Hanukkah–starts 10th month, 25th day
–Jesus born 9 months later–Feast of Tabernacles
–He came to Earth to dwell (tabernacle) among men
–He was the tabernacle in which God dwelt fully (Col. 2:9)
–Wouldn’t it be like God to fulfill a festival cycle? (born and return in 7th month)

I NEVER SHALL FORGET WHAT HE’S DONE FOR ME! (Yom Kippur–Day of Atonement!)

We used to sing a song in the choir at my former church–“Jesus, I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me. Jesus, I’ll never forget how you set me free. Jesus, I’ll never forget how you brought me out, No, no, NO, NEVER!” That’s a song that comes back to me today on Yom Kippur–The Day of Atonement–the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

Was I born a Jew? No. But I was grafted into the family when Jesus died to redeem the entire world. Do I have to celebrate the 7 Biblically-commanded Feasts of the Lord? No. I have already celebrated the 4 spring feasts symbolically, and I will one day fully celebrate the 3 fall feasts symbolically.

But I believe that each year as the feasts roll around in their cyclical way on the Jewish calendar, it is important for me and mine to study them as they relate to our salvation. Jesus the Messiah is revealed in each one. In studying these holy days on God’s calendar, I learn about the past (how Jesus fulfilled them by His death, burial, resurrection, return as the Holy Spirit), the present (how to live holy per the traditions of the feasts) and the future (how He is coming back and what will follow).

Today is Yom (day) Kippur (covering). No longer do I need an earthly high priest to enter into the Holy of Holies once a year to apply the blood of goats and bulls to the mercy seat to cover my sins.

“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come,with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Heb. 8:11-12

Yes, instead, Jesus became my High Priest once and for all. When He died on the cross, the veil into the Holy of Holies was rent in two. He had marched into the Holy of Holies, applied His own blood to the mercy seat for me and given free access to the most holy place to all who receive Him.

“For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens;who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” Heb. 7:26-27

He was without sin, yet He became sin for me. I cannot emphasize enough the term that is used several times in the Book of Hebrews–ONCE FOR ALL. Redemption for all who will receive it. And that redemption isn’t jerked away from us when we mess up. He knows our frame, that we are but dust. And because of that, He tells us that if we sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.

We in the church are so quick to condemn those who commit the “BIG” sins. (I know, because I have been on both sides–condemning those who commit the “biggies” and also committing “biggies.”) REALLY? I have seen church members who refuse to listen to a preacher who is divorced or who admits to backsliding into drug or alcohol abuse at some time in his/her Christian walk. REALLY? Who are you to judge another man’s servant?

What about the preachers who practice gluttony regularly with no recognition of that sin? What about those who are mean and hateful to their families behind closed doors while smiling graciously to their parishioners? You listen to them often enough.

What about those church members who crucify each other with their tongues? What about those respected church mothers who are quick to condemn you and murder you in their hearts for the least offense? They’re still teaching Sunday School and leading the choir, aren’t they?

Isn’t this hypocritical? Did He die for our sins (plural) before we get saved ONLY or also for those sins we might (will) commit after salvation? Why do we continue to look at Christians who sin (which is all of us–yes, you, too) and say, “That’s it. You blew it. You cannot minister/teach/preach/lead anything anymore.” REALLY? Show me where you find that in the Bible. Poor ole King David always gets mentioned in discourses on sin because of his murdering, adulterous, lying ways. (Yes, I said that about David).

But guess what? He repented and THEN (yes, after the horrible sins) was called “a man after God’s own heart.” He was still king of Israel and was still used of God.

On this Yom Kippur, I am alarmed that much of the Christian world is making the grace of God of non-effect. We judge which sins are forgivable. You think not? Then why do we say this sin (your gossip or your “white” lies which were probably not repented of) can be overlooked and you can teach Sunday School again? However, this other person who fornicated or got drunk or whatever but was truly repentant is barred from further service in the church. We might allow them to pass out tracts on the street, but no more service inside our “holy walls.”

I don’t mean to sound harsh, but perhaps it’s time we really took stock of what His atonement truly means. Redemption is serious business. Redemption is ongoing, continual. That blood is still flowing symbolically to cleanse us from day to day as we strive to live a holy life despite our flesh.

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb. 4:14-16

And as we rejoice in the fact that we may approach His throne boldly to receive mercy, let us remember that Yom Kippur also represents an event yet to come–Judgment Day. After Rosh HaShanah (Feast of Trumpets–held 10 days ago) which represents His return, there will be the Day of Judgment (Yom Kippur prophetically) followed shortly afterward by the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). (This starts in 5 days on the Jewish calendar–can’t wait! It represents how we dwell with Him eternally. Stay tuned!)

Until then, here is a Scripture that is great to keep in mind as we await His return:

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God,let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Heb. 10:19-25

Click on the video below to see the teaching I did on Yom Kippur a couple of weeks ago at our church, Times of Refreshing. Please forgive me for not pronouncing everything correctly! Beneath the video is the handout we used in our teaching. It will help you follow along. Enjoy!

YOM KIPPUR (DAY OF ATONEMENT)
What is Yom Kippur?
“Yom” = “day” and “Kippur” = “covering, ransom, redeeming”
Sixth Scripturally-commanded holy day on Jewish calendar
–Held on 10th day of 7th month Tishri for 1 day
Second event in the fall High Holy Days and Days of Awe
–The only mandated holy day that is not a feast
–The only day all of Israel fasted (called “the fast” Acts 27:9)
No mention of it taking place until 444 B.C.
What does Yom Kippur consist of?
Four main components
–Holy convocation (undivided attention to God and gathering on a sabbath)
–Humbling of souls (affliction by fasting and repentance)
–Offerings (Lev. 16, Num. 29:7-11)–including regular sabbath offerings if on a sabbath
–Complete rest (or death as punishment)
Fourfold purpose
–To show the necessity of blood and God’s hatred of sin (Rom. 6:23, Heb. 9:22)
–To show contagious nature of sin–even holy Priest had to be cleansed! (Lev. 16:6)
–To point forward to the death of the Lamb of God
–To be repeated annually to show the way into the presence of God (Heb. 10:3)
What is the order of events on Yom Kippur?
1. High priest bathed his entire body, not just hands and feet as normally
–Washed his flesh in water in the Holy Place
–Had already washed once before entering Holy Place
2. He dressed in white linen with no ornaments
–Holy linen coat, breeches, girdle, fine mitre (headpiece)
–Also wore bells on skirt with rope attached
–Bells: to alert those outside if he was impure and died
–Rope: to drag him out
3. He sacrificed young bull for himself and his house
4. He selected 2 goats
–Goats selected by lot–1 for God, 1 for Azazel (name for Satan?)
–First goat sacrificed for people’s sins
–This blood placed on 2nd goat’s head (scapegoat)
5. Before offering this blood, priest filled censer with live coals from altar and put incense on them
–Cloud of incense covered mercy seat to keep him from seeing God
6. Once in Holy of Holies, blood was sprinkled upon and before mercy seat
–Bull for priesthood’s atonement; 1st goat for people’s atonement
–2 separate trips into Holy of Holies
7. Priest laid hands on head of scapegoat and confessed sins of the people
8. Scapegoat, bearing sins of the people, released into wilderness by trustworthy man
9. Remains of sacrificed bull and male goat taken outside city and burned
What are the Jewish traditions on Yom Kippur?
Main purpose is “teshuvah”–turning FROM sin and TO God
–Process began in 6th month Elul, sped up through Rosh HaShanah and the ensuing 10 days of repentance, reached end on Yom Kippur
Five services held (1 more than usual for festivals); most highly attended all year
–Before leaving for services, blessings pronounced upon children
–Very complicated services
–Proclamations made to nullify any vows/promises unfulfilled in coming year
–Jews still see spoken word as binding: “Words are important. . .The world itself     was created by God through the power of the Word.” (A rabbi)
–Jews believe you can’t be forgiven if you have unfulfilled vows (Matt. 5:24)
–Torah reading describes service in the Temple
–Emphasis also on Isaiah 57:14-58:16
–Book of Jonah read aloud (repentance important)
–They ask God to inscribe them in the Book of Life
Jews seek “kapparah”–cleaning of the slate/new chance at life
–Seen as a “brush with death” (wearing white kittel–burial shroud–and abstaining from life-giving food and water)
Jews observe 5 restrictions (afflictions): “shabbat shabbaton”–sabbath of complete rest
–No eating or drinking (fast day from sundown to sundown, no cooking allowed)
–Children and the sick are exempt
–Fast may be broken immediately after final service
–No bathing (stricter than regular sabbath)
–No anointing of body with oil
–No leather shoes (too comfortable)
–No sexual relations
Day before is a preparation day but also a sabbath
–Based on Lev. 23:32 which calls 9th day of Tishri a sabbath
–Great sabbath meal eaten before sundown!
–Some take mikveh (ritual bath) to purify themselves symbolically
Outdated traditions include twirling rooster or hen around hen while saying prayer for the animal to be killed in one’s stead
–Priests considered this too akin to white magic
–Now some Jews instead wrap money in handkerchief and follow same ritual
–Long ago, some Jews even flogged each other 39 times
–Some Jews still go outside to bless the moon at the end of the day (as at new moon)
Charity containers place in synagogues (typical on holy days)
Candles lit for deceased relatives
Women often wear white; mean wear kittels
Jews believe that the original purpose of this day was to cleanse the Temple of any
pollution that might have infiltrated the priestly system: “Too much pollution will render
   the sanctuary defiled and push the divine presence away.” (A rabbi)
–Since the Temple is no more, they now focus on cleaning up their individual lives,
including reconciliation with others
Shofar is blown to end the holy day–shows successful passage from sin to repentance
Some Jews go home and begin building sukkah
–Ties in Yom Kippur to Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) 5 days later
How does Yom Kippur parallel our salvation?
National cleansing of Israel since the Church will be  raptured out at Feast of Trumpets?
–Zech. 3:9: “. . .And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.”
–Verse 10 refers to the millenium
Jesus, our High Priest: applied blood to mercy seat once and for all! (Heb. 5:1-10,
9:24-10:14)
–We all have access into the Holy of Holies now (Heb. 4:14-16)
Priest washing twice on each trip in: our progression in Christ
–First washing is salvation–a “must” to enter the “sanctuary” (safe place)
–To go into Holy of Holies (His manifest presence), must be saturated in the Word
White garment: us being freed from sin
–No longer can wear the “garments” worn on the outside; must “put on” righteousness
Incense often represents prayer (Psalm 141:2: “Let my prayer be. . .as incense”)
–Prayer brings us into Holy of Holies
Priest sacrificed 1st bull for his household: purity in priesthood (We are all priests now)
Jesus represented by both goats
–Like 1st goat, He was killed and mutilated for our sins
–Like 2nd goat, He took our sins upon His own head (Heb. 13:11-12)
Hebrew word for “atonement” means “covering”
–Same word as “pitch,” the substance Noah applied to the ark walls
–Came between Noah and judgment (the waters)–like Jesus’ blood and us!
Prophetic for us: final Judgment Day–Book of Life opened
–Jews either repented and were forgiven or died in sin
Day the shofar is blown for Year of Jubilee
–Lev. 25:9: “Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land.”
–Our freedom from debt!
Rabbinical scholars say that at the time of the atonement, a crimson sash was attached to the door of the Temple and another on the horn of the scapegoat
–They knew when the goat was dead in the wilderness because the sash would turn white to signify the forgiveness of sins was complete
–Is. 1:18: “. . .though thy sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”
–Jewish literature says 40 years before the destruction of the last Temple in 70 A.D., the sash stopped turning white (No more need for the blood of animals to atone for sin!)
From the Talmud: “Forty years before the destruction of the Temple (ie. 30 C.E.) the lot did not come up in the right hand, nor did the crimson stripe become white, nor did the westernmost light burn; and the doors of the heikhal (the Holy Place of the Temple) opened of their own accord, until Rabbi Yochanon ben Zakkai rebuked them.”

Rosh HaShanah–Feast of Trumpets–HE’S COMING BACK!

Ever since God directed me to study the Feasts of the Lord back in the late ’90s, I’ve been fascinated with the Christian symbolism in these holy days that many call “Jewish feasts.” Actually, in the Bible, they were never called “Jewish feasts.” They were HIS feasts–seven of them Biblically-mandated.

The apostle Paul called them types and shadows–“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days, Which are a shadow of things to come. . .” (Col. 2:16-17)

And thus each year I study the feasts as they come around, and I even teach on them occasionally. Tonight as I blog this entry, I have finished my celebration of Rosh HaShanah–Feast of Trumpets and the Jewish New Year. It is still technically going on because some of these holy days are celebrated for two days.

Rosh HaShanah, in particular, is a two-day event, because it is the only feast reckoned by the new moon. And the new moon was sometimes tough to spot in ancient Israel. What if it was cloudy? You might miss the appearance of the sliver-sized moon if you were the watchman outside Jerusalem waiting to sound the trumpet signal. So the celebration of Rosh HaShanah went an extra day–just in case. There are other reasons for two-day celebrations of one-day feasts, but that’s not the purpose of this entry.

Our church, Times of Refreshing (on the Old Paths), gathered last week on Sunday, Sept. 9, to study Rosh HaShanah. The video we made is posted at the bottom of this page, along with the handout we used to simplify the lesson.

Last night, Sunday, Sept. 16, some of our group met at 6:30 p.m. in downtown Walnut Cove–a town we have a burden of prayer for. It was not yet Rosh HaShanah as we sat at a picnic table, getting a head start on eating sweet treats as Jews do for the start of their new year.

We reveled in apples dipped in honey–the symbol of a sweet year to come! There was caramel dip as well, mini-Reese’s cups, cookies and other sweet portions, per Ezra 8:10 which tells what they did one Rosh HaShanah: “Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our LORD: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

We sipped our sparkling white grape juice as we talked about what was going on around the world–the Muslim uprisings in particular which I believe are no coincidence as Israel’s High Holy Days begin. I had no idea when sunset was supposed to be. (I am still in such a summertime mode that I figured sunset was about 8 to 8:30.)

A sudden impulse hit me to click on my phone to check the time. Despite the fact that I was afraid Revonda, who was telling us something interesting at that time, would think I was rude, I reached for my phone. It said 7:25. I apologized after a minute, saying that I had to look because my kids were coming at 7:30 plus I was wondering when sunset was. Troy checked the weather page on his phone and was amazed when it said sunset was 7:25–exactly when I had looked at my phone!

The Feast of Trumpets had begun exactly as I felt to check the time.

We laughed joyfully at how the sunset timing had worked out. I later thought about some symbolism in even this simple event.

This past summer, I had attended a family Vacation Bible School at Rural Hall Church of God. They randomly (maybe not randomly by God!) placed me and my children in the tribe of Issachar; they had divided the many participants into the 12 tribes of Israel as classes.

As I looked at my name tag each night of VBS, I kept feeling in my gut that it was symbolic that I was in this particular tribe. When I researched the tribe of Issachar, I realized that at perhaps their most important time in Biblical history, they were the minority–very few in number compared to the rest of the tribes, yet they were the ones that all of Israel consulted in this particular situation. “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do. . .” I Chron. 12:32

People who had “understanding of the times.” I realized last night as I looked at the phone at exactly the time of sunset, when sunset was indeed the time we were waiting for, that that little “coincidence” reiterated something to me: there are those in the Christian church at this time who have an understanding of the times we live in. They are not the majority. Perhaps some of them are those in whom the gift of prophecy works.

Those who have had a hunger put into their very soul to study the Feasts of the Lord–that includes some of you reading this right now–are likely people who have understanding of the times. These feasts can reveal to us many things: from the plan of salvation foreshadowed to what will happen in the world as we near Christ’s return.

What should you do, you people who are types of the tribe of Issachar? You should pray diligently for how God wants you to disperse the knowledge you have. Be on guard that the enemy of our souls does not pervert your gifting and try to take you into legalism with regard to the feasts. He did not call you to bring people back under the curse of the law if they do not celebrate the feasts in a mandatory fashion or they don’t keep the Law precisely as outlined in the Torah.

Galatians 3:13 tells us that “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. . .”

I do not believe that we are under a curse if we don’t keep the feasts, if we eat the forbidden foods noted in the Law, etc. However, although the curse is removed, I still believe that a blessing applies if we do keep the feasts and the Sabbath or if we try to abide by the dietary restrictions. It is not a matter now of keeping the Torah because we HAVE to, but because we GET to! There is a difference in motivation.

So although I do not believe that we are still under command to keep these holy days, I believe that if we DO, there is a special blessing and revelation in it.

Thus I celebrated Rosh HaShanah from sundown yesterday to sundown tonight. I don’t own a shofar, but I listened to one online in a YouTube video that my bosom friend Robin sent me.

And it ran chills over me, bringing tears to my eyes as I realized the prophetic significance of this holy day. One day the trumpet of God will sound and in the twinkling of an eye, the long season of our wilderness journey will be over! (Remember that there are over three long, hot summer months between the final spring feast of Pentecost and the first fall feast of Rosh HaShanah–representative of how after He fills us with His Spirit as at Pentecost, we must walk out our salvation on a pilgrim journey full of trials and tribulations until the trump sounds to herald Rosh HaShanah–His second coming!)

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” I Cor. 15:51-52

Beloved, I don’t know when the Lord Yahushua is coming back. But I believe that symbolically we are in the sixth month of the Jewish calendar–the month of Elul–the month of preparation for the first day of the seventh, holy month Tishrei which is Rosh HaShanah–the Feast of Trumpets which prophetically points to His return!

If you belong to Him, you have been through the four spring feasts which have already been fulfilled in Jesus Christ–Pesach (Passover) when the blood was applied to your heart through His death, Unleavened Bread when you were freed from sin and buried with Him, Firstfruits when you experienced His resurrection power of new life after conversion and Shavuot (Pentecost) when you were baptized in the Holy Ghost for power in ministry.

You are now in the sultry summer months of the Jewish calendar, waiting for the final three feasts to begin in the fall. As you walk through the fourth month, the fifth month, the sixth month, your eyes are on that seventh month prize–HIS GLORIOUS RETURN (Feast of Trumpets–Rosh HaShanah), JUDGMENT DAY (Day of Atonement–Yom Kippur) and ETERNITY WITH HIM (Feast of Tabernacles–Sukkot).

The four feasts of the spring (four is the number of earthly completion) added to the three feasts of the fall (three is the number of heavenly/Godly completion) equals the divine completion of the number seven. So the next sound we listen for is the sound of the trumpet! THAT’S why I celebrate Feast of Trumpets–to remind me of the day of His appearing!

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” I Thess. 4:16-18

Click on the link below to watch our hour-long class on Rosh HaShanah. (Please forgive my mistaken reference to this feast as the “feast of all feasts.” I confused my notes on Feast of Tabernacles with Feast of Trumpets as I typed the lesson. So sorry!)

Our Bible study handout:

ROSH HASHANAH (FEAST OF TRUMPETS)
What does Rosh HaShanah mean?
“Head of the Year”–this term is not found in the Bible (applied in 2nd century A.D.)
–Considered the Jewish New Year
When is Rosh HaShanah?
“And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. . .” Numbers 29:1
First day of the month Tishrei
–Tishrei: 7th month on the Jewish holy calendar–holy month.
–1st month on the civil calendar (hence New Year)
On our calendar, occurs anywhere from mid-September to mid-October
Only commanded to be celebrated for 1 day
–Jews celebrate some 1-day holidays for 2 days (moon issues)
Why is it also called Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah)?
God commanded them to blow trumpets on that day
“. . .For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets.” Numbers 29:1
–Other new moons were signaled by short trumpet blasts–this one by long ones
What were the Jews to do on this holiday?
23 “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25 You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.’” Leviticus 23:23-25
Celebrate it as a Sabbath.
“You shall do no customary work.” Numbers 29:1
Blow the trumpets in the Temple and through the land of Israel. (Scriptures above)
–Traditionally, shofar (ram’s horn) was blown, not the silver trumpets of the Temple
–Shofar designated for Yom Kippur, Jubilee, call to battle
–A pattern of blows developed: 1 long blast (tekiah), 3 short blasts (shevarim), 9
staccato blasts (teruah), 1 long blast.
–Blown 100 times that day (several sequences)
Give offerings, some burnt
2 “You shall offer a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the Lord: one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, without blemish. 3 Their grain offering shall be fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths for the ram, 4 and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; 5 also one kid of the goats as a sin offering, to make atonement for you; 6 besides the burnt offering with its grain offering for the New Moon, the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings, according to their ordinance, as a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord.”Numbers 19:2-6
How often is Feast of Trumpets mentioned in the Bible?
Besides the instructions on how to celebrate it, only once
–When the Jews returned to Israel from exile in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 3:1-6, Nehemiah 7:73-8:13)
“Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. 3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. . .5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. . . 9And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.’ For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ 11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, ‘Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.’ 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.” Nehemiah 8:1-10
What Jewish traditions are held?
Month before (Elul–6th month) is used for preparation
–Shofar blown every morning after prayer service (starting Sabbath before Elul begins)
as a reminder of repentance and approach of high holy days
Week before (last week of Elul) used for repentance
–Selihot (“forgiveness”): repentant prayers made
–Intensifies on final day of Elul: mikveh is popular
Psalm 81 is read (was sung by choir)
3 books are opened: Book of Life (Death) for wicked, Book of Life for righteous, Book of Life for
in-between
–Judge writes everyone’s name in one
–Satan appears before God to accuse Israel
–Shofar blown to confuse him
–Often called Yom Ha-Din–Judgment Day
Greeting is “Leshanah tovah tikatevu” (“May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a
good year!”)–based on Psalm 69:28, Exodus 32:32-33
Casting ceremony “Tashlikh” (“cast off”) held
–Originated in the Middle Ages, still popular
–On the afternoon of Rosh HaShanah, meet near flowing body of water to recite
Tashlikh prayer (Micah 7:18-20, Psalm 118:5-9, Psalm 33, Psalm 130, Isaiah 11:9)
–At end, shake pockets or cast bread crumbs into water (Micah 7:19, Ezek. 18:30-31)
Long services held (morning–5 or more hours often)
–Focus on 3 benedictions: Malkhiyot (Kingships), Zikhronot (Remembrances), Shofarot
(Rams’ horns)
–God’s majestic kingship, His remembrance of His covenant with Israel, the key
role of the shofar in history and the future
Joyful activities are not allowed (no weddings, e.g.)
–Yet there is joy: greeting cards sent, wishing “Shanah tovah!” (“A good year!)
Certain foods eaten
–Apples dipped in honey (next year full of sweetness)
–Fruit not eaten in a while consumed at dinner 2nd night
–Round loaves of braided hallah bread, rather than oval, eaten to symbolize crowns
–Head of fish (head and not the tail)
–No nuts (numerical value of “nuts” equals “sin”)
Observed as the birthday of the world
Believed to be the day the dead would rise for judgment
Sabbath in between Trumpets and Atonement: Shabbat Shuvah (“Sabbath of Turning”
based on Hosea 14:2)
What significance does it hold for Christians?
Does not commemorate any historical event–totally prophetic
Fulfilled in a sense by God’s regathering of Israel
Only holiday held at new moon
–Dark time of the month–like dark day of judgment (Amos 5:18-20, Zephaniah 1:14-16, Joel 2:31, Rev. 6:12-17)
Focus is on the new year, a new beginning
–We are new creatures–God’s focus is on “new”
–New name, song, thing, covenant, tongues, etc.
Takes place in 7th month–month of final harvest
Trumpet reminds us of Jesus’ 2nd coming
–Will call God’s people to assembly (Rapture)
–I Cor. 15:51-52, I Thess. 4:16-17

Seize the day! (The birthday, that is!)

I hear so many people say that a birthday is just another day. Probably even I have said that once or twice, but I didn’t really mean it– shame on me for saying it.

When we get to the point that we realize we have probably already lived more years than we have left and when we remember so many dear friends and loved ones who left us too young, we suddenly realize what another year of life really means. The American Cancer Society has deemed itself the official sponsor of birthdays; that alone speaks volumes of how precious each birthday should be.

I’ve heard people argue that the Bible never says anything about celebrating birthdays and that we shouldn’t make a big deal about the day we were born because it is somehow arrogant. I beg your pardon, but I DISAGREE.

If we expect that day to be all about us and what others can do for us on that day, then yes, that’s arrogant. But if we view the day as a reminder from God that He has blessed us with yet another year to live and do His will, then THAT is a good perspective.

I thank GOD for this birthday! I thank God for His blessings in my life. I choose to use my birthday to be with those I love the most and to reflect on just what God has meant to me in the past year. I also take stock of my life and become determined to make the next year an even more productive one for the Kingdom of God.

On June 6, 2012, I choose to praise my Maker and to practice His presence and to worship Him for WHO HE IS. He is the one who planted me in my mother’s womb, brought me forth with health and started me on my way. His blessings have been poured out so abundantly on me that I just can’t tell it all! He called me, He chose me, He filled me with His precious Spirit and He loves me unconditionally. There is no better birthday present than that.

I thank Him for the hubster choosing to take a day off work so that he can be with me nonstop on my special day. I told him not to, but he insisted. After a few hours of sleep upon coming home from a long night at work tomorrow morning, he will be mine to command! Bring me my favorite food, scratch my back, play Skip-Bo with me, watch a chick flick with me, cheer for the Yankees with me (not gonna happen–ha ha!).

Okay, now I’m getting arrogant, thinking the day is all about me–ha ha!

Seriously, having that kind, thoughtful and adoring man near me all day and night will be a superdeedooper present. (Speaking of presents, I might go peek in the drawer where he hid those packages that came in the mail! Nah, surely I can wait until morning!)

I thank Him that my little kiddies will be with me all day and night, too! They will run and jump into bed with me early in the morning and be so excited to give me the presents and cards they have made. Malachi couldn’t hold back any longer today and gave me his present a bit early–a heart-shaped rock painted red on one side, blue on the other. Abigail followed suit and gave me a rock she had painted for me–pink and purple and blue and other lovely colors and dots.

I thank God that my other two daughters may go out to eat with me tomorrow (one of them called and mentioned that anyway). Both of them have already wished me happy birthday while I’ve been typing this after midnight! They have always made every birthday precious to me just by remembering me and being near.

I thank God that my mother wants to take me out to eat tomorrow, too. I REALLY want to see her–the woman who laboriously gave birth to me at age 19 at the exact same SECOND that another woman was giving birth in Danbury at Stokes-Reynolds Memorial Hospital! Dr. Jack Fowler said that had never happened up there to his knowledge (small hospital, you know). My mama always told me that special story, and I wondered what had happened to that other little girl born at 10:55 a.m. on June 6.

Well, guess what?! When I was taking Driver’s Ed, on my very first day of in-car training, I was placed in the back seat with a tall blond girl named Debbie Whitt from King. We began to chat while we waited for Mr. Leonard, and we freaked out when we realized we were the two record-setting baby girls who had been born at the exact same second in Danbury! Her mother had told her the same story! We are now Facebook friends, and she messaged me last week about how special we were–ha ha!

I thank God that I can stay home on my birthday and enjoy the day–made possible by my unselfish hubster who insisted that I quit my job last fall (as I had desired to do) and follow my dreams of Christian ministry, raising children and writing books. I plan to play games, watch movies, eat good food, play on Facebook, read a good book, fellowship with family and have a prayer/praise session that raises the roof off this little house!

And I thank Him for the little things that I hope to enjoy on this birthday–a cool spring day when June is often already so hot, the barking of my sweet hero beagle Rocky Balboa, the smell of my vanilla lotion when I put it on, the thought that–God willing–I will see Derek Jeter and my beloved NY Yankees in Atlanta next week, reading the poem “And What Is So Rare As a Day in June,” the beautiful black horse in the lush green meadow behind my house, the sound of my children’s voices all around me, the hubster’s corny yet hilarious jokes, some kind of ice cream treat and who knows what else?!

My birthday advice to me and to you: Life is short–yea, even a vapor. Even the Good Book says so. Go for the gusto. Remember the blessings He has showered on you during the last year of life. Thank Him for what He’s doing right NOW and for simply Who He is. Look ahead to whatever life you have left with the mindset of following Him more closely and walking in divine order. Celebrate His wonderful gift of life by making a difference in this world.

Carpe diem (seize the day!)

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