Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Can ya DIG it?

At the end of 2013 I stumbled upon an idea. Honestly, I can't even remember where it was that I found it, but I know it struck a chord within me and I know, too, that it was exactly what I needed. The idea was to throw out the long, goal-centered, highly involved New Year's Resolution and replace it with ONE WORD. Yes, One Word. 

One Word meant to bring everything into a pinpoint focus for the year ahead. 

One Word to keep everything else in check. 

One Word to replace all the gobbledeegook filling space in our minds. 

One Word to remember. 

One Word to say. 

One Word to share. 

I liked it. A LOT! I didn't, however, figure out my word right away. In fact, it wasn't until the last Sunday of 2013 that I received it. 

Did you catch that? I *received* it. That's the way my mind works. I heard this one word and I knew that IT was my word for 2014. Here's how it went down:

I'm sitting in church between my husband and my friend, and the pastor is reading the Christmas Story. That's as much as I remember of the service because, honestly, the word resonated so much within me that I couldn't think of anything else. It came straight from The Gospel of Luke, chapter 2...Mary and Joseph hanging out with Baby Jesus in the barn and these Shepherds showed up....

18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

See it? I highlighted and bolded it for you. It was the word PONDER

Throughout this past year I have returned time and again to that single word. When I was enjoying family time I was reminded to ponder the impact of this time on the future. (yes, it definitely got me to put down my devices more often than not.) When a friend was going through a time - whether good or bad - it was a time to ponder the worth of this time as I sat with them and cried or rejoiced. When my husband and I had to face choices made by one of our children it required me to ponder how to handle it in grace and justice. Sitting here in  front of my computer on December 30, 2014 I can honestly say it changed me for the better over the past year. 

I'm seeing the need to write a separate blog on that, but today is all about the word for 2015. 

If you're looking at that picture and thinking, "what? Her word for 2015 is 'Dig'?" Then we're on the same page. That is *exactly* what I thought when I realized this was my word for 2015. In fact, I believe I tried desperately to think of another word because I could not believe such a weird word would be the word to focus my entire coming year. 

The story of how I received it is very similar to the story of how I received my 2014 word, but this time our pastor was sharing his final message to our congregation as our Senior Pastor. Our family has been attending this church for the past 4 years, and I have come to respect and admire the direction and guidance Pastor Chris has offered. I'm very sad to see him go, but know God is going to do great things with him in whatever vocation He has for Chris and his family from here. His message was, basically, his heart. He shared with us his one wish for us as a congregation and as individuals. A desire for us not to just be healthy, successful, bold in our calling, but to desire more of God and His Word. I have no idea if he, at some point, used the phrase, "I want you to want to DIG IN to God and His Word", but I do know somewhere in what he said the word 'DIG' came to me loud and clear. 

Since that day I've been pondering (see what I did there? :) ) the purpose of such a word. I've asked my friends on Facebook what phrase comes to mind when they hear the word 'Dig' and I've googled images of all sorts of combinations. Here are a few of my favorites and the searches I used for them:

As I've stated - these are simply images from the Google search I did for Dig. I have nothing to do with the content or purpose of any of the images, they simply appealed to me in my quest to unearth this crazy word. If you'd like to see them, you can click on the heading right there and it will take you to the image search (safe search is on for me!!)

(As you can see, I'm a huge Tigger fan! If you like these, you'll probably like this site: Tiggerman)

Then I decided to search for Dig In

Then....inspired by the "Keep Calm" picture above, Dig Deep

Ah! Now I felt like we were getting somewhere! There are so many more....some great blogs I'll simply tag onto the end of this, but for the sake of keeping focus and not digging in too deep to pictures while forgetting to ponder the reason for this word, I'll get back to it....

I asked God what phrases He wanted me to know for this word. WHY was this my word for 2015? The three phrases I googled were the first to come to mind and I thought about them as they relate to me. To be honest, I'm a wimp. I *want* to be a runner, but I have exercise-induced asthma, so I can easily talk myself out of pushing myself through the burn to the victory. I *wanted* to be an opera singer when I was younger, but spending time in the practice room meant missing time with my friends, so I ended up memorizing lengthy arias in foreign languages the night before big auditions. I *want* a clean and organized home where I am able to pursue my creativity AND have people over whenever we want, but I get overwhelmed when I see just how much needs to be done to get there. The list goes on. I'm a wimp who thinks deeply, but lives in a pretty shallow mindset of self-discipline. This was the first idea that came to mind. 

The second was related to why I started this particular blog in the first place - my intense desire to open the Word of God to others. I LOVE GOD AND HIS WORD! My greatest desire is to encourage others to DIG IN to His Word and get to know the character of the Very One Who created them. I have to put off studying until I've gotten some housework done because I can literally spend the entire day unraveling passages and devouring their worth. This was a no-brainer. I need to DIG IN to God and get deeper in His Word this year. 

Then I asked friends and family what came to mind when they heard this phrase. My Aunt shared these thoughts: 
      Aunt Mary:  If manual labor - the movement of earth to create a hole

      Aunt Mary:  If internet research - it is going from down arrow to down arrow and clicking here and there and finding links to get to the desired information

Other friends came up with these: 
     "Personal spiritual growth.... Dig deep to remove those things that separate you from God."
     "Doctor Teeth"
     "Do ya dig it?"
     "A put down or to criticize"
     "Digs - as in my new digs"
     "Search harder for the right answer/explanation"
     "Liking something"
     "TLC's song 'diggin on you'..."
     "Hot diggity dog!"
     "I used to love playing Dig Dug!"
     "Dad bats dig Mom bats, and that's why there's wombats"
     "working in my garden, all I seem to do is dig out the weeds"

When asked my family while we were driving home from a friend's house they came up with these:
     "dig earth"
     "Dig a grave"
     "Dig! Dig! Dig!" (as in, what I yell to my boys while they're running from third to home or to the finish line in a race)

I know not every year will be a good year - that every year has ebbs and flows. I know, too, that it is very possible I may stand at the side of a grave this year, but when he said that my heart lurched. 

So, to end this rather randomized post, that is my word for the year. DIG. 

No matter what it is I'm digging into, deeper for, liking or dreading, I know this one thing for certain...

Digging into God and leaning into His everlasting arms will never fail me....or you. 

If you'd like to find your own One Word, you can find out more information from this site: Get One Word. It's the blog I found after popping up on that one idea this time last year, and there are great resources to help you unearth and dig up your Word for 2015. 

Here's a final picture, too, that happens to be the favorite of all I dug up...

...and the funniest...

Can ya dig it? 

Have a happy, healthy, and wonder-filled 2015!!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Nyla, the Shepherd's Daughter

Nyla, the Shepherd's Daughter

This is a fictional story. A story borne out of my desire to be standing next to the manger when my Savior was brought to earth in the form of a baby. The only way I could think to have that happen, since I'm a girl, would be to be a little girl whose biggest wish was to spend the day with her Father in the field with the sheep. Finally she got her chance and on that day the Angels came and told them about this newborn Baby King. (Scripture taken from the NLT version of the Christmas story found in the book of Luke)


"But Mama, whyyyyyyy can't I go? I'm really good at keeping an eye on things! Just this morning you asked me to keep an eye on Mara while you ran to the market, and when you got home you told me I did a great job! Pleeeeeeaaaaasssseeee, may I go to the field with Papa?" Nyla pled with her mother as they pulled the bucket up from the well. Her greatest desire was to spend time in the fields with her father, brothers, and uncles. I guess you could say she was the original tomboy.

Nine year old Nyla was Peter and Deborah's daughter. Peter was a Shepherd by trade. He cared for a flock of 800 sheep with his brothers, Dan, Paul, Isaiah and Jordan; his sons, Asher, Abraham and Benjamin, and a few men from the village who had become more than coworkers, but were much like family. She was always there to help with the sheep whenever she could. Shearing time meant carrying the wool in from the wagon to her mother and then joining her in spinning it into yarn to make the blankets they would sell in the marketplace. When a newborn lamb was in need of care she would often be asked to help care for it. She loved the sheep and lambs, but most of all she loved her Papa, and, contrary to cultural tradition, he adored her, too.

Peter knew it wasn't right to let his daughter think she could do the things the boys could do. It would not be helpful to her when she got older and got married, that's for sure. She would be too much like the man she married if he wasn't careful. He couldn't help it, though! She was such a hard worker and, unlike his sons at times, she had a gentle connection with the sheep that made it easier on all of them when they needed to calm the herd down. As much as he hated to admit it, she, of all of his children, was the natural shepherd. Surely Jehovah created her that way for a reason, right? What would it hurt to have her join them in the fields this time? His mind was made up, he'd talk to Deborah about Nyla coming with them for the next trip out.

"OH, Papa!! THANK YOU! thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!! I'll be the hardest worker out there, just you wait and see!"

Nyla had just been told she would be coming with the men to the fields for the next few weeks. She was thrilled beyond belief! SHE was going to the fields! Little did she know, though, that she was in for a lot more than spending time doing what she loved to do. Her life was about to be changed in a way she had never dreamed.


"That Nyla sure is a hard worker, Peter" Dan said to his brother. "Now I know why you wanted to let her come with us. It was a good decision. Jehovah help her future husband, though!" The men all laughed at Dan's joke and nodded in agreement.

Nyla was thoroughly enjoying every task she was given by her father, uncles and brothers. Every day she spent in the fields was like confirmation that she was to be a shepherdess. She dreaded the day when she would have to marry and become a wife and mother who stayed home and cared for the house, kids and chores. She was made to be in the fields caring for the sheep and reveling in the wonder of the world around her.

There were times, when she had night duty, that she would sit and stare at the stars above her. She would recall the scriptures her father had read saying the heavens declare His majesty and knew it to be true. Being a ways outside of Bethlehem, in the stillness of the night with just the bleating of the sheep to remind her she was not the only being on earth, she couldn't help but sit in awe of Jehovah G-d. Her family took the Torah seriously. Jehovah was very real to her. She wondered about the Messiah sometimes, too, asking the sky if it would happen in her lifetime. Would she know Him when He came?

Maybe it was Herod.

NO! He was so mean! So full of himself. Certainly not the kind of servant-leader the Messiah would be.

Nyla sighed and prayed in her heart that she would recognize the Messiah when he came. A sheep bleated then and pulled her out of her revery, back to the task at hand.


They were all standing around the fire when it seemed the sky burst into flame. It was so bright! What on earth??? Not one of them remained standing for long as they fell to their knees in fear. These men (and one little girl) who were to be brave in the midst of danger were kneeling with hands up to shield their eyes when they heard the voice.

"Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

The men (and one little girl) slowly stood up and murmuring of questions could be heard as they wondered what the angel meant. They didn't stand for long, though, as they fell to their knees again seeing a vast choir of angels join the one who had spoken. They burst into song like none they had ever heard before.

“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Nyla knelt with the others, her eyes wide and her mouth hung open. The Messiah? THE Messiah? Really? But the angel said he was a, a, a BABY. The Messiah was a baby? He was supposed to be a King, but how would a baby save the world?

She finally realized the angels were gone and her father, uncles and brothers were talking about going to Bethlehem to see this newborn baby. She needed to keep on task! She wasn't about to miss this opportunity!!!


None of them had stopped talking about the angel's visit and discussing what they might find when they got to the city. It would be so crowded with the city jam-packed full of everyone there for the census. How would they find Him?

Nyla was too small to be noticed by the men, so she simply walked along with them looking up and talking to Jehovah in her heart.

"Oh, Jehovah! How incredible my life is in You! First I get to spend time in the fields doing what I love, and now I'm on my way to meet the Messiah! Who am I that my life is so blessed by You? What a surprise, too, to be told the Messiah isn't actually a grown man, but a baby! A BABY! Ah, will Your creativity never end? A nine year old girl made to be a shepherdess, and a Savior born like all of us. Like each star I see in the heavens Your ability to catch us off guard never ends."


"Father! Look! Behind that inn. There seems to be a glow coming from the barn. Could that be? The angel did say the baby would be in a manger. Isn't that strange, Father? That the Messiah would be born in a barn and laid in a trough the animals eat out of?"

"That is strange, indeed, little Nyla. However, we must remember what Jehovah tells us in the Holy Scriptures - His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He will never cease to amaze us in the ways He works if we just keep our eyes open looking for Him at work. Let's go see what that glow is all about."

So Nyla and her father, uncles and brothers walked toward the barn behind the Bethlehem Inn to see what this strange glow was. As they drew nearer they noticed the animals seemed to be unusually quiet and, was it possible they were....reverent? A hush seemed to encompass the barn. A holy hush. The city bustled about, but as they drew closer it was as if the sounds melted away like the snow from their clothing when they came down from the hills.

Nyla couldn't help herself. She started to walk faster and faster until she nearly ran to the door of the barn to peek inside. What she saw was breathtaking!

Laid in the manger - the very place from where the animals ate - was a bundle of cooing newborn. His mother was beside him, and his father on the other side. Cows, sheep, donkeys and other barn animals surrounded them. They all faced the manger, too, as if they knew this baby wasn't just a baby.

As Nyla stood transfixed the baby's mother (the Messiah has a mother?!) looked up and smiled.

"Come, little one. Meet your Jesus."

Nyla started. Did she say "your Jesus"? MY Jesus? Yes. Yes, she knows that this baby isn't hers, but ours. Our World's Messiah. She knows.

Slowly Nyla made her way to the manger where the human form of her Heavenly Messiah lay. She could not stop the tears from rolling down her cheeks. She could not help that her hand reverently reached out to hold the hand of the very One who had come to earth to save the world. She could not have stopped herself from kneeling if she had tried. This. This baby was a KING. He wasn't just a newborn child, but He was a Savior - a Messiah - sent to earth from God.

There was no stopping the others, either. As they knelt in reverent worship of a baby they knew was their Savior, the baby's Mother and Father looked on in awe. How did they know? How did they know to find them here?

Of course they knew. They themselves were visited by angels, why would Jehovah keep this child a secret?

As Nyla knelt she felt a hand on her head and looked up. Mary, the baby's mother, had gently laid her hand on Nyla's hair, and she had the sweetest look of contentment on her face. Nyla knew the angel was surely sent from Heaven to bring them to this place. She knew, too, that her life would never be the same. Not only would she be a shepherdess, but she would be a storyteller to anyone who would listen. She would tell all she could about the night her life was changed. The night she met and held hands with the Messiah

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Sinful Woman's reflection on a Woman of Righteousness

Luke 1:26-38 NLTIn the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you! ” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail. ” Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

I don't want to, nor can I, personalize this as if I were Mary and can relate to what was going on inside. When I was younger I faced a pregnancy as a single woman, but that was the result of my sin. Mary's pregnancy was the result of her virtue! Knowing my own experience I have to wonder, though, what went through her head. Did she wish God had chosen someone else at times? Did she have private conversations with Him when she wanted to hide in the covering and never come out? It was during my pregnancy that God got my attention and changed my life. Mary's life certainly changed, too. One day I was reading Mary's account of being told she would have a child, and I remembered my own experiences way back then. I will emphasize that I can in no way, shape or form, know what it would be like to be held up as virtuous enough to carry the Son of God. However, the responses of others and the weight of those nine months are something that got me thinking....Did Mary's prayer life go something like this?...
Did she say to Him, "My Lord, You are my Yeshuah, and I give You praise. But, OH, ABBA! Why me? I am a simple woman who loves Your law, but who am I to carry the Messiah?!? THE MESSIAH!! The One my people have talked about and waited for - why did You choose ME?"
I believer that could be a prayer of her heart, but what about the moment when she told Joseph? Was her prayer a bit different then?
"Oh, Abba! Father! El Berit! God of the Covenant! My Joseph is hurt and very upset that I am carrying this child! When I say He is the Child of God, our Adonai, I sound like the crazy woman who lives up the hill! WHY ME? WHY have You chosen me? Yahweh! Must I lose my Joseph and be alone so he Messiah may come? Yahweh-Shalom, I need Your peace! Yahweh-Jirah, I need Your provision. Help me trust You, Yahweh-Shammah. Calm my spirit - I trust You."
What about when the people have found out and think that she and Joseph (the "Barbie and Ken" perfect couple?) have been intimate before they were meant to be? The pain! The ridicule and the looks!!
Did her private prayers sound like, "OH. MY. ADONAI! My spirit aches and my heart is broken by the things being said by our "friends" and the people we come in contact with. Yahweh, I know, and Joseph knows, that it is The Messiah - Soter - Whom I carry, and our hope, trust and strength are all in You. Bolster my spirit that the painful things being said will not cut through. Adonai, I am Yours and I love Your law - turn my ears deaf to the words of condemnation and close my eyes to the looks of scorn. I'm so unworthy and weak. Why have You chosen me? Surely there are stronger, more capable women who could and would be a better choice! I am humbled, Abba, that You find me worthy. Give me the fortitude to continue to be so. El Shaddai - My El Shaddai - El Elyona, Adonai!"
My sin...your sin...she carried the weight of all of us in the form of a tiny baby for nine months. The saving grace is Jesus' death and resurrection, but please do not look over the miracle of Christmas and what was sacrificed for YOU and for me.
Any of these prayers could be. How awesome to have lived a life God saw as worthy to carry His SON! And how thankful I am for Mary to do so and bring MY Soter - My SAVIOR - into this earth in human form!!
He gave up streets of Gold to walk on paths of dirt so we can walk those streets of gold WITH HIM for eternity. Selah.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sing a Song of Christmas

I am a music teacher by trade and love all sorts of music. When I talk about music it comes from a place in me that was planted at birth and has been watered, fertilized and grown over the years by many other music lovers. Because of their hard work in me I have been able to sing in international choirs with people who know a handful of English phrases and whose language, I'm sorry to say, I knew even less of. There is a reason the phrase "Music is the international language" resonates so clearly with so many. So......today's post has a bit of a different twist because I'm choosing to focus on the music of this Christmas Season and not directly to a Bible passage. I hope I've proven my love for the Word of God, and that I encourage others to fall in love with the Author of our Souls through the sharing of that love, but sometimes I am overwhelmed in WONDER of our marvelous God when I learn the stories behind the songs of my favorite Season of the year.

Today I won't focus on a specific song, but rather on a defense and call for churches around the globe to get back to the practice of singing Christmas songs in their services during the season of Advent. I know many churches still do, but there is a general trend heading away from it "because it might offend or turn off some people seeking a place to connect." (or whatever other excuse they give...)

I need to stop for a moment and ask your forgiveness now because I can feel my heart starting to beat faster and my fingers are making silly mistakes because I can't type fast enough. I know this is a HUGE trigger issue for me. It aggravates me to no end that we water down a Christ-centered gathering so we don't offend visitors. Do we not realize that people come to a church because the world is watered down with so much stuff that they're looking for a place where the focus is clear and not apologized for? So, if this seems a bit too passionate, please look past the person to the heart.

Why do Apple users cling together so much in solidarity over a brand? Because it's clear and focused on one thing - Apple. It's not Android vs. Windows vs. Chrome vs. whatever (I'm not a name person, so please go with the idea of what I'm saying and not the specifics. Thank you.)

In-n-Out is famous all over and yet they only have restaurants on the West Side of our country. Why? Because they are focused and clear. You're not going to have to look at the menu and figure out if you want a hot dog, a gyro, a bowl of chili, a salad or a hamburger. You need to figure out what you want on your hamburger and how you want your fries (well done are best!).

So WHY can't the church get this message?????? Stop the marketing! Stop the madness of trying to remain focused by NOT singing Christmas music because Christmas music can be heard in every store, gas station, elevator and radio station outside the church!


NO Other time of the year does the world conform to what's going on in the church! At Christmas-time they do!!! Pentatonix released a new song this year - have you heard it? It's a beautiful rendition of "Mary, Did you Know?" WHAT???? A secular group singing a song asking the woman chosen to be the mother of our Lord, JESUS CHRIST, if she KNEW He was going to wha? SAVE. THE. WORLD!!!

In a world where people are seeking peace -
In a world where people are seeking grace -
In a world where people are seeking answers -
In a world where people are seeking what they cannot explain -

So, why aren't we singing these songs?

(caveat: in no way, shape or form am I condemning the singing of year-round worship songs in our services during Advent. I am, instead, saying Christmas songs ARE songs of worship, but they're not songs we would sing during, I don't know, April, so we need to sing them when we can!)

I've discovered over the years that we are losing out on the twice a year attender. No longer do families deem it necessary to attend a Christmas-Eve service or an Easter service. I've asked myself why and I've asked friends who are those people why....Christmas and Easter in the church meant CELEBRATING the very reason for those holidays.

In one church I attended we actually were given plastic eggs full of confetti to throw in the air at the end of the Easter service in celebration of the FACT that we serve a RISEN Savior. That was 16 years ago, and it still moves my soul every time I think of it. WHY, Christian, can't our faith be exciting and celebratory like that??? WHY can't our Christmas services throughout Advent take the opportunity to sing the songs everyone else is hearing everywhere else but the church service they decided to attend because that song by (insert secular artist who would never sing about Jesus but wants to release a "holiday" album to make guaranteed money here) reminded them that Christmas stirs something in them only found in a Christian Church?

If you're a church that doesn't sing Christmas songs, can you tell me why? I really believe you're missing out on a tremendous opportunity because if someone hears a song triggering the hole in them where Jesus knocks and they attend your service, but don't know any of the songs because you're singing mainstream worship songs they've never heard of, they won't be back.

I have friends who grew up in the church but no longer attend. During THIS SEASON of focusing on a baby sent to earth to save our world, they long for those days when their childlike wonder was fed by the lights, the decorations, the Advent candles, and the *songs* they sang with others who may not even (yet) know that Baby King. Is your church giving them the place to find that wonder? Are YOU celebrating the very fact that this baby came to earth from a place where houses are made of diamonds and streets are paved with gold? HE GAVE THAT UP and we're singing beautiful songs of worship, but missing out on the opportunity to bring JOY to the World on a Silent Night that Came Upon a Midnight Clear.

Jesus is the Reason for the Season, we've all said, read, or heard - so why don't we, the Church, boldly announce that WE have the ANSWER a weary soul is seeking....in the songs they already know? We can't make them comfortable by watering down the Gospel, but we can certainly make them comfortable by allowing them to nestle into the stable with the shepherds, the wise men, the sheep, cattle, barn mice and lowing cows as we gather around and sing about this O. HOLY. Night. when a  baby was born Away in a Manger.

Merry Christmas, reader! Enjoy this video of the Pentatonix song I mentioned above, "Mary Did You Know?"
If you'd like to listen to how Christmas music can be sung around the world, you can listen to my YouTube playlist I put together real quick right HERE. It's a compilation of secular artists, Christian artists, choirs, and people I've never heard of singing the songs we're familiar with (and some we're not) all around the world. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Advent 2014 - Zechariah

I was reading this morning the account of Zechariah In the first chapter of Luke. Luke was telling about when Zechariah took his turn in the Sanctuary to burn incense to God and was told he and his wife (both in very advanced years) would be expecting a child. There were a number of things that struck me throughout the passage. Here are a couple of them. Maybe they'll resonate with you, too.

1) In the Message version of the passage (Luke 1:8} it says Zechariah finally got his ONE TURN to serve in the sanctuary. The New Living Translation as well as the NIV says, "he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary..." and the KJV says, "...his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple...." The point made was that the high priests - the very people meant to be closest to God and chosen by Him - waited (patiently?) for their lot to be chosen so they could go to meet with Him.

HALLELUJAH!! We don't have to wait!! As believers in His Son, Jesus Christ - a baby born to a virgin, fully God yet fully Man, crucified for our sake; Risen to conquer the enemy of our souls -  WE DON'T HAVE TO WAIT!!!! We. ARE. in His presence - always. His spirit resides in us, and He is available to us without having to wait for our turn to arrive.

I don't know about you, but that's pretty much a WOOP! WOOP! moment in my morning!

2) This one is a bit more sobering. (God does that, doesn't He? It's akin to the "which do you want first? Good news or challenging news?") Picture Zechariah, an aged man. A man whose anniversaries number in the upper double digits. A man who has prayed since his wedding night that he and his bride would have the opportunity to be parents. Picture him in the sanctuary - igniting the flame to light the incense, humbled by the awesomeness of being alone in the inner sanctum of the very God he has devoted his life to, maybe quivering a bit with the grandeur of the task, and I can't help but wonder if his heart's silent prayer was "Lord? Do I really trust You? I've prayed for years a prayer You have not answered the way I want. I love You with everything in me, but can I trust You to care for me? I offer this incense as a sacrifice for the people I serve...I give You thanks and praise for all we have seen You do in our lives...I believe You are the One True God Who will not be explained, but can I trust You with my greatest desire?"

Picture yourself in that place.

Maybe you've been a believer for years  - maybe you're married to an unbeliever and you've been praying for their salvation since before you even said I do. Maybe you're in pain and have prayed for delivery for much longer than you thought you'd have to. What is your heart's silent prayer? As you serve Him, worship Him, share Him with others - what would you NOT be saying out loud for fear that someone may call you a hypocrite (or worse yet, you find that He isn't who you say He is)?

Gabriel appears.

Do you see that? GABRIEL APPEARS! An ANGEL! Not Roma Downey with special effects, GABRIEL!!! Do you think Zechariah's heart stopped? Just a little? I know when I'm focused on a task and my husband walks into the room and suddenly appears before me my heart stops - and he doesn't glow! Imagine Gabriel appearing where no one other than the High Priest is supposed to be! The passage says Zechariah was paralyzed with fear. A completely understandable reaction. However, after he hears what Gabriel says to him you'd think he was talking to his, I don't know, brother-in-law or something! I'd like to think my eyes would be wide open, my ears equally so and I'd defintely take the time to listen to what is said.

Zechariah listened...but then he doubted what this miraculously appearing, brilliant and beautiful being sent straight to him from God Himself had to say to him.

I'm a bit disappointed in Zack here. Really? AN ANGEL JUST SPOKE TO HIM and he's saying, "hahaha - yeah, right."???? Seriously?

But that's the sobering part.

I've done that.

I've doubted God's Word. I haven't had a brilliantly clothed being from heaven appear before me and whisper sweet somethings in my ear, but I've read and "heard" Him speak to my heart.

And I've doubted what He said.

Have you?

Y'know, the whole process is pretty familiar. Zechariah looks forward to spending time with God in the inner sanctuary of the temple - we look forward to spending time with God when we go to Church, during our quiet time, when we go on retreat. Zechariah believes in God - we believe His Word and have chosen to place our trust in Him. Zechariah approaches the altar with expectation - we open God's Word expecting to be taught, changed, made better. We are not that different from Zechariah.

We even doubt, don't we?

I have my own stuff I'm processing through with God about the challenge and triumph this passage is, but that's for me to work through with God. You have your stuff, too, so I'll let you go there with God. In your processing, though, ask Him to reveal to you what you're not trusting Him with. What are your silent heart prayers? This will take time - it's possible He will reveal it to you in a flash, but I've also seen Him take a longer time with the answer (usually I've seen that because to reveal it right away would be like cutting open a cocoon for a butterfly to fly free. You'd be free, but not strong enough in your faith to withstand the attacks of our soul's enemy).

So, are you willing to turn the Zechariah in you around? Take time each day to notice Him - to notice God's creativity and work in your life. I personally lay out a challenge to find 15 minutes of absolute quiet (no distractions - mute your phone, turn off the radio, have a pad of paper and pen beside you where you can write down what items on your to-do list try to distract you so you can get back to focusing on God) and just listen. It takes practice - don't beat yourself up because you don't quiet down immediately. It's taken me  a lot of years to train my A.D.D. mind to quiet itself so I can hear my Father's voice.

We are capable of turning the Zechariah around and, instead, being an Elizabeth who says, (my paraphrase) "huh. so THIS is how You do it? Alrighty then. Let's go!"

Here is the text from the Message version (sometimes I like to read it in this version so my thinker doesn't have to work so hard on what's being said and can instead focus on what it's saying). If you'd like to read it in another version you can go here and choose another translation.

Luke 1:1-25 MSG

So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught.

During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.

It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering.

Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear. But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God.

“He’ll drink neither wine nor beer. He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”

Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”

But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time— God’s time.”

Meanwhile, the congregation waiting for Zachariah was getting restless, wondering what was keeping him so long in the sanctuary. When he came out and couldn’t speak, they knew he had seen a vision. He continued speechless and had to use sign language with the people.

When the course of his priestly assignment was completed, he went back home. It wasn’t long before his wife, Elizabeth, conceived. She went off by herself for five months, relishing her pregnancy. “So, this is how God acts to remedy my unfortunate condition!” she said.