Gifts

Love Came Down at Christmas

Love Came Down at ChristmasSo the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

~John 1:12-14

I love the Gospel of John. Before I had the Holy Spirit to guide me, it seemed confusing and repetitive. Now I can read it and see the beautiful Truth it reveals: Jesus is the bridge between God and this world – He was in the beginning when all of Creation was made through him; He was when He took on flesh and came into our world as an atonement for our sin and the means by which we could be reconciled with God; and He will be again when He comes back to end this age and make all things new once again, including us. He is literally the beginning and the end of our story – the Alpha and the Omega (or A to Z in English).

And that story is a Love Story. God created the world and everything in it to delight His children. God IS love and He wanted to be loved, as we all do. He shared His Divine Wisdom on the best way for us to be happy and content, but disobedience and sin entered the world and broke our relationship. He sent punishments for sinfulness. We continued to disobey. He sent rules for us to follow to bring us back to Him, but we kept on breaking them. He sent Prophets to warn us of the consequences of continuing to choose our own rebellious ways, but we ignored them and killed them and suffered those consequences.

Finally, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16. Of course, we killed him. But – plot twist – that was actually God’s plan all along! We THOUGHT we killed Him, but no…. Actually, He gave His life willingly, taking on the punishment for our sin, so that we could be made holy and once again be in communion with God, not just here on earth, but also in Heaven for eternity. “God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.” ~2 Corinthians 5:5. Not just God WITH us, but God IN us! His Holy Spirit comes and lives in us and keep us on the right path, continually renewing our minds and transforming us little by little into the likeness of Jesus.

What is Jesus like? Well, if you’re asking that, then get to know Him better by reading the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Listen to His words, meditate on His actions. Learn to recognize the voice of your Shepherd and Master! But here’s a quick start guide – Jesus is the embodiment of the Fruits of the Spirit which the Holy Spirit is continuously prompting us to exhibit: LOVE, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23).

God IS love. And God came down at Christmas to teach the world what Love is: joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. True Love is sacrifice: we give our time, our talents, our thoughts, our effort for others – our family, our spouse, our church, our community, our country, our world. We no longer live to please ourselves, but to please God by serving others, by repaying evil with kindness, by repaying injustice with forgiveness, by replacing curses with encouragement and anxiety with hope. Love is allowing Jesus to shine in us and through us to bring light and life into the hearts of those walking in darkness.

At this point I realize that what I really want to say would be quoting from one of my favorite Christmas Hymns, and since it says it (sings it?) much more eloquently than I, I’ll leave you with the last two verses to ponder:

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Author: Phillips Brooks (1868)

3 How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him, still
the dear Christ enters in.

4 O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray,
cast out our sin and enter in,
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Immanuel!

With Love,

Jen


Hope is an Anchor

Hope is An Anchor

Last month we had the good fortune to visit New England. As we passed through the southern coast of Maine, we just happened to pass by York Harbor Beach, and it was so stunning we had to go back and check it out. It turned out to be a cliff-side park with picture perfect views of the rocky Maine coast. To my surprise, it also featured this monument with a line from one of my favorite hymns, ‘Eternal Father, Strong to Save.’

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Of course, it was Maine, inhabited for centuries by sea-faring folks in search of cod, lobsters, whales and more. And we had just been visiting a lighthouse so common along the rough, rocky shoreline. So, I suppose it makes perfect sense that ‘peril on the sea’ would be a common concern.

For so much of human history the oceans and seas were mysterious, dangerous and uncontrollable.  It was probably rather common for those who ventured out to be ‘lost at sea.’ So, it’s not surprising that in the Bible the sea tends to represent something wild and uncontrollable (by everyone but God, that is).

James 1:5-6

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Ephesians 4:14-15

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Both of these verses use the sea metaphor. Doubting our faith, lacking wisdom and spiritual maturity can leave us vulnerable to being ‘tossed by the waves and wind.’ What is the remedy? Our faith in God’s promise that whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish but have eternal life! That hope is an anchor!

Hebrews 6:19-20

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.

We're all in peril on the seas of life sometimes. We all get rocked by strong winds and blown off course now and then. But our faith in God’s promise and vow that belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior will bring us safely into a Heavenly Harbor one day, is a strong and trustworthy anchor. The fiercest storms on the surface of the ocean don’t affect the deep ocean floor where our anchor is secured.

Hold on tight to that precious anchor, our ‘blessed assurance.’ We don’t know when the storms will roll in. And when they do, we’ll be tempted to call out to Jesus like his disciples did, asking ‘don’t you care if we drown?’ He may not calm the storms in your life, but He can calm the storm in you. Find peace in the assurance of your salvation. Find peace in God’s promise never to leave or forsake you. Find peace knowing that no one can snatch you out of God’s hand (John 10:28-30).

And on this Veteran’s Day, I am reminded that ‘Eternal Father, Strong to Save’ is also the U.S. Navy Hymn.  Let us pray the prayer of the final verse for every member of our military:

O Trinity of love and pow'r,
Your children shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire, and foe,
Protect them where-so-e'er they go;
Thus, evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Oceans of Blessings,

Jen 




Dry Bones

Bear BonesThen he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” ~Ezekiel 37:4-6

God is in the RESURRECTION business. This may be one of the most difficult phenomena for us to wrap our heads around, because it just seems so unusual, so unlikely, so impossible…and that’s the point! Only God can do the impossible, so when we see the impossible, we can have faith and know it is Him.

It might be more correct to say that God is in the LIFE business. God has been giving life since the beginning -- angels, plants, animals, mankind. He breathes life into dirt and makes man, into dry bones and makes armies, into deserts and makes gardens, into barren wombs and makes families – and He can breathe life into you: your hopes and dreams, promises you thought passed you by, broken relationships….

Of course, the real miracle is not life, but ETERNAL LIFE. The Bible actually includes a bunch of resurrections by Elijah, Peter, Paul and Jesus, and one ‘accidental’ one by Elisha after he was dead!

Once when some Israelites were burying a man, they spied a band of these raiders. So they hastily threw the corpse into the tomb of Elisha and fled. But as soon as the body touched Elisha’s bones, the dead man revived and jumped to his feet! ~2 Kings 13:21

All those lucky people eventually did die again. But Jesus rose glorified to eternal life. By that miracle we all, through faith, have access to eternal life in Heaven in perfect, glorified bodies.

Without Jesus, we seem to have life, but in reality, we are just ‘dead men walking,’

“And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. ~John 5:25-26

Without being alive in the Spirit we miss out on the resurrection power that flows through all believers. And yes, we have access to that power:

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. ~Ephesians 1:19-20

So, as you pass the skeleton and skull displays this season, think of them as a positive reminder of your mortality. Yes, we’re just dry bones now, but in Christ, those dry bones are rattling! God’s resurrection power has given us new life! We are born again by the Spirit, and we will live the next life for eternity!

Blessings,

Jen Jahromi

 


Unique Sheep

Unique SheepHere I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. -- Revelation 3:20

It’s been 25 years since I begged Jesus to come into my heart and straighten out the mess of my life. He absolutely did that, and I am eternally grateful. Of course, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing since then. Lately I’ve been feeling like the wind has gone out of my sails. But as I was working at my art desk this week, listening to a random playlist of soft hits of the 60's and 70’s, the music of my childhood, I started really noticing the lyrics of my favorite songs. I have to say it was one of those nudges that Robyn described, when you know the Holy Spirit is asking you to take notice. And I know it was, because all these songs played in succession in way that really put an exclamation point on the message.

I don’t know how familiar you are with these songs, so I’ll try to describe them, but I recommend giving them a listen because they’re just great classic songs. And they really are favorites that I know by heart. First up was Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence with its overtly religious language and references. Then came my all-time favorite sing-along, with the Mamas and Papas stopping in a church to pray while they were California Dreamin. Up next was Rocky Mountain High where John Denver was “climbing cathedral mountains” and “talking to God and listening for the casual reply.” Then came the Byrds’ Turn, Turn, Turn straight out of Ecclesiastes, and Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens which has been a hymn since before he made it a hit – it’s in our hymnal. Now that I had stopped drawing and was fulling engaged in listening and singing along, Anne Murray’s You Needed Me came on. As my brain accessed the lyrics that I hadn’t sung in decades, I realized that this song is just a straight-up love song to Jesus. Her heartbreakingly beautiful voice brought forth the Holy Spirit’s message to me: “You were far from me, you hadn’t even heard of me, but I was there, in your life, planting these seeds of faith in your heart, even when you were just a child. You thought it was a coincidence that all these songs that referenced God, Christianity and faith just happened to hold special appeal to you? Nope, it was me knocking at the door to your heart. I’ve been with you all along, and I still am, right now.”

I hope you have these small moments of personal messages from Jesus. He always knows what to say. I was not a popular kid in school. I was an only child and I spent way too much time in my head pondering, imagining and daydreaming. I was marching to the beat of a very different drum. I often felt unnoticed, overlooked and left out. So, for Jesus to send a musical message that He was there waiting for me, even in those early days was really soothing to my soul. And it was powerful to realize He’s still with me now. I need to lean on Him now.

To be fully known is a wonderful thing. To be accepted unconditionally is so freeing. So much of my life I seemed to be going in a different direction than my peers. I was on my own path, but I wasn’t happy about it. I just wanted to ‘fit in.’ Looking back, my biggest mistakes happened when I tried to ‘fit in.’ Jesus knows we are all ‘unique sheep.’ He created us with unique talents, unique skills, unique interests, unique temperaments. As sheep, our instinct is to huddle together and move as a herd. This keeps us safe from predators who want to pick off anyone who stands out from the crowd. But with Jesus as our Good Shepherd, we are free to go off and be unique, to show our true colors and talents without fear of prowling lions. As long as we are listening to His voice when he calls us away from the edge, or admonishes us not to stray, we can rest safely and trust that He will care for us.

Jesus knows who you are. He created you that way. He’s been behind you from the beginning, watching you make choices, struggle, fail and succeed. He’s been your biggest cheerleader and tenderest comforter. How far back on the sidelines of your life He stands is all up to you. He wants to be right in the race with you, carrying you when you stumble, pushing you to keep going when your strength seems gone, inspiring you to do the thing you think you can’t do. He knows you - all of you - and He loves you anyway. And He’s waiting for those moments when you are still and listening to tell you just how much! That’s music to my ears!

Blessings,

Jen


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


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