Ponderings


ensignlp_nfo_o_195Her pains subsided, giving her a moment’s respite. Highly favored among women? In a stinky stable with the animals? Mary’s thoughts tumbled in her tired brain. I am your handmaiden, I told the angel. Oh, what have I gotten myself into? I thought it would be different – not like this.  She leaned back on the surrounding hay and sighed. Why here? Why now?  She poked at the straw again to smooth out a space to feel comfortable. Another pain wrenched her body; she arched her back to subdue the pain, but it was too great. “OH!” A groan escaped her lips although she tried hard to be brave and strong.  Is it really supposed to hurt this way?  She bent over with the sharp pain. The contractions were minutes apart. Fear not, the angel said. But Lord – I’m afraid…

“Mary, what can I do to help?” Joseph’s face wrinkled with concern. “More blankets? I’ll see if we have any more.”

A few minutes of relief was granted and Mary gazed after the man to whom she was betrothed, busying himself with unnecessary things like a nervous father-to-be. The man who had first thought of leaving her because of this pregnancy. He hadn’t believed her…until…. But who would have? The child within is from the Holy Spirit? Mary smiled. It does sound unbelievable. How? I only know it’s true. I am a virgin, even though the townsfolk disbelieved me.  Kind Joseph. What a wonderful man. The child isn’t even his, but he’s given me everything. He’ll be a good father. 

She gazed through the opening of the dark little stable where they had found refuge. What a bright star tonight. We may need the extra light so Joseph can deliver this baby. Mary marveled at God’s handiwork in the skies. Even Heaven knows Someone special will be coming into the world tonight.  Wish my mother could have helped with the birth. She wanted so badly to see her grandchild born. And dear Aunt Elizabeth – she would be happy for me too.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest. The Lord God shall give him the throne of his father David and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever. Of his kingdom there shall be no end. What does it all mean?

Her ponderings were interrupted as she was taken by another sharp contraction; her breath came in quick pants.

“Joseph…” she whispered through her agony. “It’s time…I need your help….”

…to be continued.

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The Journey to Bethlehem


“Sorry.  I have to rest a minute.” Her face grimaced as another pain took her breath away. She grabbed her over-taut stomach and pleaded with her eyes.

mary-joseph-journey-to-bethlehem-958694-gallery

Picture courtesy of  lds.org

He sighed with concern. They had stopped way too many times so she could rest along the seventy-mile trek. As he watched her ease herself onto a nearby rock, his heart melted. How could I have brought her with me on this dangerous trip? Thieves were known to occupy this territory. However, the law demanded she travel with him.  All citizens had to be counted, and they had to be there in person to sign in.

The journey had been long and tedious. Almost a week on foot over rocky mountains and terrain. It took much longer than they anticipated. Mary caught her breath to ease the pains that were starting to come with good regularity. Her husband watched in dismay as many travelers passed them by; they had lost valuable time in their journey, and darkness was upon them.  He had to get Mary to a place where she could lie down. He saw a man pass with a burro in tow. Maybe he could buy it.

“Sir,” he said as he approached the man, “my wife.” He glanced Mary’s way. “Would you consider selling me your burro?”

The man looked at Mary sitting on the rock, her arms clutched around her belly. Kindness flooded his eyes. “I don’t need the burro,” he said. “You can have her. Let the mother ride the rest of the way.”

Joseph was grateful; they could be on their way again.

By late night, they finally reached Bethlehem, the small village of their ancestors. They had no family or friends in town, no reservations either. They had to take their chances at finding a place to stay. From place to place they asked, but the answer was always the same, “Sorry, we are full. You should have come earlier.”

Joseph didn’t want Mary out in the cold and dark with the baby soon to come. Only one place left to ask. “Please,” he pleaded. “My wife needs to lie down. Her pains are great, the child is soon to come.”

The innkeeper watched the young girl bending over the burro’s neck, gripping the mane with one hand, holding her stomach with the other. He looked back into the inn behind him. It was raucous with laughter; he had already let too many in for the night. Yet, he knew he couldn’t turn them away or leave them in the cold.  He took pity on the young mother-to-be. “There’s a small space by the animals – out back,” he pointed with his head. “Best I can do. There’s just no room here.” He shrugged his shoulders and went back inside.

Joseph had other thoughts about the innkeeper while he bunched the hay into a makeshift bed, but he said nothing. He put his robes over top of the hay and helped Mary down as she clutched her belly.

“Help me…” her eyes pleaded as she contorted with another contraction.

…to be continued.

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A Priceless Gift


Nativity

by Qene’ Jeffers

He wanted a Christmas tree. I wanted a Nativity.

The year was 1973. It was our first Christmas together in our own home located in Chula Vista, California. Pat spent most of that year on a tour of duty in Viet Nam – sweeping the harbor for mines. We were away from family, we were away from friends, but it was home because he was there. I was content with that. After much discussion and counting of coins the Christmas tree won out. Not because Pat was stronger, or selfish, or a slick-talker. No, the tree won because it was cheaper than the Nativity and we were poor folk living on the wages of a United States Navy sailor. I didn’t mind, really. I was just glad to be with him and once the tree was set and a few homemade decorations placed in the branches, I forgot all about the Nativity…..almost.

One sunny afternoon on a warm day in mid-December, my groom arrived home from duty with a smile on his face and his hands behind his back. We teasingly played coy guessing games, I chased him around the room, and finally when flirting and sweet-talk didn’t work he slowly brought his hands around for my eyes to see.

As he opened his fingers I saw the faint colors of pink and blue and gold. I couldn’t believe it as he held open his cupped hands and revealed the daintiest, most perfect little Nativity that I had ever seen! The pieces were no more than three inches tall but their shape and color were perfect in every way. There sat beautiful mother Mary, gazing lovingly at her babe. Proud Joseph, staff in hand, stood at her side beholding the beloved Christ Child. And, there in a little manger, perfect and precious, was the Son of God – Son of Man – Yeshua, our Jesus.

I cried with joy that day. All these years later I still remember the excitement of that moment. My shrieks of glee filled the room as I begged to know how he came to own it – to give it. He proudly shared the story of how he saw it in the ship’s store window as a decoration for Christmas. The minute he saw it, he knew he had to have it. It was only after much talking and convincing that he was able to purchase it for me, his bride. The purchase took every penny of the change he had in his pocket, but at the time the price of $2.00 seemed small for such a treasure that was so valued, so desired.

For many years that little Nativity was the only one I owned. I now own more than thirty sets, big and little, plain and beautiful. But that little Nativity, that priceless gift from my beloved Pat, is my favorite of them all.

Receiving this priceless gift and claiming it as my own reminds me of the priceless and perfect gift given to us by our Heavenly Father. It is unlike any gift that has ever been given or received. It is truly a gift beyond compare.

John 1:12-14 KJV

12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

The Father gave me Jesus and I received Him…..have you?

______________

QeneAbout the Author – Qene’ Manon Jeffers

She says, “This was such a special time in our lives. We have truly come full circle – once again, it’s just Pat and me-and we are accomplishing what we set out to do, growing old together.”  Qene’ is a friend, a fellow-writer, and former coworker. She works at the National Assemblies of God offices in U.S. Missions/Intercultural. Her husband also works there and is a pastor.

 

 

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Your Hands Speak Volumes


man's handsMy dad used to say you could tell a whole lot about a person by looking at their hands– where they had been, what they did for a living, what kind of person they were. He claimed he could tell by a handshake what kind of character was in a man. If the man’s hands were smooth and soft, well-manicured with clean, even nails, Dad surmised he knew nothing of hard work or any other kind of labor. Desk job, he concluded – especially if their handshake was weak or “slimy,” he called it. Dad worked hard for a living, usually putting in twelve to fourteen hour days at his gas station in Clark, South Dakota.

Esten & Gas stationMy dad’s hands were large and almost square. His knuckles commonly had bruises or cuts. He’d just say  “knocked the bark off.” Grease and gasoline stained his rugged hands which labored tirelessly at the gas station he owned fixing other peoples’ cars. Chipped and dirty nails were ordinary fare and no amount of scrubbing could make them clean. Rough and calloused from splitting wood, cracked from working in the dirt – but still gentle, warm, and loving.

I loved the scent of my dad’s hands: oily from fixing a tire, or earthy from working in the field. Sometimes they had the whiff of sawdust and freshly-hewn wood from whittling or building, or the pungent fishy, wormy smell from the fishing he loved. I remember, because to me it meant love. My daddy’s hands held me, hugged me, and applauded me. They were safe hands that opened up in love and acceptance. They guided and encouraged without being pushy and protected without smothering.

My sister agrees. His hands spoke volumes to everyone. She wrote the following poem:

— GIFTS OF LOVE –
by B.J. Woodland Clausen

His hands were wrinkled, calloused, cut
Reminders of many years of work
When asked about an open wound
“Knocked the bark off,” he would reply.
He labored long to do his best
Numerous hours spent his skill to perfect
But he felt his work was second rate
Because it was his very own
He could not know or understand
How treasured his homemade gifts became
How fondled, dusted, and locked away
His gifts have become today.

Our dad’s hands were examples of my Heavenly Father’s hands. Jesus was a carpenter and fisherman, too. His hands were kind and gentle, yet rough from work. Gentle enough to hold a small child and beckon the little ones to come to Him, yet bold enough to take a whip and drive everyone from the temple. They were also strong enough to bear a nail from which all his weight hung. He gave us a gift too.

You can tell a lot by a person’s hands.

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My Easter Hat


Easter Hat 2

At a mere cost of $180, this Dr. Seuss-type hat is the rave

This year, some of the most outrageous hats adorned both men and women’s heads for the annual Easter Parade in New York City. The festive six hour walkabout down Fifth Avenue to St. Patrick’s Cathedral has occurred each year over the last century. But, the idea is no longer to walk to church in Easter Sunflower bonnetfinery to attend Mass as in the early years. The Easter Parade has become a sideline show to see who has created the most absurd and outlandish, or should I say creative, hat. While Easter Mass was being conducted in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, thousands milled about decked out in homemade 21st century headpieces.Easter HatBeehive Hat

What becomes of all these hats?

When Easter is over, where do the hats go? Do they gather dust in the closet until next year, or get dismantled to become another creation? The creators of the homemade hats say it is an expression of themselves, a fashion statement, and the most important element to complete an outfit.

The Tradition of Hats

Not everyone wore a hat this past Easter, but it used to be tradition. Violet in hat- age 20somethingMy mother always wore a hat in public – wouldn’t be caught without one. It completed her outfit, made her feel dressed up and acceptable. One of her favorites was her pheasant feather hat. Easter was her excuse to get a new hat, and she had many. After the Great Depression, a new hat for Easter or a refurbished one was a simple luxury. Growing up, I loved my Easter hats too.

Easter was once considered the highest holy day of the year for Christians, the day of Resurrection –with Christ Jesus raising from the dead supernaturally. Up until the 1960s, Easter Sunday was a 40-day ritual, complete with fasting on Fridays, attending Palm Sunday services, and putting together the perfect pastel outfit to go with one’s Easter hat. Wearing a hat to cover your head was once seen as a sign of submission.

The First Easter Hat

Crown of thornsJesus was given the first “Easter hat” – a crown of sorts. Made of the Jerusalem thorn bush, similar to the locust tree, it could grow spikes up to an inch long. A simple poke from the thorns allows the poison to cause skin rash, blistering, and eye irritation, as well as being very painful. Jesus bore that crown as the King of the Jews, a title he was given by the Romans. They mocked and ridiculed, spat upon him, and derided him. Christ submitted himself and allowed mankind to kill the God of the universe. He wore that “hat” willingly, and then traded it for something better – a crown of life. Raising from dead, he was the Victor over sin and death and everything else that troubles mankind. Why? He died so we could live. So we could have the crown of life too, just for the asking.

I think I would rather choose that type of Easter hat.

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Longing for Peace in a Troubled World


What would you give to have a few minutes of peace and quiet? Those in war-torn nations overseas would give anything for even a day of peace and quiet. Even those living in cities of riot and unrest closer to home yearn for their quiet and peaceful community again.

Peace and quiet may sound redundant, but they are not one and the same thing. Sitting beside my pond, I find great peace and quiet, but not because it’s not noisy. Much the opposite. If I listen, I hear the cacophony of crows cawing, squirrels chattering and scolding me, crickets or cicada singing. In the distance, the sound of turkeys gobbling, birds chirping merrily to the beautiful background sound of the rippling brook. A lot of noise, but yet it’s quiet – peaceful. Not a lack of sound, but tranquility. When I’m stressed, this is my place of solace and solitude. It’s where I can think, reflect, meditate.

Perhaps where you live, it is not possible to find such a place of serenity. You may not live in a real war zone, but you feel like you do. Your home life, your work place, your school – it may be a place that’s torn by conflicting ideas or confrontation. Fraught with strife, you seek solace, but where can you go?

People seek peace in many places. Some may run from the city to a far-off place while others resort to drinking or drugs. True peace and quiet must, however, must come from within, for if you are fighting your own mind and values, you will never find the tranquility your heart desires. To have real emotional and mental calmness, the true inner peace must reside in the deeper part of you – your spirit. That can only come from one place…above.

You may be facing the greatest battle of your life, but in the midst of troubles or persecution, your heart can be at peace. You can rest quietly– undisturbed by worries, anxieties or fears –when you know there is Someone greater in control. When you trust in the power of God and his sovereign hand, you can be at peace.  Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you – not as the world gives. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Why not let him handle your cares today? Allow Him to give you the peace and quiet you long for.

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Braunschweiger, Cheese, and Jelly Sandwich


Daddy unwrapped the Braunschweiger, cheese, and jelly sandwich and smelled it. “My favorite,” he exclaimed, all smiles. He took a big bite, smiled and gave me a hug.
Esten & Gas station
I think back and shudder at the horrible meal offered, and yet marvel at the graciousness and love of my dad. He could have spit it out, made fun, or thrown it away, but he didn’t. He expressed appreciation for what I offered and excused the culinary cluelessness of an eight-year-old trying to please her father. Continue reading

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