Gifts From the East

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” – Matthew 2:2

Wise Men from the East traveled all the way to Jerusalem to see the King of the Jews.  They didn’t know where exactly to find Him.  They had see His star and followed it.  It led them there in Jerusalem.  They visited King Herod, believing that he would know where the Christ was but the king didn’t.  He was greatly troubled by this and called the chief priests and scribes together to inquire where the Christ was to be born.  They told him what the prophecy said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:  ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’

King Herod met alone with the Wise Men and told them that the Child was in Bethlehem, tell them to, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”  The visitors left and the star which they had seen in the East went before them and led them to where the Child was.  Seeing the star filled them with great joy and they rejoiced.

They went into the house and saw the young Child with His mother, Mary.  They fell down and worshipped Him.  They presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. What was the significance of each of these gifts?  Were they simply customary gifts from the regions or were they chosen specifically?  Gold is a precious and valuable metal.   It is rare and it doesn’t tarnish.  Precious things and ornaments are made of gold.  In this instance, gold represents Jesus’ kingship.  Frankincense is a perfume or incense.  It was used in religious and spiritual rituals all over the world..  It represents Jesus’ priesthood.  Myrrh is a bitter gum and costly perfume which comes from a certain tree or shrub in Arabia and Ethiopia.  It is also an antiseptic used for embalming.  The myrrh prefigures Jesus’ death and embalming.

These gifts were not arbitrary.  They were carefully chosen for the One whom they traveled far to behold and worship.  They brought their gifts to Him because they believed that He was the Messiah, the King of the Jews.  What a beautiful story of faith and the love of God who sent His Son to die for everyone.  It is a testimony that Jesus is Savior of Jews and Gentiles.  He came to save the world.

This Christmas season, reflect on the roles of Jesus–King, Priest and Savior.  Think of someone who needs to know that God loves them and offer them His most precious Gift to mankind–His Son.

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Source: Natural Living Family

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Making Plans

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into this city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit,” whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? It is just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you are rejoicing in your boastings. All such rejoicing is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, it is sin – James 4:13-16

How many of us make plans way ahead in the future? And how many of those plans end up going nowhere? Why does the Bible liken making plans to boasting? It could be because we are doing so without consulting God. We act as if we are in control of our destiny when He is the One who is. As Christians, we should make our plans based on what God wants or think is best not what we want. He may have much better plans for us. Take the prophet Jeremiah. What would have happened if he had made plans for a career, travel or marriage? Those plans would have come to nothing because God already had plans for his life.

Remember the Tower of Babel? The people had the bright idea of building a tower so high that it would reach heaven. What were their reasons for building the tower? “…let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). They wanted to stay put instead of going abroad and populating the earth. In other words, they were making their own plans which were outside of God’s will. They were boastful in thinking that they could do things their way instead of God’s way.

Nothing is wrong with having plans but they must never be contrary to God’s will. To them, it seemed reasonable to stay where they were and build up a city instead of going out into the world to start new lives. There are times when we want to stay put but God wants us to step out in faith as He did with Abraham. And there are times when we want to go places but He wants us to stay put like Jeremiah. We have to be attuned to what God wants for us so that our plans will line up nicely with His perfect will for us.

It is always best to say, “if the Lord wills…” when it comes to making plans. Wouldn’t you feel better knowing that God approves of your plans and will bless them?

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Turned Upside Down/Hidden #writephoto

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Samuel Villan stood on the rocks, looking at the stream winding its way in at an unhurried pace.  This was his favorite place.  It was where he came when he wanted to think, to clear his mind and to forget…

Life had been fairly quiet and uneventful for him since Julia died.  It had been twenty years since she passed away.  They never had any children.  When, her older sister died from complications after giving birth to her son, Julia and he adopted him.  His father had been killed in the line of duty.  He was a police officer.

After Julia died, he and her nephew became close.  It was nice having him around during those tough times but now he was gone.  He had moved to London where he was living and working.  During the holidays, he would visit and they would go for long walks or sit by the fireplace and talk.  Sometimes, they played Chess.

Yes, life was relatively simple, some even, say it was dull but it was how he liked it–no stress, no complications.  That was until, she came and turned his world upside down.

It all began last year Christmas when he was expecting Colin to visit as he usually did.  This time, however, he didn’t come alone.  He brought a Nigerian girl he worked with.  The moment Samuel laid his eyes on her, he knew that he was in danger of falling in love with her.  She was stunning with eyes that were large and framed by long lashes.  Her skin was smooth and flawless.  Her hair was cut short like a boy’s but it flattered her.  Her neck was long and slender.  She moved with such grace and had a pleasant voice.  She was vivacious and the entire house seemed to come alive when she was there.  He could tell that she liked him.  She was always seeking him out and seemed to enjoy his company.  While Colin was out walking the dogs, she would remain at the manor and sit in the drawing-room with him.  He taught her how to play Chess.

One afternoon when they were alone in the drawing-room, he got up from the chair in front of the fireplace and went over to the window to look out.  She joined him.  They stood there for a while, not saying anything but were acutely aware of each other.  “Do you get lonely being here by yourself?” she asked, staring straight ahead.

“Sometimes,” he admitted.

“Would be it presumptuous of me to ask if I can visit you sometimes?”

He looked at her then.  “Do you want to?”

She looked at him and nodded.  “Yes.”

She was staring at him so intently that he felt his face grow hot.  He stood there, not knowing what to do or say.  He wanted her to visit him as often as she could but was afraid of what would happen if she did.  She ignited in him an unquenchable fire and filled him with a fierce hunger.  He never imagined that he would ever feel this way about a girl half his age.  “What about Colin?” he finally asked.  “Wouldn’t he mind you coming to see me?”

“Why would he?”

“Aren’t you and he…?”

She shook her head.  “No.  We’re just friends.”

“I thought you were his girlfriend.”

“No, I’m single–like you.”

“I’m a widower.”

“We’re both single.  We’re not seeing other people so what’s preventing us from seeing each other?”

He blinked.  He wasn’t used to such forthrightness.  It thrilled him.  It also scared him.  “Are you always this direct?”

“Sometimes.  I like you, Samuel and I know that you like me.  I think we should give us a try.”

He swallowed hard when she moved closer.  “I would like that very much,” he muttered.

She was standing right in front of him now and reaching up, she kissed him on the lips. “You’re standing under the mistletoe,” she said when she drew back.  They were both breathing heavily.

He reached for her and kissed her with all the passion that consumed him.  Their moment was interrupted several minutes later by the sound of barking and Colin’s voice.  That night, they continued where they left off when he went to her room.

He ran his fingers through his hair now as he stood there by the stream.  For twenty years, he had lived a life of solitude, interrupted by Colin’s yearly visits but now, here, he was, the happiest he had ever been.  Yes, life was exciting and wonderful now that she was in it.  He turned now as she joined him.  He smiled and putting his arm around her shoulder, he drew her to him.  She slipped her arm around his waist and rested her head against him.  “How are you feeling?” he asked.

She placed her hand on her swollen stomach.  “Extremely happy,” she replied.  In seven months, they were going to have their first child.

Sometimes, when you least expect it, love comes along and turns your world upside down – Notes to Women

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Hidden at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Companionship

And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” – Genesis 2:18

I was studying a lesson on the first two chapters of Genesis and one of the questions asked was, “What parts of the created world talk to you in a powerful way about the reality of God and God’s love for us?”  For me it was when God created a companion for Adam.  He saw that despite the animals and other creatures, that Adam was lonely.

Adam must have felt out of place.  There wasn’t anyone there who looked remotely like him.  He had God to talk to and fellowship with but there must have been times when he was lonely and wished he had another person to talk to.  God saw this need and He met it in a most profound way.

The first surgery in the history of the world was performed in the Garden of Eden.  God put Adam to sleep and went to work.  Out of one of Adam’s ribs, God created a woman. Then, He proudly presented her to Adam.

When Adam saw her, he knew right away that she was his equal.  He declared, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;she will be called Woman, for she was taken out of Man” (verse 23).

Adam and Eve were the first married couple.  God wants everyone to have someone special in their lives. We are social creatures.  We were meant to have companionship, relationships.  We should thank God for blessing us with friends and families.

Always cherish the people in your life.  Never take your relationships for granted.

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A Harmless Tradition?

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Photo Credit: Rick Spaulding

Roxanne glanced down at the four pumpkins.  When Ellen saw the expression on her face, she asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Have you any idea of what Halloween is really about?”

Ellen shook her head, thinking, no, but I bet you’re going to tell me.  “It’s a harmless tradition in my family.  The kids look forward to trick and treating every year.  And they look great in their costumes.”

Roxanne’s chest swelled.  “Well, it’s not a harmless tradition as so many think.  It’s a pagan tradition called Festival of the Dead.  It begins at the end of October and ends at the beginning of November. Souls of the dead and fairies cross into our world on Halloween. Once here, they’re up to no good, because their reasons for crossing often involves vengeance on the living. In order to hide their identities and protect themselves from vengeful souls and fairies, people dressed in various costumes and masks.  If I were you, Ellen, I wouldn’t have anything to do with Halloween.”

Ellen remained calm.  “Thanks, Roxanne for your concern. Was there anything else?”

Roxanne shook her head.

“Well, goodnight, then.”

“Good night.”

Ellen closed the door. “Kids, time to go trick and treating!”

200 Words

I’m not a Halloween fan, but I was curious about its origins.

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  GAHA Entertainment

Sitting At His Feet

I wrote this devotion years ago and wanted to share it now.

One day I kept hearing the words, “Sitting at His feet, sitting at His feet.  There’s no other place I’d rather be, than sitting at His feet”.

I have often imagined myself sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him share the Word.  I think of the two sisters Mary and Martha.  How very different they were.  The Bible gives an account of what happened one day when Jesus visited them.  As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.  But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it-and I won’t take it away from her.”

A lot of times we are like Martha fussing and fretting over things and not taking the time to spend with Jesus.  Just recently, I realized that I had gotten so caught up in doing the Lord’s work that I was neglecting Him.   I missed my early morning devotions with Jesus.  I missed sitting at His feet so I made a point of setting aside time each morning for Him.  When I sat at His feet, allowing His words to fill my mind, I was overwhelmed by what He had done for me on the cross.

The reality of what Jesus has done for me—for all of us sank in.  And like Mary I don’t want anything to take this away from me.  I don’t want the worries and cares of the world or the demands of my daily life to rob me of the truths I learn when I take the time to sit at Jesus’ feet.

Martha had placed more importance on the preparation of dinner rather than on the guest while Mary had done the opposite.  The words Jesus taught were food for Mary’s soul—they filled her and satisfied her more than any dinner could.  Martha needed to partake in that spiritual food too.

Like Mary we need to take time to sit down and be fed by Jesus.   I can almost hear her singing the words, “Sitting at His feet, there’s no other place I’d rather be than sitting at His feet.”  Jesus invites you and me to leave what we’re doing for the moment and come and sit at His feet.

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Venice

Friends since they were children, Monica and Russell were inseparable.  They went to the same schools and university and moved from Manchester to London after they graduated from university.  Whenever people saw them together, they always assumed that they were a couple and they would quickly inform them, “We’re just friends.”

They dated other people but the relationships never worked out and their respective exes always blamed their friendship.  Once, Monica’s ex-boyfriend accused her of sabotaging their relationship because she was secretly in love with Russell.  She had a run in once with Samantha, a model he was dating who informed her that she didn’t believe that they were just friends.  “A person would have to be blind not to see that there is something going on between you two,” she said.  “And which woman in her right mind could be just friends with a guy like Russell?”

Russell and Monica laughed about it but as time passed, they realized that there was some truth to what others were saying.  They stopped dating other people because they didn’t feel any connection with them and it was beginning to affect their friendship.  Russell found himself getting jealous of the men Monica dated and she hated seeing him with other women.  So, to safeguard their friendship, they remained unattached.   Instead of going to dinner with other people they went each other.  They went to the theatre, concerts and now, here they were in Italy for a three week vacation.

Monica stood now on the Spanish Steps as Russell snapped photos of her.  He looked so handsome in the white shirt and light blue jeans.  She noticed women walking by and casting admiring glances his way.  Jealousy gnawed at her although he seemed oblivious to them.  She knew she was being ridiculous but she couldn’t help it.  She always worried that one day he would meet someone else and fall in love with her.  Not wanting to spoil the moment, she smiled and posed for the photos.

The day went pleasantly as they visited the Pantheon and had lunch at a trattoria near the Piazza Navona.  After sharing a pizza, she went to the washroom.  On her way back to the table, a local looked up at her and said, “Ciao Bella ragazza.”  She glanced at him and then continued to where Russell was.

He stood up when she reached him.  “What did that man say to you?” he asked.  His expression was guarded.

“It sounded like, ‘Ciao bella ragazza,’” she told him.

Russell didn’t answer.  Instead, he put on his sunglasses and preceded her out of the trattoria.  They went for a walk along Castel Sant’Angelo before they went back to the hotel.  They went to their respective rooms until it was time for dinner.  The following day, they left Rome and went to Florence where they spent their second week.  The following day, they took a trip to Milan and after visiting the Santa Maria delle Grazie where Da Vinci’s Last Supper hung, they stopped by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Russell took a photo of Monica outside of Prada.  From Florence, they went on a day tour to Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano.  They had dinner in Siena in a trattoria in Piazza del Campo.

The week went by very quickly and Monica was sorry when they left Florence but looked forward to seeing Venice.  They took the train early in the morning and while Russell read a magazine, she took a nap.  When they arrived in Venice, they found out that they had to share a room because the hotel was fully booked.  That made Monica very nervous but she was relieved when she saw that there were two separate beds.

They spent their first day in Venice at Piazza San Marco, reputed to be one of the most beautiful squares in the world.   They visited the Basilica of San Marco.  Monica was enthralled by the dome and could have stood there all day just staring up at it.  When they came out of the basilica, Russell pointed to the one of the arches above the entrance where there was a marble statue of an old man biting his hand.  “The legend says that he was relieved of his duties when he said that he would be able to build it even more beautiful.”

They had lunch at a restaurant in the square, enjoying the sunshine and watching other tourists.  They finished their sightseeing for the day climbing the Campanile for the breathtaking view of the city and the lagoon.   They stayed there for a while.

It was late afternoon when they returned to the hotel.  They relaxed on the terrace and then it was time to get ready for dinner.  It felt strange getting dressed in the bathroom while Russell got dressed in the bedroom.  She had to make sure it was safe to come out once she was finished.  He looked handsome as usual.  And she saw his gaze travel over her.  “You look great,” he remarked before turning away.  “I was thinking that after dinner, we can go to a church concert.”

She smiled.  “That sounds great.”  Venice was beautiful at night so it was nice walking to the square.  How she longed to hold Russell’s hand, especially when they passed other couples who were holding hands.  They had dinner at an elegant restaurant.  Afterwards, they walked to the church where they spent the next hour or so listening to uplifting music in a lovely atmosphere.

It was late when they got back to the hotel and she was tired.  On the way up to their room, she kept yawning and as soon as they got in she took out a nightgown from her suitcase and headed straight for the bathroom.  She quickly changed out of her dress and into her nightgown and brushed her teeth.

She walked into the room and stopped short when she saw Russell standing there half-naked, holding his pajama shirt.  She turned away, flustered but not before her gaze swept irresistibly over the broad shoulders and wide chest.  He watched her, his expression tense and a muscle throbbed alongside his jaw line.  It took every ounce of willpower on his part not to go over there and take her in his arms.  Instead, he went into the bathroom and closed the door quietly behind him.

As soon as he was gone, Monica hurried over to her bed and climbed in, pulling the cover up to her throat.

A few moments later, the door to the bathroom opened and Russell stepped into the room.  She watched as he walked past her bed to his.

“Goodnight, Russell,” she said, looking over at him as he pulled back the cover and got in.  His back was turned to her.

“Goodnight.”  He closed his eyes as his body reacted to the memory of her in the champagne colored silk nightgown.  He didn’t know how much longer he could continue being just friends with her when he wanted her.

She lay there on her back, staring up at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep.  She couldn’t get the image of him out of her mind.  When she saw his bare torso, her mouth went dry and what felt like a bolt of electricity surged through her.  She had turned away because she was afraid that her feelings would betray her.  She wished she had the courage to tell him how she really felt about him but she didn’t want to jeopardize their friendship.

Sometime later, she heard him stir and then get up.  In the faint light, she watched him tiptoe over to the chair where his shirt and pants were draped.   As he started to get dressed, she sat up, alarmed.  “Where’re you going?” she asked, turning on the lamp beside her.

He didn’t turn around.  “I thought you were asleep.  I can’t sleep so, I’m going out for a bit.”  After he pulled on his shirt and tucked it in his pants, he turned to face her, his eyes wary.  “I’ll try not to disturb you when I come back.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know,” he replied shortly.

“Where will you go?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll go to Piazzale Roma or the Rialto or San Marco.”  He was about to walk past her when she quickly climbed out of the bed and stood in front of him.

“What’s wrong, Russell?” she asked.  “You seem upset.”

He kept his eyes on her face, not daring to let them go lower.  “I’m not upset.”

“I think you are, “she insisted.   “Please tell me what’s wrong.  We’re supposed to be friends—”

His expression darkened.   “I know we’re supposed to be friends,” he snapped.  “But right now, I don’t feel like a friend.”

She looked nonplussed.  “What do you mean?”

This is what I mean,” he muttered before he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  His head swooped down and his mouth closed hungrily over hers.

Monica clung to him, kissing him back eagerly, feverishly.  As they exchanged kisses, he picked her up and carried her over to her bed.  He put her gently down on it and then drew back to remove his shirt.  She reached for him, pulling him down to her, her fingers digging into his back as he pressed his lips hotly against her neck.

They made mad, passionate love and the next morning when she woke up, she was alone in the bed.  She lay there for a moment thinking it had all been a dream.  Then she sat up and realized that she wasn’t wearing anything under the cover.  She looked over and saw Russell standing by the window.  He was wearing a robe.   He turned when he heard her.

He left the window and came and sat down on the bed beside her.  His expression was serious when he met her gaze.  “Do you regret what happened between us?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No,” she murmured huskily, reaching out and brushing the hair back from his forehead.

He leaned over and kissed her on the shoulder, making her shiver.  “Me neither,” he said.  “I’ve wanted to make love to you for a very, very long time but you insisted on us being just friends—”

“I thought that was what you wanted,” she said.  “You never came out and said otherwise.”

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a friend to you when I want to be more?  That’s why I couldn’t sleep last night.  When I saw you in that nightgown, I wanted you so much.  I had to get out of here before I lost my mind.”

“I couldn’t sleep either because I couldn’t stop thinking about how you looked shirtless…”

His eyes darkened and cupping her face between his hands he lowered his head and kissed her.  “I love you, Monica,” he whispered, raising his head to look into her face.  “I wanted to tell you that so many times but my courage failed me.”

“I love you too.”

“I just wish we hadn’t wasted so much time dating other people when we should have been dating each other.”

“Let’s not waste any more time having regrets.  Things are different between us now.”

“Yes, they are.”

“You know, if anyone were to ask me what the most memorable part of my vacation is, I would tell them that it was Venice.”

“Why Venice?” he asked.

“It’s where we finally declared our true feelings for each other.”

His eyes darkened.  “Let’s have a late breakfast,” he suggested as he removed his robe.

“Or we can order room service,” she said, settling back against the pillows.

“Room service, then,” he agreed before his mouth found hers.

A year later, they returned to Venice for their honeymoon.

 

Sources:  Cabragadin Hotel; Ciao Florence; Italy Guides; Veneto Inside; Bistrot de Venise; Classic Tic; Rick Steves