***The next few posts will be different than my norm. They will be dated like diary entries and will be read as such. With the new year and future posts, I’ll e focusing on YOU, but for this season, this is what and how I feel compelled to write. If this isn’t your preference, please bear with me.***

December 9, 2016 – Friday, Part 2

I’ve been to several funerals. I usually do not go to the cemetery for the internment though. I remember going twice, once for a person who did not choose to LIVE for Christ, although he was a Christian, and today for Barbara.

There is such a stark difference between the two. The body of Barbara was laid to final rest in an atmosphere of

GRIEF ~ tears as loved ones shoveled dirt onto her casket

JOY ~ balloons released while singing “I’ll Fly Away”

HOPE ~ the next generation of children were remembering her as well

LOVE ~ her family was a variety of faith (Amish, English) and non-faith and was visible proof of her capacity for love – a gift from God

PEACE ~ I stood beside her grave, watching young and old, Amish and English, male and female grieve her leaving us, but I felt peace inside – I know, without a doubt, she is with her LORD. I was emotionally exhausted at the end of the day, but there was peace as I slept.

December 10, 2016 – Saturday

I woke early. My mother-in-law, aunt, and I were hosting the annual Ladies Christmas Gathering, and I had agreed to prepare the devotional. I had a plan, but with Barbara’s death, my plan had not been fleshed out.

At my aunt’s encouragement, here’s what I said to my chosen-family ladies. (**NOTE: almost all content can be credited to Suzie Eller on her First5 devotional for Luke 7. Check out the First5 story here.)

Ladies of Grace Christmas Gathering 2016

I was going to do a typical Christmas devotional and read Luke 2.

Then my bible study app, First5, started studying Luke in November, and when we came to Luke 7, I was intrigued. I’m using Suzie Eller’s devotional from that day, with some additions of my own.

Let me recap the story you’re probably familiar with, starting in verse 36:

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. 37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

Imagine for me – your very worst sin. You’d be mortified if anyone but God ever knew. Now imagine – your whole neighborhood knew.

This “certain immoral woman” was well-known. When she comes to this house, she has to walk in front of …

kneel in front of …

show her heart and vulnerabilities in front of …

“people who not only know of her sin, but they’ve probably been hurt by it, too.”

Why did she come? Why would she put herself through the pain?

You and I know women. You know we can be catty, haughty, mean … we can say a lot with just our eyes, just our body language.

You know the women she had to pass by as she walked through that house to Jesus …

the lady who opened the door ….

the ladies serving the meal …

and then the men. Probably a customer or two.

WHY would she put herself through that?

Somehow – the Bible doesn’t tell us – she knew Jesus.

She knew “He wasn’t giving her an easy way out. He was offering her a new life. She came because she longed to be transformed. She desperately needed to be forgiven.”

She needed His presence. His Emmanuel, ‘God with us’.

Using our imagination just a bit, let me embellish the rest. Jesus tells Simon the Pharisee the parable of the two debtors, and Simon admits the one forgiven much loves much. Then, in verse 44:

“Then [Jesus] turned to the woman” –

He gently lifted her chin from kissing His feet; He cupped her tear-stained face in His hands; He looked into her eyes and into her soul –

and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.  47 I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” 48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”  … 50 “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Simon had no appreciation that the Messiah was near – that Jesus was Emmanuel, God with us.

Do we appreciate His presence?

Like she did?

Do we “overlook or take for granted the immense gift of His presence?”

He is WITH us… Emmanuel.

How do we acknowledge this precious gift … daily, not just at Christmas?

“We wash His feet with our tears. We pause to recognize His presence – in our hearts, in our homes, in our closest relationships, in our hard places, in good places.

We kiss His [feet]. We thank Him with our words and with our lives.

We anoint Him with oil. [Pouring perfume is costly]; it’s what they would have done for a king. He is our King of Kings. How costly has your faith been? Pour out your life in surrender. His will over ours. Trust.”

I stopped there. I had written nothing else, and I was so choked with tears, I couldn’t speak any more. I couldn’t get the image of Jesus looking me in the eyes as I knelt at His feet – my own version of a certain immoral woman – and listen to Him tell me, “Go in peace.”

December 11, 2016 – 3rd Sunday of Advent

My chosen family (Grace Bible Church, Pryor, Oklahoma) has a unique way of doing what most churches call Sunday School. We call it ‘paraklesis’ – we break into groups, we review the previous week’s sermon, we encourage each other, and we pray for each other right then and for the coming week. The groups change on the first Sunday of each month. Since I was in Oklahoma City for the first Sunday, I didn’t have a group. None of the Chupp girls did, either, so I was put in a group with Barbara’s mother, aunt, and cousin. The four of us wept together, but there was JOY as we remembered that we all have the choice to LIVE for Christ now, not just for eternity, and that Barbara had made that choice. There was joy in remembering how in her faith, she was committed, faithful, willing, intentional, listening, learning, humble, and ready.

December 14, 2016 – Wednesday

I’ve been unemployed since September 26th. I took this opportunity of time to begin a freelance career as a writer, but as all freelancers know, it takes time to build an income. I was offered a job today that is a PRN (as needed) office assistant. It pays well enough and is a couple days a week.

This is JOY: I get out of the house, see people, escape from the inevitable for a time, and make a little cash. All this while still having time to write and search for writing opportunities. I am blessed beyond what I deserve.

To be continued …