Sifted Grain

Have you ever longed for words to express what a true friend means to you and find yourself speechless?

We spill out words all day long without a thought, so why the struggle. Maybe for fear the feelings won’t be mutual in return and your heart has been sifted grain to many times.

Even as I began to write this evening I can hear the coyotes howl in the dark woods near our home. It sends a shiver down ones spine to hear that noise especially when there seems to be a pack of them. I am thankful to be inside my warm home on this chilly evening, safe and comfortable in my corner office up in the loft. I believe that is the way good friendship is to be, a safe place, bringing comfort from those things that cause “shivers”.

Years ago I found a poem and it expresses well the words that often form in my thoughts but aren’t easily spoken.

Written by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik…(1826-1887)

“Friendship”

Oh, the comfort-
the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe
with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts,
nor measure words, but pouring them all out,
just as they are…
chaff and grain together;
certain that a faithful
hand will take
and sift them–
keeping what is worth keeping
and then with the breath
of kindness blow the
rest away…

Dinah had no idea when she penned this ageless poem more than 100 years ago that it would continue to bring comfort..

I am thankful for the Lord’s undying patience with me…as He continues to make the crooked places straight in my heart that I might reflect more of Him, able to be that “safe place” kind of friend..

Thankful for the “safe place” friends he has brought across my path and even thankful for the “not so safe” friends for they have taught me as well.

Christmas Night [part five]

Mary looks into the face of  the baby. Her son. Her Lord. His Majesty. She can’t take her eyes off him. Somehow Mary knows she is holding God. So this is he.

She remembers the words of the angel,”His kingdom will never end.” securedownload

She touches the face of the infant-God.  How long was your journey! 

[Mary’s Prayer that first Christmas night]

Heaven’s fairest child. Conceived by  divine grace… Sleep well… Sleep well. Bask in the coolness of this night bright with diamonds,  sleep well, for the heat of anger simmers nearby. Enjoy the silence of the crib, for the noise of confusion rumbles in your future. Savor the safety of my arms, for a day is soon coming when I cannot protect you.

Rest well, tiny hands. for though you belong to a king, you will touch no satin, own no gold. You will grasp no pen, guide no brush. No, your tiny hands are reserved for works more precious:

to touch a lepers open wound, to wipe a widow’s weary tear, to claw the ground of Gethsemane.

Your hands, so tiny, so tender, so white–clutched tonight in an infant’s fist. They aren’t destined to hold a scepter nor wave from a palace balcony. They are reserved instead for a Roman spike that will staple them to a Roman cross.

Sleep deeply, tiny eyes. Sleep while you can.

Lay still, tiny mouth. Lay still mouth from which eternity will speak. Tiny tongue that will soon summon the dead.

And tiny feet cupped in the palm of my hand, rest… For many difficult steps lie ahead for you. Rest,  tiny feet . Rest today so that tomorrow you might walk with power. Rest… For millions will walk in your steps.

And little heart…holy…pumping the  blood of life through the universe: How many times will we break you?  You’ll be pierced by the spear of our rejection. yet in that piercing, …your hands will be freed, your eyes will see justice, your lips will smile,and your feet will carry you home.

And there you’ll rest again– this time in the embrace of your Father.

[Excerpts from the book “God came near’  by Max Lucado]

I hope these stories have touched your heart as they have mine….. that the richness goes deep…bringing His truths ever more real….Merry Christmas to all…Love Connie

The First Christmas [part four]

There were paths leading from both sides of the inn down the side of the cliff. In front, as on the bow of a big ship, there was the entrance to the cave, which had been carved out a long time ago. Joseph paused to light his small lamp, then led the donkey inside. He turned to look at Mary, and saw she was in deep fatigue.087

The chalk of the road had powdered her face. She removed her veil, shook out her hair, and slid down off the animal. Her bones ached.

Joseph apologized. he said that he was sorry that there was no room for her, but she could see the crowds of people. He was ashamed he failed her in this hour. Mary studied her husband. She brought a tender smile to her face. He had not failed her; he had been good and tender and lawful..He hung his head and listened.

If it is the will of God, she said that His son should be born in a place like this, she would not question the wisdom of it. At the age of fifteen, she would undergo this trial alone, just as, some years later, her son would undergo his trial alone.

The animals watched in glistening-eyed silence, their breaths making small gray plumes in the gloom. She asked Joseph to build a fire, and fetch water from the goatskin. He collected clean straw and arranged the straw as a bed and placed his cloak over it. When the water was hot, he filled a jar, and brought it to Mary with some cloths. He asked her to name what he could do. She said to go outside and remain until she called him.

The fire outside burned brightly ..Joseph sat beside it, heating the water and praying.

No one came down from the inn to ask how the young woman felt.

Joseph had run out of prayers and promises. His face was sick, his eyes listless. He looked up toward the east, and his dark eyes mirrored a strange thing; three stars, coming over the mountains, were fused into one tremendously bright one. he wondered about it and was vaguely troubled by it when he heard a tiny, thin wail, a sound so slender that one had to listen again to make sure.

He wanted to rush inside at once. She would call him….. “Joseph.” It was a soft call, but he heard it. The first thing he noticed was his wife. Mary was sitting with her back against the manger wall. Her face clean; her hair brushed. She beckoned him closer. Joseph, mouth agape followed her to the little manger. In it were bolts of swaddling she had brought on the trip.

There, among the cloths, he saw the tiny red face of an infant. This , said Joseph to himself, is the one of whom the angel spoke. He dropped to his knees..This was the Messiah.

[Jim Bishop]   continued tomorrow…

The Arrival [part three]

148“Jerusalem,” Joseph said, pointing. The wonderment of what Mary saw caused her nausea to fade. Her eyes lost the glazed look. She had heard her father describe this place when she was a little girl.

Joseph opened his mouth to speak, but what his eyes saw paralyzed his tongue.

It was a thing to see. The late sun was ahead, across the hill behind Jerusalem. The city was a white jewel pronged by the great stone wall around it.

The sun would be gone in ten minutes and there was much to see because he could not stay in Jerusalem. His destination, Bethlehem, was still five miles to the south, but he did not mind the night walk if he could stop a moment and drink in all of this and remember it when he was old.

Softly, haltingly, Joseph found his voice and, as he drank in exquisite and almost fearful beauty, he began to tell the story to his wife. She knew the story as well as he, but listened dutifully, interjecting a word here and there. he reminded her he came of the family of David. [Jim Bishop]

Gray-blue smoke hung still in the sky over the temple. The last sacrifices of the day, the last baby lambs on the altar.

“Darkness is upon us,” said Mary. She had a feeling of foreboding.She wanted to proceed to Bethlehem for no other reason than she was trembling and the baby seemed unusually quiet.

It was soon night and moonless. Joseph trod slowly, stumbling on stones and wondering how much a man he would be if brigands sprang out of the dark. There was little traffic on the road; a few transients who lived near Jerusalem hurried by.

Something happened suddenly to Mary and she knew in a moment that this would be the night of the baby. Joseph was frightened. He knew nothing of these things.

‘I feel no pain, but we must find an inn.  The thinking Mary did about the events leading to this night was a kaleidoscope of happy and mysterious and supernatural.

The stretch of road into Bethlehem curved broadly and climbed steadily.To the left the valley was precipitous.  Four hundred feet below, the whistle of shepherds could be heard..

To Joseph’s dismay in the city of David multitudes of people were sleeping beside the road. He had not realized there were so many who belonged to the House of David.

The inn was to the left, built on a cliff of rocky soil overlooking the valley. Joseph went inside. The odors of the unwashed, and spiced foods, filled the place. he begged for a small private place for his wife, who was with child. The owner listened and threw up his hands. Where?  The owner became  irritable. The owner’s wife heard the plea and called her husband to side. [Jim Bishop]

There is a cave below where the animals are kept.  You are welcome to it. Joseph inclined his head, ‘I am grateful”. “I thank you’.  Outside, Mary seems relieved. “Take me”. “The time grows short’.

“The Journey” [part two]

In the morning, with the sun still behind the Mountains of Moab, Joseph arose, adjusted his tunic, and fed the animal. He worked quietly,adjusting and balancing the goatskin and food bag, before awakening his wife, Mary. He felt such enormous compassion for this girl, but couldn’t explain it……133

Joseph was a medium-sized man with deep brown curls hanging to his shoulders. His hair was thick and parted in the middle  and his beard thin, although he stroked it as though it were full.

The road was busy at dawn. The rich Greeks traveled south in sedan chairs, the servants shouldering the yokes easily. en route to trade with the rich Jews.  Some of the traffic came from as far away as Egypt, and these merchants were laden with fabrics and metal objects and expensive spices. Sometimes Joseph had to wait until he could find room between parties going south. The road, it seemed, was always alive.  [Jim Bishop]

[Walking was the most popular mode of transportation and many people couldn’t afford a pack animal..so in that aspect Mary and Joseph were fortunate.]

[I think of Mary being heavy with child, nearing the time of birth and sleeping on the ground, as well as riding a donkey for a great distance. Did she  remember the angel Gabriel’s words to her during this time??? That she was Blessed and favored before all other women?  I have been heavy with child and found it difficult to imagine Mary’s journey.]

This morning Joseph led Mary and the donkey into the wilderness. It was twenty miles to Bethany and from there, three miles to the heart of Jerusalem. A man with strong legs could walk it, leading an animal and a woman, before sundown.

The wilderness is a barren place in the mountains, where nothing of worth grows and the tiny peaks look-alike, white and chalky, a place where bandits await. Joseph stopped at the top of the rise. Mary looked up, a tired child with eyes partly conscious of the scene….[Jim Bishop]

Continued tomorrow……

To read part one click HERE

“The Journey” [part one]

I wrote this post two years ago and would like to share it once again…   570

In the search to simplify  and  keep the real meaning in prospective during the Christmas season, I have come to the raw reality I might always feel like I haven’t done enough or I have done to much..I am a bit better .. and no longer feel like my list is endless.

For some years now during  this season I have read a book I have come to treasure,  “The day Christ was born” by Jim Bishop. He wrote this  over fifty years ago…a ageless story two thousand years old.

This year I have been reading another..”God came near ” by Max Lucado….so for this week I  will share some of the contents with you as they have taken me beyond just hearing and seeing the Christmas story to awakening  all my senses….smell…taste…touch…..

The journey….

The town and terrain of Bethlehem have not changed..The road down to the Jordan Valley from Nazareth is a little smoother now, but it twists beside the same bank of the same river. The walls of Jerusalem have been moved in a little, especially on the south side, but the view of Mount Olives is the same, and Gethsemane still reposes at the base of the mountain. The marriage customs of the Jews of two thousand years ago are recorded. The manner of courtship, to which Mary and Joseph surely subscribed, is also known. The cave where the animals were sheltered near the inn at Bethlehem is still there. [Jim Bishop]

Most young women of the country were betrothed at thirteen and married at fourteen…Mary was fifteen…Joseph  a carpenter apprenticed by his father at bar mitzvah and now nineteen years old.

Mary and Joseph left Nazareth after the Feast of Chanukah to make their way towards Bethlehem….by now they had traveled five days and Mary was becoming weary no longer noticing the chafe of the goatskin against her leg, nor the sway of the food bag on the side of the donkey.. .tired with fatigue,…… but when she concentrated on her baby she was about to have, the bathing, the feeding, the tender pressing of the tiny body against her…..her sickness went away..

Joseph, his feet tired and dirty from ninety miles of walking, pulled on the donkey to walk a little faster….each night, when the sun was gone and the road obscure, he would lead them off into a clearing where there was little brush and few insects. …..Joseph set the lamp on the ground and Mary removed her veil and brushed her long dark hair which hung to her waist. They slept in the open saving what little money they had for the day of the baby.     [Jim Bishop]

Continued tomorrow…

A Cousin’s Gathering

Farmers, caretakers of the land, honest hardworking people. My mom used to say of her family…they are sturdy stock.

Cousins gathered last Tuesday around a large table set with hundred year old bone china. The cups so fragile thin I hestitated to pour the hot coffee.

Nine attended that day, and as I looked around the table their faces seemed to shine, as faces do when they’ve known deep griefs and sorrows, joys,overcomings and seasons, depending on God’s grace.

No one in a hurry as they planned to spend the afternoon and “catch up”.

The oldest cousin arrived a bit late and we were hoping she hadn’t lost her way, as it was her first visit to the host and hostess home.
With a sigh of relief we saw her drive up and soon she was at the door carrying a big bowl of homemade cole slaw. She turned 88 this year and still lives alone on her family farm. I call this sturdy stock for sure.

The hostess of this gathering (Betty) has always been a hero in my eyes.
An older cousin I have long admired.
She did things in her late 70’s I probably wouldn’t have done in my whole life.

For example…

She drove her pick-up pulling a camper to Alaska and volunteered for a year at a college. Keeping us all updated with her website.

At lunch that day I watched her laugh like a young school girl at her husband. His deep blue eyes held a humorous twinkle, but full of love as he joked with her.

They are still newlyweds in my eyes as they married when she was 80, two years ago.

I thought how all of our seasons are not Harvest-time, there is plowing, planting and watering seasons.

All of our stories have lessons,and observations to teach us and those around us, like lanterns along our path casting just enough light for the next step.
for that I am thankful..

I am reminded of a Psalm 31-14-15..

“I am trusting in you Lord”
“My future is in your hands
and this brings me peace”