Gifts

My Light and My Salvation

My Light and Salvation TextThe sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

-- Isaiah 60:19

I love lighthouses – really a big fan. I like to look at them, climb up them, collect them, both in in-person visits and as dust-collecting tchotchkes. And I draw them. In fact, looking back at my illustrations, nearly all my beach ones have a lighthouse.

To me they seem a bit magical: a guardian, a beacon to show you the way. In fact, light itself is pretty magical. It is both a particle and a wave. Photons give light AND heat. Plants absorb it to give them life. And in humans, light helps regulate our moods. In concentrated form, it can cut through nearly anything (lasers) and it travels super-fast! In my science fiction imagination, light is somehow connected to love which is like The Force in Star Wars and binds us all together (I mean, God IS love and IS light…) And did you ever notice that God said “‘Let there be light’ and there was light” on Day 1 of Creation, but the Sun and Moon weren’t created until Day 4? Tell me that isn’t a little magical…

Well, I may be over-stating the case, but God comparing Himself to light makes a lot of interesting and educational analogies:

Light casts out darkness. You can’t turn down the darkness, you have to turn up the light. Darkness is merely the absence of Light, just as Evil is merely the absence of Good. When you turn up the light, darkness and all the sin that happens there flees. Those who do their evil deeds in the dark just hate it when goodness and light shows up. God is Goodness and Light. And he asks us to be just that in the world.

Light guides and saves us. The original lighthouse had to be that pillar of fire God used to lead and protect the Hebrews as they escaped Egypt. For 40 years the Israelites had a Heavenly night-light to show them where to go, and to keep danger away. For most of naval navigation, lighthouses brought sailors safely to shore or kept them safely away from rocky dangers. Similarly, God guides us and warns us and protects us from danger -- if we heed the warning.

Light gets brighter the more it is reflected. If you get to the top of the lighthouse, you will likely see one or two giant rotating reflectors that take a relatively small light and magnify it into a light that can be seen for miles. We have no light of our own. In our natural state we are cold and dark like the moon, but like the moon, we can reflect the light of the Sun/Son and shine it brighter and farther - from the little corner we’re in on out to a darkening world.

The way even the littlest light brightens a room is amazing. At our candlelight service on Christmas Eve we light the entire sanctuary just with our individual candles. And the original light is not diminished one bit by the next person taking some and passing it on. This is obviously God’s plan. He is the tall tower of light and salvation, protecting us and guiding us, and we absorb the light, ridding us of darkness, and reflect that light on out into the world drawing more and more people toward that light and salvation, to find comfort in its awesome warmth.

Blessings of warmth, light and love to you,

Jen Jahromi

My Lighthouse by Rend Collective


Joy Comes With the Morning

Joy Comes in with MorningSing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
~Psalm 30:4-5


“Hang On, Baby, Friday’s Comin’!” Do you remember that iconic 70’s poster with the kitten clinging to a branch? We all know what it’s like to hang on, hang in, keep it together just a bit longer because relief is on the way. Often it seems so much easier to keep on keeping on when the end is in sight. That burst of energy you get when you see the finish line coming up. Or for me, the final hard push when I can see I’m almost to the scenic panorama at the end of hike. I’m always amazed at how much there is ‘left in the tank’ when I think I’ve pushed myself to my limits. Truly, hanging on a bit longer is possible.


But what about when the end is NOT in sight? How many hikes have I been on when I kept telling myself the mountaintop was just around this next bend, only it wasn’t. Nor the next one or the one after that either. Is this the right trail? Should I check the map? Should I just call it quits and go back?


In the Bible, God frequently calls His followers to step out in faith with no clue as to what will happen, only that the result will be good. Abraham and Isaac, Moses and the Red Sea, Joshua and the Jordan River, Gideon, Virgin Mary, Peter and those fishing nets… It takes a lot of faith to trust God for a happy ending when everything looks mighty desperate or downright impossible. But I have seen the impossible become possible more than a few times. God can make a way when there seems to be no way. And in my experience, the outcome is more unexpected and better than anything I could have planned.


Here are a few stories of God’s goodness to us when we were desperate and helpless but hopeful:

  • After two years of being illegal immigrants in Spain, there was one final opportunity to get to America – apply as refugees through the Red Cross. The downside? If turned down, all other options were off the table and deportation to Iran was imminent. As the family waited in line, they were overheard by a nun. This nun in Madrid had worked closely with their priest and friend in Barcelona who was sponsoring them. She took extra time to review their case. In the end, they were one of the few families accepted!

 

  • As the city schools were failing, a plan was made to send the kids to Hereford Zone schools using the grandparents’ address. The plan was to return home to the city each evening. However, after the first month it became apparent that the grandparents’ health had been deteriorating and they were not able to take care of themselves without help. The ‘just for school’ plan became a permanent ‘relocation’ plan. The blessings were many. The city home was sold above list price rescuing us from near bankruptcy. The grandfather’s health deteriorated much more quickly than anyone predicted and he passed away just over a year later. By living together, his grandkids were able to spend more precious time with him, and grandma was supported through her loss and grief and also her deteriorating health.

 

  • Out of the blue police showed up at the door saying our son had been charged with a crime in Texas, although he had never been there. He had supposedly violated a new internet law they had just passed. They wanted to extradite him. By the grace of God a deal was made to take him ourselves. A criminal attorney was required which was ridiculously expensive. By the grace of God, a check from an Aunt’s estate arrived the next day in the exact amount needed. After several nervous and heart wrenching months, the law was overturned as unconstitutional which also allowed the whole matter to be expunged from the records.

 

Weeping may last for the night, but JOY comes in the morning. Enduring is hard. Not knowing is hard. Trusting is hard. And all the endings aren’t happy ones. But God has an amazing, supernatural way of weaving together the broken pieces of hopes and dreams and making a newer, better reality with them. He may turn you down a different path, a longer path, perhaps a harder path, but in the end, the destination will surpass what you had planned.


I’ve seen it with my own eyes. These are just a few of the stories. “All I have needed His hand has provided.” His faithfulness has been Great. And because I am sure of this down to my bones, I am also sure that He will work all things to our good in our future. I am not adventurous, I’m not a risk taker. I’m a planner, measuring out the cost/benefit of every situation before I make a move. Trusting my future to God with no clue how it will turn out is a challenge. But then I remember that, doing a cost/benefit analysis, what cost would ever be too much in doing God’s will? Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. And what benefit could there ever be that would be better than the plans Almighty God has for me – plans to prosper me and give me hope and a future? There’s a bet you can’t lose! God wants to bless us more than we want to be blessed – more than we could dare to ask or imagine!


So, hang on, Baby! JOY is comin’!

~Jen



Kind Words Are Like Honey

Kind Words Like HoneyWe are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. ~2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Many of our Devotional writers have admitted to feeling worn out and beat up after this long time of adjusting to life during COVID. I second that emotion. And what’s worse, just as the vaccinations arrived and the masks were on their way out and life hinted at a glimmer of normalcy, my family’s life took an unforeseen turn into the Valley. Unexpected difficulties, unexpected houseguests, unexpected breakdowns and repairs, unexpected medical issues, unexpected expenses coupled with other expected expenses and situations that are just up in the air and cannot be resolved quickly or easily have combined to create a stress swamp that we are just trudging through every day with no foreseeable end in sight. We are really feeling pressed, perplexed, persecuted and ‘beat up.’

I don’t do stress well. There seem to be a lot of Type A people out there who conquer every challenge and zip around from appointment to appointment and ‘get ‘er done.’ I admire that, but that is not me. More than 1 or 2 appointments, big projects or a long to-do list can put me in a tailspin. In those times I resort to ‘one week at a time’ mode. I focus on just the priority items that must be done that week. I break the big projects in pieces and keep lists. I’ve been in ‘one week at a time’ mode for more than a year now. Lately, it’s been ‘one day at a time.’ Jesus was certainly right in saying that ‘each day has enough trouble of its own!’ (Matthew 6:34) Frankly, I’m exhausted. I’m not crushed or in despair, but they are following a little too closely, circling like vultures.

If you aren’t currently feeling this, then I’m sure you have, or you will. Unfortunately, it’s the human condition to experience hard times, low times, stressful times, confusing times. It’s easy to feel under attack in these periods. And it could be that you are on Satan’s radar. Spiritual attacks are real and usually accompany the physical difficulties. It’s easy to be crushed or fall into despair, to feel abandoned and alone. Like a wounded animal, you may want to lash out or hide away to ‘lick your wounds.’ But resist this temptation. These hard times are exactly why God put you in a family and church family!

What you need is encouragement! You need those kind words to wash over you and bring healing to soul and spirit. I’m certain that kind, caring words from others stimulate your brain somewhere, like social media likes, flooding your brain with happy chemicals which probably make your body feel better for a time too. I see far too many people suffer in silence and go through things alone when what they really need is a team of encouragers sending notes, listening, praying and putting things into perspective. Sometimes, just having someone remind you of God’s many promises to be with you always, of his abounding love, or of his amazing ability to make a way when there seems to be no way, can really bring relief. It’s easy to get ‘tunnel vision’ or ‘valley vision’ when you are struggling through that valley of the shadow. When someone reframes your problem, or helps you to see it from God’s perspective, or even just reminds you that He knows more about your issue and has more resources to resolve it than you can ever imagine, it can open a window of possibilities and blessings that you couldn’t see before.

Being an encourager is a high calling. It’s easy to be cynical and critical, but it is much harder to play Pollyanna’s ‘Glad Game’ and find something positive in every situation. There really is always something to be thankful for, but you may need others to help you find it. I like to hold on to any thank you notes I receive. In these times when I am running out of ‘spiritual gas,’ re-reading these notes and emails filled with kind words, or even just acknowledging that there are some friends and family who cared enough to write them, is a true boost.

And if you, like me, can use a few kind words, here you go: If you are reading this devotional, then I can guarantee that there are some people in this church family who love you, who are praying for you, and care about whatever you are dealing with or going through. If you need a hug, or a chat over coffee, or someone to pour your heart out to, just ask! Linda, our office secretary is a real prayer warrior and is always happy to give a listen. I, myself, would be happy to listen to any troubles that aren’t my own! Our church is full of sympathetic hearts. It’s okay to unburden yourself and lean on others for a time, enjoying the sweetness and healing of kind words and loving hearts. After all, Jesus himself likened the church to a hospital where broken spirits are bound up, mended and restored. Hang in there, God goes before us and follows us and places his hand of blessing on our heads. (Psalm 139:5).

Blessings,

Jen Jahromi


He Lifted Them Up and Carried Them

    Balloon USAAnd he became their Savior.

In all their suffering he also suffered,

    and he personally rescued them.

In his love and mercy he redeemed them.

    He lifted them up and carried them

    through all the years.

-- Isaiah 63:8-9

I love America. I can’t sit through the American Adventure show at Disney’s Epcot without my heart swelling in pride and overflowing into copious tears (click here to check it out). It takes me back to my childhood, when every year my Dad and I would pack up and head to the Towson Independence Day Parade. Banners waived, local politicians shook our hands, bands played Sousa marches and sirens blared. That patriotic feeling of pride in our freedoms was planted deep within my heart. And even learning about her flaws and blemishes in college only soured me temporarily because for all her mistakes and flaws, she’s still the best and freest country in the world, in my opinion.

The hubby and I read a lot of books on various episodes in American History. And the more we read, the more we are astonished at the obvious ways God blessed this country and intervened to direct our path. Like the stubborn Israelites, we have at times rejected God, turned our backs on His mission and even denied His Lordship.  But despite our revisionist history, I think it is fair to say that we are a Christian nation. It was the love of Christ and desire to serve Him freely that brought the pilgrims to our shores. It was the belief that all people have inherent value and rights bestowed by God that underpinned our Declaration of Independence and later Constitution. It was our belief that God created us for good works that led us to grow our country with hard work and enterprise. It was our conviction that enslavement of other humans was repugnant that led to the election of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. It was our faith that evil can only be conquered by Good that led us to go to war for freedom around the world. Oh yes, I know that many of these ideals were corrupted by greed, lust for power and other ulterior motives. Just read the Bible and any history book to see that it has always been that way. Nevertheless, this county was founded and built to a great extent by people of faith seeking to serve God and serve others as freely as possible.

God has lifted us up and carried us through all the years. You may say that things look a little bleak right now. You may question whether God has lifted his loving hand of protection from us. You may feel that our beloved ideals are being twisted and trampled and the very freedoms that led the Pilgrims to venture to these shores in the first place are the ones most under attack. That may well be. Let’s face it, Jesus promised us troubles and persecution in this world. But He overcame the world, and we must too! This isn’t a time for hand-wringing, this is a time for sleeve rolling, and bootstrap pulling – and knees bending in prayer! Never has America needed the salt and light of Christians more. Never has our culture strayed so far from Biblical principles of morality and holiness. Never have more Americans been ignorant of the Bible, and unaware of who Jesus is and what He has done for them. The ‘news’ programs argue over solutions this country’s problems, but we who know the power of Christ, know what the only lasting solution can be: being born again into the family of God through faith in Jesus.

As we celebrate our freedom and the many blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity, let us also resolve to be brave in our faith. Our country desperately needs our Good News of love, forgiveness and redemption. Take up the flag, but also take up the cross and confidently declare: ‘Imitate me as I imitate Christ!” 1 Corinthians 11:1.

Wishing you freedom and bravery,

Jen Jahromi


One Nation Under God

One Nation IndivisibleThere is one body and one Spirit. There is one hope in which you were called. There is one Lord and one faith and one baptism. There is one God. He is the Father of us all. He is over us all. He is the One working through us all. He is the One living in us all.

-Ephesians 4:4-6 NLV

I hope you will indulge me just a bit because this all came together in a way that makes me believe it is straight from the Lord.

Last year I made this illustration. Those are real kids with whom I went to school, and the reference photos were all taken around 1976. Now last month I was feeling the need to get a little funky, so I created a YouTube playlist of Stevie Wonder songs. And I heard the song “Black Man” from the album “Songs in the Key of Life” for the first time. This song was written in 1976 for the Bicentennial. I’ve listed the lyrics below but give a listen because it is one funky jam.

The song recognizes the achievements of men and women of various racial backgrounds for their contribution to our glorious country. What particularly struck me was how many of the people mentioned I had never heard of or knew little about. It surprised me because my generation was bathed in messages of unity. We were teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony with a Coke and a smile. Sesame street was fully integrated. Even the colors of Benetton were united. But history still belonged to the Great Men.

Perhaps there’s a lesson in that for us now. In the Bible, Old Testament and New, God continuously reminded His people to care for the ‘other’: the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, the poor. Over thousands of years God kept sending the message that His world was made for all men (and women) and yet we didn’t seem to grasp it. Maybe every generation has to re-learn this message. Personally, I’m fine with that. It’s a great message. It’s THE Christian message. Others may try to co-opt it or twist it to fit some new-fangled ideology. Don’t scoff or mock, just tell the next generation the truth: the enemy is never people, the enemy is sin and sinfulness. The only identity that really matters is the identity we have in Christ! Red or yellow, black or white all are precious in His sight. We are One Nation of humanity, Under God, Indivisible!

 

Black Man

by Stevie Wonder and Gary Byrd

 

First man to die for the flag we now hold high was a black man (Crispus Attucks)

The ground where we stand with the flag held in our hand was first the red man's

Guide of a ship on the first Columbus trip was a brown man (Pedro Alonzo Nino)

The railroads for trains came on tracking that was laid by the yellow man

We pledge allegiance all our lives to the magic colors, red, blue and white.

But we all must be given the liberty that we defend,

for with justice not for all men History will repeat again

It's time we learned this World Was Made for All Men

Heart surgery was first done successfully by a black man (Dr. Daniel Hale Williams)

Friendly man who died but helped the pilgrims to survive was a red man (Squanto)

Farm workers' rights were lifted to new heights by a brown man (Cesar Chavez)

Incandescent light was invented to give sight by the white man (Thomas Edison)

Now I know that the birthday of a nation Is a time when a country celebrates,

But as your hand touches your heart, remember we all played a part in America

to help that banner wave.

First clock to be made in America was created by a black man (Benjamin Banneker)

Scout who used no chart helped lead Lewis and Clark was a red woman (Sacagawea)

Use of martial arts in our country got its start by a yellow man (Yamashita Yoshitsugu)

And the leader with a pen signed his name to free all men was a white man (Abraham Lincoln)

It's time we learned this World Was Made for All Men.

God saved His world for all men: All people, All babies, All children, All colors, All races, This world's for you and me.

(call and response with children)

Who was the first man to set foot on the North Pole? Matthew Henson - a black man

Who was the first American to show the Pilgrims at Plymouth the secrets of survival in the new world? Squanto - a red man

Who was the soldier of Company G who won high honors for his courage and heroism in World War I? Sing Lee - a yellow man

Who was the leader of united farm workers and helped farm workers maintain dignity and respect? Caesar Chavez - a brown man

Who was the founder of blood plasma and the director of the Red Cross blood bank? Dr. Charles Drew - a black man

Who was the great American heroine who aided the Lewis and Clark expedition? Sacajawea - a red woman

Who was the famous educator and semanticist who made outstanding contributions to education in America? Hayakawa - a yellow man

Who invented the world's first stop light and the gas mask? Garrett Morgan - a black man

Who was the American surgeon who was one of the founders of neurosurgery? Harvey William Cushing - a white man

Who was the man who helped design the nation’s capital, made the first clock to give time in America and wrote the first almanac? Benjamin Banneker - a black man

Who was the legendary hero who helped establish the League of Iroquois? Hiawatha - a red man

Who was the leader of the first microbiotic center in America? Michio Kushi- a yellow man

Who was the founder of the city of Chicago in 1772? Jean Baptiste - a black man

Who was one of the organizers of the American Indian Movement? Denis Banks - a red man

Who was the Jewish financier who raised funds to sponsor Christopher Columbus' voyage to America? Luis de Santángel - a white man

Who was the woman who led countless slaves to freedom on the underground railroad? Harriet Tubman - a black woman

 

Blessings of Freedom to all,

Jen