Friday, December 28, 2012

Joy to the World!

Luke 3:11
John answered, "Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same."

Three weeks before Christmas Eve, Pastor Wallace throws down the gauntlet.

"When you attend any of the four Christmas Eve services we offer, wear an extra coat and leave it here.  We have so many in our community without a warm coat to wear during the winter months.  So many in need can benefit from what you can afford to give.  Will you do this?  Will you wear that extra coat and leave it in the pews?  Will you show mercy to those in need?"

Did we have that extra outerwear to spare?  Hanging in our closets?  Stored in a cedar chest?  Not worn for years?  Used, but not abused?

Did we?

But, in these trying economic times, can we even afford to give?

Dare we?

Oh, yes!!!

Take a look at this!




Certainly, people whom we will never greet in person or physically touch will wrap one of these coats around them.  Feel a comforting warmth.  Know the love an anonymous soul has for them.

Know of God's great, steadfast, unfailing love through the witness of generosity.

Out of our abundance, out of our paucity, we give.  Give so that others who are suffering can get a hands-up.

And, we do so with joy . . .

Joy!  Knowing the love the Savior has for us.

Joy!  Celebrating Jesus' birth, God coming into the world to save us.

Joy!  Sharing the grand, good news with the weary world so it may rejoice.

A new and glorious morn will dawn for those who don these coats for the first time.  May they wear them gratefully and be warmed through and through.

May they wear them with joy!
~
How will you bring joy to the world in every season of the year?

Will you pray with me?
Thank You, Father, for bringing joy into this world through Your Son, our Savior, Christ Jesus.  May we celebrate in joy and give in joy, knowing that Your love is more than enough for us, and so much more than we deserve.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!




Luke 2:7-11
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, FROM OUR HOME TO YOURS!


Blessing and love,
Martha and Danny Orlando

Friday, December 21, 2012

Million Dollar Rooms


Luke 2:7
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Several nights ago, my husband, Danny, and I are cruising through the television channels.  We stumble upon a show we've never seen before:  Million Dollar Rooms.

Wow . . .

I've never seen such overwhelming opulence.  Such lavish decor.  Such worldly wealth.

All.  In.  One.  Room.






Have you said, "Wow", yet?

In an interview with one homeowner, the show's host, Carter Oosterhouse, inquires as to the type of people she has entertained in her dining room.

"We've had celebrities of all kinds," she gushes, "singers, actors, actresses, sports figures, politicians, captains of industry, and even kings and queens!"

Figures placed by the world on a pedestal.  Revered.  Idolized.

Figures whose mere shadows would never deign to enter our humble home.


And, in a twinkling, this thought dawns on me . . .

We all have a million-dollar room!  It's in our hearts!  For it is there the royalist of royalties, the King of the Universe, dwells.

Christ, Jesus - King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
~
Will you prepare a million-dollar room in your heart for Jesus this Christmas?

Will you pray with me?
Thank You, Father, for sending Your only Son into this world to save us from our sins.  As we prepare once again to meet Him at Christmas, make our hearts into million-dollar rooms of welcome for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Seeking and Finding the "Ordinary" God


Please give a warm welcome to my dear friend and fellow blogger, Corinne Rodriguez, as my guest writer today.  Corinne's blog, everydaygyaan.com, is ever inspirational and thought-provoking.  I hope you will visit her there after meeting her here!

~

I am always inspired by Martha's writing and her gentle and loving manner.  I'm honored to share my reflections here today as I give special thanks for the gift of Martha's friendship to me. ~Corinne


The shepherds were going about their routine when they were interrupted by the message of Christmas.  "God is with us!" the angels proclaimed.  And, they hurried, just as they were, to find that the message was indeed true.

The Wise Men, too, were probably going about their routine when they saw a star in the East and followed it.  They kept following that star until it rested over the place where God, in the form of a baby, lay.

Most of the Israelites expected the Messiah to be extraordinary.  They longed for a Messiah who would act decisively on their behalf and ease them of their misery.  But, there He was, a helpless babe - like every one of us has been.  His parents were ordinary people, too, and he chose to work as a carpenter.  How could this carpenter-turned-preacher and healer be the Messiah, they wondered?

And, they refused to believe . . .

The most precious part of the Christmas message is Emmanuel - God With Us.  Through the work we are called to do and in our "ordinariness", we can experience God.  It never ceases to amaze me that God is so infinitely interested in the ordinariness and routine of our daily lives.  We don't have to try and reach for God.  He has reached for us.  All we need to do is be aware of His presence.  Right here.  Right now.

I recall the beautiful words of Rabindranath Tagore from his masterpiece, Gitanjali:

He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the path maker is breaking stones.

He is with them in sun and shower, and his garment is covered with dust . . .

Meet him and stand by him in toil and in sweat of thy brow.

In this season of Advent, I believe that we are called to become more aware of our Emmanuel, God With Us, today and every day.


Friday, December 14, 2012

"Slip-Sliding Away . . ."

Psalm 31:10
My life is consumed by anguish and my years are groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.

All these six long months, we watch our cat, Jordan, closely.  At her last check-up, the veterinarian warns her kidneys are probably failing.  Still, we hope for a miracle.  Pray for her each day.

For a blessed time, Jordan eats and drinks normally.  She begs for more helpings expectantly when she smells the alluring aroma of chicken or turkey roasting in the oven.  More reliable than an alarm, her meows continue to rouse us from sleep each morning.

She purrs contentedly whenever we stroke her back or scratch her chin.  Stands at the door on sunshiny days, begging to be let out so as to bask in the warmth.  Everything seems stable.  Hopeful . . .

We watch.  We wait.

We pray . . .

But, in these last two weeks, we can't help but see.  Jordan's strength fails because of her affliction.  She sleeps almost all day and through the night.  She rises for breakfast, but after a few hapless bites, retreats to her favorite spot: our son, Giovanni's, warm, inviting water bed.

Jordan's bones begin to weaken at an alarming rate.  She hobbles with wavering steps.  Stands, swaying uncertainly.  Falters when heading for her litter pan.

Her once slinky, silent, stalking stride, the one which ever betrayed her feral parentage, is slip-sliding away . . .

Danny's face betrays his consternation.  "Martha, you need to take Jordan to the vet tomorrow.  It may not be good news, but it's time for us to see if there is a shred of hope.  We have to face the reality it it's Jordan's time to go."

Tears well.  I know Danny speaks the truth, but it is one I don't want to admit even though all the evidence is right before my swimming eyes.  Sobs arise.  Grief consumes me.

My kitty baby/child/companion is dying . . .

Eighteen years.  Together.  Through innumerable joys and unspeakable hell.

Together . . . .

If I have to tell Jordan, "Good-bye", will she know how much I love her?  How much God loves her?  Is this the end of her earthly life?  Can she possibly, hope beyond hope, have one more life left in her reservoir of nine?

When Jordan and I  arrive for our 2:00 appointment at the vets, both doctors are demanded in an emergency surgery and can't see us.  The medical assistants assure me that they will keep a close eye on my little one if I choose to leave her until one of the doctors can attend to her.  They are kind and convincing.  So, I leave Jordan there.

I return home.  I wait.  I check e-mail.  Respond.  I wait and pace.  I check my blog, answer comments, and I pace.  I visit Facebook, I comment, I close, and I pace.  I call Danny.  No answer.  Leave a message.  Again, I pace . . .

It's over three hours of  waiting.  Not able to contain myself any longer, I call the vet.  When the doctor comes to the phone, she apologizes profusely about the crazy, busy day they've had, but, yes, she has just finished examining Jordan.

As  sensitively as possible, the doctor breaks the expected news.  "Jordan's kidneys are failing rapidly, Mrs. Orlando, and she has lost a significant amount of weight.  She's down to only a little over five pounds.  There is no cure for her condition."

I choke back the tears . . .

"I'll be right there.  I have to tell Jordan "good-bye . . ."

~

I'll always remember holding, stroking, and cuddling my precious Jordan for the last time on this earth.  I tell her how much I love her.  Assure her that she is about to go to a place where there will be no pain, no sickness, no trials, no tribulations.  The place where joys will never end.  The place where she will be at peace forever.

And, with that, I allow, with grieving heart, my darling Jordan to fly away home . . .

Will you join me in prayer?
Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that You love and care for all of Your creation and are mindful of the lives of each creature.  Comfort all those who mourn the loss of a pet.  Bless them in their grief.  Surround them with Your incomparable love.  Amen.





Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Rudolf With Your Nose so Bright . . ."

Romans 2:12
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.

To those of you who regularly visit Meditations of my Heart, this confession may come as a bit of a surprise - I love watching" Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" every year at Christmas.  It's been one of my favorites since I was a girl (yes, the show is older than dirt).  Why?  Because, it's a touching story with a Christian message.

What???  Really?  Surely, you must be joking, Martha!  It's a story about Santa and reindeer, the North Pole and elves, jingle bells and ho, ho, ho!  Where is Jesus in THAT?

I'll tell you.

First, I see the Lord in the willingness of both Rudolf and Yukon Cornelius to sacrifice their own lives for their friends.  Did Jesus not say, "Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one's life for one's friends (John 15:13)?"  And, in His great, infinite, wondrous love for us, did Jesus not make the ultimate sacrifice when He hung on the cross?  Bore the sins of everyone?  Died that we might be free?  Risen that we might have everlasting life in Him?

That similarity in the Rudolph story would, indeed, be enough to argue in favor of a Christian message.  But, there's more . . .

Rudolph, with his nose too bright, and Hermey, the elf who would rather be a dentist than make toys, are misfits.  They are persecuted and shunned by their friends and family.  But, instead of conforming to the demands of the society in which they live, Rudolf and Hermey decide to be "independent together."  The leave the North Pole and set out to make their own way in the world.

As Christians, who are in the world but not of it, don't we all have a bit of the misfit in us, too?  Aren't we often scorned or reviled by those who consider themselves wise in worldly ways?

And, wasn't Jesus considered a misfit by the Pharisees and teachers of the law?  Certainly, our Lord did not fit any religious mold considered righteous by the establishment.  Instead, they declared Him a blasphemer and turned Him over to the Roman authorities.  We know the rest of that story . . .

No, being a misfit isn't safe.  But, when it's for Jesus' sake, it is worth everything.

On the island of misfit toys, King Moonracer tells Rudolf and his friends, "A toy is never truly happy until it is loved by a child."  That very Christmas, Santa collects all the unwanted toys and delivers them to boys and girls who will love and appreciate them.  The boys and girls who will make them happy.

And, isn't that the way with us?  We can never be truly happy until we understand how much we are loved by God.  Misfits, in all our brokenness and frailties, trials and troubles, loved.  By the King of the Universe.

Unconditionally . . .

And, because of this incomparable love, like Rudolph leading Santa's team through the murky fog, his red nose glowing, we can shine God's light into the darkness.  Bring hope to others.  Show them where true joy and happiness lie.

Misfits, you and I . . .

We can lead the way.

~

Do you have a favorite program which you watch at Christmas?

Will you pray with me?
Father, we thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your beloved Son, Christ Jesus, to die for our sins.  May we always do Your will and walk in Your ways, shining Your glorious light into all the world.  Amen.


Friday, December 7, 2012

A Trip, A Tryst, and A Terror

Peter 5:6
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Tuesday, December 4, begins the same way it does every morning for me.  Dazedly, start the coffee.  Boot the computer.  Feed the meowing cat.  Step out onto the deck, hoping fresh, cool air will begin to wake me up before the coffee finishes brewing.

Nothing at all hints that this ordinary day is about to become extraordinary.  Gratefully sipping my first cup of coffee, I open my e-mail.  And, I see the message from my publisher.

"The book has shipped!"

Four simple words which catapult me into an orbit of joy.  Finally!  After all this time of waiting and hoping and praying, "A Trip, A Tryst, and A Terror" is on the way!

The Glade Series is launched!

Of course, I immediately e-mail my husband, Danny, with the glorious news.  He shares the tidings with his co-workers who have been asking about the book for weeks.

Wearing a smile that just won't quit, I go through the remainder of my morning routine.  Breakfast, the gym, the shower, and then, it's off to Bible study with Pastor Emily and the delightful college crowd.

As I'm driving, my cell phone rings.  It's Danny.

"You won't believe this," he says, "but the book is already available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble."

"What???"  I can't believe my ears.

"Yes!  Several people at work told me they found it.  I'm looking at it right now!"

I'm beside myself.  What amazing news this is!  When I arrive at Bible study, I share the latest with everyone.  The kids and Emily are so excited.  So much so, that one of the guys looks the novel up on his smart phone and adds it to his Christmas wish list!

"My mom won't believe I actually want a book for Christmas," he jokes, prompting laughter all round.

And, the day just gets better.  Home again, I update The Glade Facebook page.  Oh, what an incredible response!!!  My friends not only order the book, they share the news on their feeds!  Now, I'm feeling doubly, no, triply blessed!

But, that's not the end of the story.  I arrive home the next day after making arrangements for a book signing at my church when there, stacked against our garage, are four large cardboard boxes and a small one on top.  I know instantly what has arrived, much earlier than ever I could have anticipated.

THE BOOK!!!





As I hold it for the first time, my eyes fill with tears.  The.  Wait.  Has.  Been.  So.  Long . . . Yet, worth every moment when I know, in my heart of hearts, the the Lord, my God, has been in this from the beginning.  All has come to pass in His time.

And, indeed, He has lifted me up . . .

~

How is the Lord lifting you up today?

Will you join me in prayer?
Thank You, dear Father, for all Your many blessings.  May we ever be humble before You, trusting that Your mighty hand will hold us close and lift us up in due time.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Twelve Pathways to Christmas

Psalm 46:10
He says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

The Christmas season with all its worldly trappings is upon us once more.  Gifts to buy and wrap.  Parties to plan or attend.  Baking for friends and neighbors.  Trimming the tree.  Hanging the wreaths, the stockings, the garlands.  Cards to sign and send.  More gifts to buy and wrap . . .

The hustling, bustling, head-spinning list of must-dos and have-tos seems endless!

And, if we let it consume us, by the time Christmas Day rolls around, we are too tired or cranky or broke to enjoy it.  Too stressed out to celebrate the glad tidings with great joy.

But, how do we slow down?  How can we simply be still in the midst of chaos?  Meet the demands which keep on coming with grace?

What can we do to prepare our hearts, minds, and souls to welcome the real reason for the season?

I have three suggestions:  set aside intentional time just for you; spend time in prayer and scripture, and read Andy Wood's inspirational gem of a book, The Twelve Pathways to Christmas which you can download to your Kindle here

What a happy serendipity it is the day I run across Andy's marvelous blog, Lifevesting!  I have followed his writings faithfully ever since.  So, imagine my delight when Andy recently asks me to read his latest book and write a review for Amazon.  As well acquainted as I am with his writing style, I know I'm in for one pleasurable and enlightening learning experience.

And, I am right.  From the first page to the last, Andy's conversational style, memorable vignettes, and grounded Biblical references draw me in and set me to soaring on eagle's wings.  

I cannot put it down.  I read it all in one afternoon.  I want to read and reread. 

Again, and again, and again . . .

And, I will, but slower this time.  Much slower.  I want to savor, to treasure each word.  Take each of the twelve pathways one at a time.  Reflect.  Meditate.

Pray.

Because, I know beyond any remnant of a doubt, even a Scrooge couldn't help but be moved by Andy's engaging, illuminating work.  And, that being said, The Twelve Pathways to Christmas will replace A Christmas Carol as my traditional Advent read.

And, my hope for you?  That Andy's book will become your required read for this blessed season, too.
~
Will you take time to be still and know that He is God in this all too busy season of the year?

Will you pray with me?
Thank you, Father, for giving us gifted writers like Andy Wood who so eloquently remind us to stay centered in You during this hectic and busy season.  May we never forget to be still, to listen to You, to know You.  Let us all rejoice in the reason for the season, giving thanks to You in all things.  Amen.

Give Thanks!

Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. As our annual observ...