A Fight for My Babies

It was night, and I was in the middle of a forest when I saw him.

It was difficult to make out his features; I only saw darkness—evil. He had something in his arms. What was it? It was small but moving on its own. It was a baby! I knew it could not be his, and I feared he would harm it. As I walked closer to him, he ran.

I chased him for what seemed like hours in the humid night air. My heart pounded and my chest heaved, but I couldn’t stop until I had the baby. Not knowing what I would do once I caught up with him, I kept running. I prayed hard.

God needed to help me rescue the baby.

I don’t know why, but he stopped. Catching up to the man, I snatched the baby from him, although I can’t remember how. Then I just ran and ran with him on my heels. I ruined his plan, and he was angry. He chased me to exhaustion. Suddenly, I realized there was nowhere to go. I had come to a white fence too high to climb with the baby in my arms. With my back to the fence, I watched as the figure approach me—his arrogant eyes victorious. I didn’t know what to do.

I called out to Jesus; He was the only one who could rescue us.

As the evil one stood before me, trying to pluck the child out of my arms, I could only whisper the name of Jesus. I realized this man hated that Name. Although it was dark, I could see his body recoil. It made me brave. I shouted Jesus’ name with everything I had.

The Name terrified him and he ran as I pursued him, yelling Jesus’ name. I watched until he was out of sight.

Then I woke up.

The next day, I got up feeling nauseous. Since my husband and I were trying to get pregnant, and I worked in a hospital lab, my coworkers gave me a pregnancy test. It was positive.

Little did I know how difficult this pregnancy would be.

At eight weeks, I passed some blood. I panicked. I was sure I had miscarried. As the doctor did an ultrasound, he discovered I had twins and explained I passed nothing more than an isolated clot.

But it continued to go downhill from there. The morning sickness was terrible. I couldn’t eat anything but ice and lost weight for the first fourteen weeks of my pregnancy. The headaches and migraines were awful, too.

I passed out one afternoon at work while on my way to the bathroom. That freaked out my coworkers. The doctor told me later my babies had pressed against my abdominal aorta and temporarily cut off blood flow to my brain. It was the last time that happened.

At twenty-seven weeks, my water broke on my way to work. The shuttle driver, who picked me up at an offsite parking lot, drove me straight to the emergency room.

He was more of a mess than I was.

The doctors and nurses seemed amused by shuttle driver’s reaction because I looked full term. Once I explained I was twenty-seven weeks with twins, they sobered.

Fear overwhelmed me. I called my husband to tell him the bad news: our babies were coming too soon. They transferred me to a different hospital which was better equipped to handle premature births.

As they prepped me for a caesarian section, the nurse informed me my babies would only be a pound and a half each and would stay in the hospital until their due date, which was thirteen weeks away. I prayed they would be bigger than the nurse claimed.

After their birth, Alexandria and Matthew were each a little over two pounds. A nurse told me I must have been farther along than I thought. But I knew better. Doctors and nurses rushed to hook them up to ventilators, IV lines, and heart and respiratory monitors.

One day, two weeks later, my daughter developed pneumonia in both bronchial tubes. The phone call from the hospital, informing us our baby was in critical condition, woke us at four a.m. We prayed the rest of the morning for her. When I got to the NICU later, she looked as if she were dying. Alexandria’s skin was gray from a lack of oxygen, and the doctor gave her a drug paralyzing her to prevent her from fighting the ventilator. God was faithful, though. He healed her tiny body and before long; she was as feisty as ever.

Another time, Matthew had stopped breathing after the doctor removed him from the ventilator. As I watched the nurse bagging him—forcing air into his lungs, his tiny lifeless body refused to respond. She called the nearby doctor for help. I stood, wanting to scream for someone to help my baby. Instead, I prayed—begging God to save Matthew.

Suddenly, it felt as though someone’s hands were on my shoulders and I felt peace I cannot describe. I heard the Lord’s assurance Matthew would go home with me as I sat back down in my chair. My babies came home after ten weeks at the hospital.

Matthew and Alexandria are now almost twenty-four years old. Although they had difficulties at times, they are healthy and happy college graduates.

The baby in my dream represented the babies I did not know I was pregnant with. At the time of my nightmare, we did not have a fence, nor was it in our plans to have one.

My husband had a six-foot white fence installed a few months after I gave birth.

I realized after a year or two, it was this enclosure I had seen in my dream. The woods behind our property is where it had taken place.

 The Lord gave me that vision to prepare me, not just for the battle my babies would go through to survive, but to show me He would be there as soon as I called His Name. He had already won the battle; all I needed was faith.

Matthew 21:22 ESV says, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive if you have faith.”

Because He Delights in You

This is my devotional on Psalm 18. It is my favorite Psalm. You can read my article plus many more devotions in the book, Feed Your Soul with the Word of God, a compilation by Beebe and Katy Kauffman.

He was in a fight for his life!

He knew who he was—he would be king. God chose him. But the reigning, evil ruler refused to give up his throne. He pursued the young ruddy shepherd to kill him. Saul wanted to show David who was stronger. David, however, was resilient and sharp. He knew where to hide and how to fight. After all, he had killed lions, bears, and even a giant. How could Saul overtake him?

But, even would-be kings have moments of weakness.

David had enough. He was tired of fighting, hiding, and running. He got weaker and Saul seemed to get stronger and more persistent. Believing his life was ending, David cried out to God.

God heard his cry.

The earth rocked and quaked as lightning streaked across the sky. God’s eyes glowed with fire and smoke rose from His nostrils. On a cherub, He thundered out of the heavens under cover of darkness. Riding on the wind, every cloud parted as hailstones and arrows went before Him. As He broke through the sky, the brightness of His glory brought everything to light and exposed the earth.

He saw His beloved and gripped his hand as a sea of destruction threatened to take him over. He set David in a safe place away from his enemy. Why?

Because God delighted in him.

As fruit ripens on a branch before it is eaten, God was making David a righteous man. The shepherd who would be king kept the ways and laws of the LORD. He knew who he was and to whom he belonged. David’s heart was after God’s.

 God is a God of magnificent character. He never changes. God is kindhearted, blameless, and pure. The Lord loves the humble and is light in our darkness.

As God’s strength and righteousness surrounded him, David’s fear left him. God replaced it with invincibility. He was feeling like himself again.

Bring on Saul’s troops! There was no wall he could not leap. As a buck’s hooves balance him on the mountain tops, David knew he could not stumble. God trained him for this war. Now he could bend a bow of bronze.

God is perfect. His Word is true. He is the shield which protects us. There is only one God, and He is our Rock. He saves us. As a mother wraps her arm around her toddler to keep him from falling, God supports us to make us great.

David could stand, with the power of God working in him. He was no longer the pursued, but the pursuer. David destroyed his enemies, and they did not rise again. He was no longer the one who feared; he put the fear of the Lord in his adversaries. There was none to help them, no one to hear their cries. They were as dust in the wind; as mud on the road.

The conflict with his people disappeared. David became the head of nations and people from all over revered and obeyed him. Strangers feared him because the power of his God was on him.

The LORD lives; blessed be my Rock and exalted is the God of my salvation.

God gave David justice and conquered nations under him. He delivered him from his enemies and exalted him above those who sought to destroy him. The LORD rescued him from the man of violence.

David sang God’s praises to all nations. God made him king. God showed His love to David and his descendants and will forever.

____________________________

Remove David’s name and put yours in its place. See the truth of what God will do for you. Satan is your enemy. God will rush to you when you cry out to Him as He did David. Why?

Because He delights in you!

God’s nature is to rescue, to love, to protect, and to restore.

It’s what He did for David and what He will do for you. Sometimes God fights our battles, and in others He strengthens us to fight. Even now, He is training you how to win. With every battle you become stronger to lean more on your Savior and Rock.

You are the Lord’s beloved.

What's in a Name?

Do you know the meaning of your name? My name, Stephanie, comes from the Greek word, stephanos which means crowned. Revelation 19:12 (ESV) says of Jesus:

“His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems [stephanos], and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.”

I really don’t like to be called anything but Stephanie, meaning I don’t like my name shortened. It ends up sounding like stuff or staph…who wants to be called staph?

In English we call the Son of God, Jesus. Messianic Jews call him Yeshua. In Matthew 1:21, an angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him the name for her son.

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Yeshua means salvation. In Hebrew, we find his name written as Yeshuah. It is the word for salvation. We see this word many times in Scripture.

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation [yeshuah, Jesus].” Psalm 13:5 ESV.

“Behold, God is my salvation [yeshuah, Jesus]; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation [yeshuah, Jesus]. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation [yeshuah, Jesus].” Isaiah 12:2-3 ESV.

There are many more: Exodus 15:2, Psalm 27:1, 62:1-2, Isaiah 49:6, 49:8, 62:11 Jonah 2:9…(Read this in a book called, The Rabbi, the Secret Message, and the Identity of the Messiah, by Carl Gallups, 2018.)

We often refer to the Father as God or Lord. God can be god as well when we are referring to a false god or idol. But, the Father has many names.

Jewish people call him Adonai, which means my Lords or Masters (yes, it is plural). They refuse (out of reverence) to call him Yahweh, which is a four-letter word in Hebrew: Yod Hey Vav Hey = YHVH. Our Bible translates this as LORD. Here is a cool video which explains this better. Please watch it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50VxL16hmbI

Yahweh is also known as Jehovah. Jehovah means (I AM). In her book, To Know Him by Name, Kay Author explains Yahweh or Jehovah means, “I am that I am. I am the self-existent one. I am everything and anything you will ever need.” ( Multnomah Books, 1995, pg. 61).

Then there is his name, Elohim. This is a masculine, plural name as well. From my Bible study The Jewels of Hebrews, I wrote:

God is referred to as Elohim in Genesis 1–the account of creation. This name for God in the Hebrew language is אֱלֹהִים, and it consist of five consonants (read right to left). Hebrew is both a written and pictorial language. Each letter represents a picture or symbol adding to its meaning. The first letter of Elohim is an Aleph, or א. It illustrates an ox and stands for leader or father. The next consonant, depicted by a shepherd’s crook, is a Lamed or ל, and it symbolizes the Son or shepherd. The third character is a Hey or ה, and it portrays a man with his arms raised. It represents the Holy Spirit or revealer. The fourth consonant, signifying a mighty deed or life, is a Yod, or י, while the last letter is a Mem or מ, and suggests separation of the waters. This name for God is a plural, masculine word, and this one name contains the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit pictured as the mighty Creator. [i]

Names are important.

God knows your name, too. He knew it before you were born. He calls you by your name. You are a Somebody. You are known.

Try calling on Him by his name.


[i] Rock Island Books, C.J. Lovik, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7MpzFLbWLo

The Predator

This is an updated excerpt from my Bible study The Few, the Humble, the Church; A Study on the Book of Ephesians and Spiritual Warfare.

I watched my dog, Agape transform into a predator.

From my front window, I could see a herd of twelve deer, all does, walking up my long driveway. We have a six-foot-high fence and gate surrounding our five acres of property.

Our German shepherd guarded it. She saw them and at once went into hunter mode. Agape crouched, never taking her eyes off the deer while inching her way toward the herd. As she tore into a full sprint, they saw her and ran.

First, she separated them into two groups. The first group jumped over or through the vertical PVC splines of our fence forcing them to expand to the circumference of their bodies.

She stayed with the second group, chasing them to the back of our property.

I followed window to window trying to keep up.

My dog drove the next group into two, and then separated a doe and her yearling, from the others. At this point, I ran to my garage to watch this match unfold.

The mother doe, who Agape separated from the yearling, came out of nowhere nearly knocking me over as she ran past me back to the front yard. The yearling ran along the opposite side of the driveway with my shepherd on her heels… uh, hooves.

We have a fifteen-foot-wide rock-lined creek across our front yard.

As I watched the yearling run towards it, I could see my dog getting excited as she anticipated the kill; the deer had nowhere to go.

Then, it happened.

In one graceful leap, the doeling sailed over the fifteen-foot cavern, catching up with her mother on the other side. My breath caught; it was a beautiful site.

But my sweet, defeated dog stood there, dumbfounded, staring at the creek and the deer on the other side. I called her. She came with her head bowed as she lost the will to chase the pair any longer.

What I Learned from this

First, watching this 100-pound dog go after twelve 100-200 pound deer, I wondered how different the outcome may have been if those deer stopped acting as prey and realized they outnumbered and out-weighed my dog.

They could have turned the tables on her and left her running to her doghouse with her tail between her legs.

Satan is our predator.

1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) tells us, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Satan separates us from our family, church, or friends, with lies, confusion, hurt feeling, and unforgiveness as he moves in steal, kill, and destroy.

When Satan’s prowling turns into an all-out sprint against us, we can stand against him as the body of Christ. There is no need to scatter in fear.

We are stronger together than alone.

Our joint weight and power in the Holy Spirit defeats Satan as we pray for one another in the name of Jesus.

Has there ever been a time in which you tried to fight a battle alone? Read Ephesians 6:18.

We are stronger together!

Brokenhearted

Two years ago yesterday, we lost our sweet dog, Olivia. It was a very warm winter day. She went out onto our pond (that was frozen the day before) and fell in. We were at a funeral for a family member and no one was there to rescue her.

I was heartbroken and inconsolable.

I didn’t understand why God had let our sweet dog die this way with no one to help her.

As I reflect on that day, God was there with us. He did not let my children be the ones who found her. It was my husband. A friend was there to help him pull her from the pond.

A friend was there for me as I wept uncontrollably over the phone.

As I questioned God, He gave me this verse-

What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. Matt. 10:29 NLT

If a single sparrow can’t fall to the ground without Him knowing, Olivia did not die without His knowledge either.

God understood my pain and was with me through it. He never left me.

When it was hard to pray–and it was–He was there praying for me. The Holy Spirit was interceding for me, too.

Adonai (God’s name meaning my Lord) promises:

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Ps. 34:18.

God sees all things and knows all things. Pain and death are terrible things. Unfortunately, this is the life we live on this earth.

Death is normal. Death is a part of life, whether or not we like it.

One day death will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14). No more death, only eternal life.

Until then, parents will mourn over the loss of their child or unborn baby; people will mourn over the loss of parents, friends, and siblings to terrible diseases and accidents. Friends will lose friends.

It was not part of God’s original plan. It came as a result of sin and the fall.

The good news is God is with us. He will never die; He will never leave us or forsake us. In our pain and grief, we can find God, and He promises to be near us.

Jesus knows loss, pain, and grief. He experienced everything we do so He would understand exactly how we feel and how to comfort us. (Hebrews 4:14-16.)

My son had a dream one night after Olivia died. In his dream every animal we have loved and lost came up from a hole in the ground. Each was perfect and alive. Each one remembered us. He shed tears thinking we would see Olivia and our other beloved pets again.

But, we have this hope: we can see those we have lost–every child, mother, father, sibling, and friend–in Heaven. All we need is to put our faith and trust in the One who died and rose again to give us eternal life–Jesus the Messiah.

I pray you know Jesus as your Savior and Lord!

If this spoke to you or feel someone can relate to my story, please share it.

Thank you!

The Coat, the First Couple, and the Lamb

I feel as though it’s been a while since I have written on my blog. I hope you had a great Christmas and I pray blessings on your new year.

This past Sunday I was talking to friends after church and one commented on my husband’s leather coat. She said it reminded her of the ’70s. I laughed and told her it was that old. My husband throws nothing away. But he has taken very good care of this coat so it does not look old at all.

Somehow our conversation drifted to Adam and Eve. My friend commented about God making clothes to cover Adam and Eve and the blood spilled to make those clothes.

According to Hebrew tradition[i], God did not just kill any animal to clothe the first couple, He killed the serpent who deceived them. It was this skin that’s believed to be the clothes Adam and Eve wore. This garment, passed down through generations, was eventually worn by John the Baptist.

God doesn’t make clothes that wear out.

Speaking of clothes, when the garments of the priests wore out, the priests tore them and used them for other things because they could throw none of them away. God made these clothes holy.

These pieces of cloth were used to wrap around the scrolls of the Torah, or Law to protect them from dirt and wear and tear.

The priests used other strips of the cloth for torch wicks within the Temple.

Yet, they used others for the sacrificial lambs. There was a group of shepherds known as Levitical shepherds who worked for the high priest. They lived in Bethlehem and raised sheep for the Temple sacrifices.

As new lambs were born, the shepherds swaddled them with cloth from the old priestly garments to protect them from cuts and bare spots in their wool.

They needed to be perfect.

The night Yeshua was born, it was these shepherds who the angels visited with the Good News. They were told there would be a sign, a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths….

Hebrew tradition shows that Mary would have wrapped Yeshua in the same priestly cloths as the sacrificial lambs. That was the sign these shepherds understood.

God gave another sign or clue way back in Genesis. This sign is easy for us to miss– but the Jewish people who heard the story of Abraham and Isaac didn’t miss it.

Abraham was told by God to take his only son Isaac and sacrifice him.

Genesis 22:1-2 ESV: After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”  He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 

After getting everything ready for the sacrifice, Isaac asked his father, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” Genesis 22:7-8 ESV.

But, did God provide a lamb? Genesis 22:13-14 tells us.

“And Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The Lord will provide.’”

Does it matter that God provided a ram instead of a lamb? Yes, it does.

The rabbis read these stories aloud to the Jewish people, so they recognized that God provided a ram instead of a lamb. Since God did not provide the lamb in this situation, the Jewish people waited for Him to provide the Lamb.

That is why in John 1:29, John’s announcement is very important!

“The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” ESV

Only John called Yeshua a Lamb. He was the expected Lamb and prophet the Jewish people were waiting for.

Let me know your thoughts.

1 I have learned much from a man named Rev. Aaron Eime, who
is Deacon and Director of Research and Education at Christ
Church, Jerusalem
and studied at the Hebrew University. Originally
from Australia, he is a dedicated Bible teacher exploring the
Hebraic Roots of the Christian Faith.

I believe he speaks and/or reads Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Latin. (You
can google his name and watch different videos recorded of his speaking
engagements here in the US and Canada.) I’ve seen him a few times when he’s come to the Cleveland area.

Most of what he teaches comes from the Jewish tradition, meaning some of
these facts and beliefs were recorded by Jewish scribes and historians in
sources other than the Bible.

While every New Testament is the same around the world, the Old
Testament is not. As the disciples of Yeshua spread the Gospel, they also left
some of their own writings where they served. As a result there are other books included in other country’s Bibles, some places have sixteen additional Old Testament books.

The Aleph and Bet of Christianity

Do you ever find the Bible difficult to read or understand? I think most of us could answer this with a ‘yes’.

The Bible was written over a span of 1500 years by Jewish men who lived in a Jewish culture and spoke Hebrew, Aramaic, and sometimes Greek. No wonder we can have trouble. The Bible is filled with Hebrew idioms which are hard for us to understand without their proper context.

If I told someone who was born and raised in Iran, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” she would have no idea what I meant because the saying’s origin is English. That’s how it can be when reading the Bible.

For instance, Matthew 6:22-23 says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

The Hebrew idiom states if you are a generous person then your eye is healthy, but a selfish man’s eye is bad. That is why Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

About ten years ago, I got excited when a local rabbi taught me a few things about the Hebrew language. He told me interesting things about the Hebrew letters and their meanings. You see, not only does Hebrew have an alphabet, it has a pictograph and a numerical part to its language.

The first letter of the Hebrew language is Aleph and looks like this:

א

It has three parts to it, but its numerical value is one (can you say Trinity?). Its pictograph is of an ox and means strength and leader. It is the letter which represents the Father. It is used in El as in Elohim.

Every letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a name. English has the letters a, b, c, d… but that’s it. There are no words or names to represent them. Hebrew has a letter much like our “W”, but sounds like a “s” or “sh.” It looks like this:

ש

Its name is shin (pronounced sheen) and it means sacrifice. We find this letter in Jesus’ Aramaic name Yeshua.

Every name and word have more meaning when you know the meaning of the letters and what they represent.

But enough of the alphabet… By the way, Hebrew is where we get that word, too. The first letter of their alphabet is an aleph and the second letter is a bet. You can find more on this at http://www.hebrew4christians.com.

We have been taught for a long time that Luke was Greek. But from what I have learned he was actually a Jewish man and probably one of Yeshua’s seventy-two disciples mentioned in Scripture.

If you pay close attention to not only who Luke writes to, but what he writes about in his Gospel and Acts, you can see clues to who this man was. He dedicates his book to Theophilus (Theophilus ben Ananus). It has been found that this man was a high priest during the time of the second temple period from 37 to 41 CE. (https://www.geni.com/people/Theophilus-ben-Ananus-High-Priest-of-Iudaea/6000000021729306527)

Why would a Jewish high priest read a letter from a Gentile? He wouldn’t. Luke gave an account of Yeshua’s life to this high priest who was concerned who the priests under him were following. (Many priests from the temple followed Yeshua).

Second, Luke wrote a lot about Yeshua’s life where the temple is concerned. He starts off his book introducing Zechariah, a temple priest and the father of John the Baptizer. He moves on to the birth of Yeshua, his presentation by his parents at the temple, and later, his bar mitzvah and being found by his parents talking with the rabbis in the temple in Luke 2.

There is much we can learn from our Jewish (Messianic and Orthodox) friends about the Bible.

You may or may not agree with me. That’s okay. We do not worship the Bible or its human authors, but we worship the Author and perfecter of our faith–Jesus Christ.

I have much more to share. Stay tuned.

Please let me know what you think. If you have questions, I will do my best to answer them. Thanks for reading!

Hush

This week’s blog post is by suspense writer, Leanna Sain. Her book, Hush, just released and is available on Amazon. Her bio will follow along with a link to purchase her book.

It looks so good; I can’t wait to get my copy. Please check it out!

How well I remember the day.

My dad couldn’t take care of Mama by himself anymore. Alzheimer’s had wreaked its havoc, stealing away the woman I’d always known and leaving an empty shell.

She looked like my mother, but wasn’t.

She was just as much a stranger to me as I was to her. My brother and I had convinced Daddy that Mama needed more care than he could give her, that they were trained to handle her, and that it was too dangerous for him to continue as her primary caretaker.

She had “mean” spells and we were afraid she’d hurt him and he’d unable to call for help. So we chose a Memory Care facility. It was for the best. That’s what I kept telling myself, and it was probably true, but it didn’t make the guilt go away.

I fixed her room up as pretty as I could. Homey? Yes, but not “home.” I prayed she wouldn’t notice.

The weather echoed my mood. Dense fog and dreariness. Days… no, weeks of it. The wettest February we’d had in recent history. It didn’t help that I had the flu, and that my husband would be flying to the other side of the world in a couple of days.

I was in bed, fighting the fever when my phone rang. Mama was having a meltdown. I could hear her yelling in the background.

My heart sank.

The hopes I’d had of a smooth transition swirled down the drain. They transported her to the hospital where they could manage her meds, figure out the magic balance between keeping her calm enough for them to handle, and zombie-like.

It was hard for me, but I couldn’t imagine what my daddy was going through. His sweetheart of over 60 years had been stolen away and in her place was this stranger who didn’t know him. That wasn’t even counting how she’d hurt him…emotionally, physically; scars I could see and those I couldn’t.

After two weeks of medication in the hospital, I got another phone call. This time it was my dad who informed me that Mama just fell and was complaining of pain in her hip. X-rays showed the fracture. Surgery was scheduled for the following morning. What else?

Rehab followed, such that it was. She was uncooperative with the physical therapist, and lost her ability to walk. Then her ability to talk. Then her ability to swallow. She was sliding downward to the end, and there was nothing anybody could do to stop it.

It was during this horrible time that God gave me the idea for a story. I write suspense. The edge-of-your-seat kind, but always with a good ending.

This time the story was a bit darker: a serial killer uses verses of the lullaby, “Hush, Little Baby” as the blueprint of his murders, while the protagonist is able to dream bits and pieces of the murders before they happen, but there aren’t enough clues for her to stop them. I decided to make that character’s mother have Alzheimer’s.

Not nice; I know, but that decision allowed me to use some of the things Mama said and did in the story.

It was a way to keep her memory alive… to honor her. And it also allowed a release of some of the negative emotions that came with watching her die.

I decided to take it a step further, though. I’ll be donating a portion of sales to Alzheimer’s research to help them find a cure. It’s my hope that someday soon others won’t have to go through what my family did, and that’s the best gift I can give.

From back cover of Hush – by Leanna Sain

She dreams a murder before it happens. A young woman is strangled while her killer sings the words from the lullaby, “Hush, Little Baby.”

Lacey Campbell’s life is full, but not idyllic. As head chef for a chic restaurant and primary caregiver to a mother with Alzheimer’s, she doesn’t have time for the nightmare and at first she tries to deny it. But the next day, she discovers it’s a disturbing reality. When she dreams the second heinous murder she knows it’s time to tell the police.

Detective Ford Jamison is called back to the little coastal town to help with the case and soon notices an alarming trend: the killer is using the lullaby as a “blueprint” to target women who resemble Lacey. This doesn’t slow the killings and now Lacey is afraid to fall asleep at night because the next face she sees in her dream might be her own.

As a hurricane churns ever closer to the little coastal town, danger and suspicion spin out of control. Time is running out. Can they stop the killer before the last verse of the lullaby?

Leanna Sain, earned her BA from the University of South Carolina before moving back to the NC mountains. She calls Miracle Hill Farm home, but she lives mostly in her imagination. Her Southern suspense or “GRIT-lit,” showcases her plot-driven method that successfully rolls elements of best-selling authors Mary Kay Andrews, Nicholas Sparks, and Jan Karon all together, making it her own. She loves leading discussion groups and book clubs. For more information or to contact her visit: www.LeannaSain.com

Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hush-Leanna-Sain/dp/1645262502/ref=sr_1_1?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Leannasbooks

Twitter: https://LeannaSain@Leannasbooks

Website and blog: http://leannasain.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/LeannaSain

Fallen Heroes

Today’s post is by my friend Diane Virginia. She is a wonderful storyteller and I love to read everything she writes. This story was first used on www1.cbn.com for a Memorial Day post. Since it is Veteran’s Day, I thought is was appropriate to use it.

I hope you enjoy it.

In Ronald Reagan’s 1986 Memorial Day[1] speech given at Arlington National Cemetery, [2] the President says, “It’s the young who do the fighting and dying when a peace fails and a war begins.” He lists hero after hero, outlining through these examples why we honor our fallen military men and women.

Reagan shares, “Not far from here is the statue of the three servicemen. … Perhaps you’ve seen it—three rough boys walking together, looking ahead with a steady gaze. … The three are touching each other, as if they’re supporting each other, helping each other on.” Reagan is stirred by this artistic rendition of the three young men because it typifies the commitment and courage of the United States’ armed forces, some having given their own lives to save the lives of their loved ones at home.

What does the Bible say about celebrating fallen heroes? We don’t have to look far to see it is God’s intent to remember our valiant military men and women, and to recount their accomplishments.

King David, for example, like Reagan, makes an accounting of his military men and their achievements. First, he names Adino the Ezinite who spears eight hundred enemies in one battle. He continues his honorarium and names Shammah the Harite who stands his ground in a barley field refusing to yield it to the Philistines (see II Samuel 23:8). David mentions other heroes along with their accomplishments.

This is only one biblical example where military heroes are recognized. There are many other places in the Bible where heroes are named and honored.

If God is “The Prince of Peace” (see Isaiah 9:6), then why do we fight wars in the first place?  President Reagan answers this question towards the end of his speech by saying, “If we really care about peace, we must, through our strength, demonstrate our unwillingness to accept an ending of the peace. We must be strong enough to create peace where it does not exist and strong enough to protect it where it does.”

Sometimes peace needs to be enforced by military prowess. When godless men oppress our children, women, and elderly, it is then we must call upon the courageous amongst us, including our brave young men and women, to save us from these intruders.

Our peace is not free…. It is the gift of selfless heroes who look beyond their needs to secure ours. Jesus says,

“The thief comes only to kill and steal and destroy. I [Jesus] came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10b ESV).”

Our military robs the enemy of his assignment to destroy, and secures life for us.

It is fitting for us to honor our fallen American mighty men and women, for they have paid the ultimate price to secure our freedom, because their love is like our Lord’s. When Jesus faces death on Calvary’s cross to save humanity, He says,

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13 ESV).”

Jesus leads the spiritual army, and conquers the ultimate battle—and in the process, secures for us eternal life.

It is worthy of a national pause to thank God for the United States’ armed forces, who have followed in the footsteps of Commander Jesus by giving their lives to save ours.

Thank You Lord, for our fallen heroes, for they have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep America free.

[1]Memorial Day was first called Decoration Day, and established as a national observance by General John A. Logan in May 1868.

[2]https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwiF6ZTh55jhAhVpUN8KHVNEBmUQzPwBegQIARAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailysignal.com%2F2011%2F05%2F30%2Fpresident-reagans-1986-memorial-day-speech-at-arlington-national-cemetery%2F&psig=AOvVaw2q4PjeRAlKocp

Copyright © 2019: All rights reserved: VineWords Stories and Devotions Inspired by the Vine: Author Diane Virginia Cunio; Pen Name, Diane Virginia: Fallen Heroes: Our American Mighty Menwww.vinewords.net

About the Author

Diane Virginia Cunio is the author of The Kiss of Peace: An Intimate Exploration into Song of Solomon (awaiting publication). She is passionate about sharing Beloved Jesus’ divine love for you, His bride, as allegorically portrayed in the vignette, Song of Solomon.

She has developed the model for motion-activated musical prayer-stations for use in the garden retreat, themed to the places you as Beloved’s bride travel to in Song of Solomon.

Diane is a regular contributor for Christian Broadcasting Network. She has written for Faith Beyond Fear, Pentecostal Publishing House, The Secret Place, and other ministries.

To schedule Diane as a speaker, please contact her via her website: Stories and Devotions Inspired by the Vine. You may find her on Facebook or contact her via email at email@vinewords.net.

Approaching God

I am almost finished writing my Bible study called The Jewels of Hebrews. It is a study covering the New Testament book of Hebrews while helping Christians understand the Hebraic roots of our faith.

It’s called The Jewels of Hebrews (JOH for short) because each chapter is named after a gemstone such as a sapphire, ruby, pearl, opal, or diamond which have a biblical meaning based on their color. These colors correspond to the theme of each chapter.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of my study which correlates to Hebrews 8:

In his book, The Jewish Gospel of John, Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg explains the Greek word for “his own people” from John 1:11, is better translated to mean Yeshua’s tribe, or the Judeans. [i] It was the tribe of Judah who did not receive him. Overall, many Israelites accepted Yeshua. He came first for the Jews. In Matthew 15:24, Yeshua told the Canaanite woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He came for Israel, and he sent Israel to the Gentile world (Matt 28:19-20).

Yeshua may have come first for the Jew, but he came for the entire world. The Jewish people were the first evangelists. Just think what would have happened had they not shared the good news of the Messiah with the world.

In Joshua 13-21, God had Joshua place the twelve Tribes throughout Israel. Judah was south of Jerusalem, between the Dead and Mediterranean Seas. If you lived at the time of Yeshua, you entered the Temple from the land of Judah.

As you crossed the threshold, you came to the square, bronze altar where the priest waited to offer your lamb as a sacrifice. He laid it on the altar, and you “crushed” its head with your hands to transfer your sin to the perfect, white lamb.

We can now see this altar as our sacrifice of praise, or where we surrender our hopes, dreams, future, spouse, children, or job to God in prayer.

Next, you came to the bronze basin for washing. Before entering the Holy Place, you washed your hands and feet; you must be clean. Exodus 30:21 says, “They shall wash their hands and their feet, so they may not die. It shall be a statute forever to them, even to him [Aaron] and his offspring throughout their generations.” Yeshua washed us clean once and for all as our Lamb.

As we enter this place in our imperfection, we wash by confessing and repenting for our sin each day as we spend time with the Father. Now we are clean to enter the Holy Place.

As you walked through the veil into the Holy Place, you saw the menorah on your left with its seven lamps lighting your way to the Holy of Holies. We will never again walk in darkness because Yeshua is the Light of the World (John 8:12).

On your right, the gold table held the steaming bread of the Presence. The warm, moist air from the fresh, baked artisan bread surrounded you. It’s the true Bread from Heaven; the Bread of Life. You will never hunger once you have eaten this Bread (John 7:32-35).

Ahead was the altar of incense before the veil which led to the Holy of Holies. This golden table held a fragrance of sweet and spicy licorice. We are a sweet aroma to the Lord as Yeshua leads us into God’s presence.

A thick veil made of blue, purple and scarlet yarn with cherubim woven into it separated all but the high priest from the Most Holy Place. YHWH (YaHWeY) descended onto the gold-plated Ark of the Covenant and mercy seat. Never to be closed again, God ripped this veil from top to bottom so we have access to him (Luke 23:45).

Our High Priest allows us to approach his throne with boldness to find grace and receive mercy in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

When we pray, we approach God starting from the outside courts making our way to the innermost Holy of Holies. When God deals with us, he starts in our Holy of Holies out to our courts. When God addresses our needs, desires, or problems, he goes straight to our Holy of Holies (our heart and spirit) then out to our courts (physical body). But, we approach God starting from the outside (praise and worship) to his intimate presence, (his desires and will for us).

In prayer, I take my time getting to the heart of God. I worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by reciting scriptural descriptions of them: You are a good Father, worthy of praise, Faithful and True, rich in mercy, loving, kind, compassionate, my Savior, Redeemer, teacher, Helper… I praise him, reminding and thanking him for answered prayers. Next, I confess and repent for my sins, as Yeshua washes off the grime of my sin so I can move toward intimacy with him.

As I step closer into his presence, I lift loved ones, my needs, my questions, my desires. I ask for truth, discernment, wisdom, and peace to know his will. I seek his heart for me and for those I love.

When God responds he goes right to my spirit. He takes care of my heart problems first. Sometimes, he reveals a motive behind my questions or hurt. The Lord may bring Scripture to my mind to answer my need or fill me with his love. He fills me with peace, calming my fears or distress. God cares for my physical needs (or my court).

What ways can you add to or change how you approach God in prayer? Ask him to inspire you to come to him daily. Renew your commitment to seek him.

That’s all for now.

Please share your thoughts about this short excerpt. I would love to know what you think! Thank you.


[i] Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, The Jewish Gospel of John, (Tel Mond, Israel: Israel Study Center, 2015) xi-xiii

Picture is from my trip to Israel. It was a microscale representation of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple at the time of Jesus.

From Daddy, with Love

Love makes us do crazy things.

We sing more love songs than any other song. We hear Country songs about what a man will do for his love, and pop singers singing about the love of their life. And who doesn’t like a great love story? Hallmark movies, romance novels, and magazine articles all boast of love. It is everywhere. We adore love.

History holds incredible love stories.  King Edward VIII of England abdicated his throne for the love of an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, in 1936. He could not take her as his bride as king, so he gave his kingship to his brother, King George, and married the woman he loved. They became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Who doesn’t remember reading about the famous Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra and the Roman General Mark Antony? After losing a war on Rome, they took their lives rather than be apart in life. [i]

In a recent El Paso Walmart shooting, a man shot a couple, Jordan and Andre Anchondo, to death while they tried to protect their two-month-old son. The shooter shot Andre as he threw his body in front of his wife and then shot Jordan as she tried to protect their son. [ii]  

What has love caused you to do?

When my children were young, my husband built them a swing set and fort with a slide and tunnel to play on in our backyard. He started it in our garage in the middle of winter. I have the cutest pictures of my three bundled children sitting on the steps of the garage watching my husband, hammer nails, saw wood and piece together this surprise. They could not wait to play on it.

On Father’s Day, I gave Mike a small plaque inscribed with “From Daddy, with love” to attach to the wooden beam of the playset so my children would always remember who built it for them. My kids are nearing the end of their college careers and that playset still stands in our yard.

Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus is “The exact imprint of [God’s] nature…” God sent his Son as a loving imprint of his nature and love for us. One of the most famous Bible verses is John 3:16 (ESV),

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

We could also say, “From Daddy, with love.”

Who among us would give their child for the life of a good person, let alone an evil, selfish, or hateful person? Only a loving God would offer His Son for sinners like you and me. Jesus suffered and died for us, for love.

Hebrews 2:9 says,

“But we see him, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”

Not only was Jesus willing to die, but Hebrews tells us how He went to the cross. Hebrews 12: 2 says,

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who, for the JOY that was set before Him endured the cross…” (Emphasis mine).

The Greek word for joy means gladness, state of rejoicing, happiness. [iii] Why would Jesus be in a state of rejoicing in going to the cross?  Because He knew that cross would restore the relationship He, the Father, and the Holy Spirit wanted with us. We could finally come to the Father, be in the presence of the Godhead, and experience Their love.

Jesus said in John 15:13,

“Greater love has no one than this; that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

There are many people who have not only laid down their life for a friend or family member but also a total stranger. How often do we see videos of or read about someone who risked their life to save another or gave their life saving someone? Just as Andre Anchondo threw himself in front of his wife to save her from the shooter, Jesus did the same for us.

Jesus took the blame and punishment for a crime He did not commit. Soldiers beat Him and He bled the blood we should have bled. He allowed the soldiers to nail His body to a cross that ours should have been nailed to.

But, Jesus did what we could not do. He raised himself from the dead (John 2:19, 10:18). Love raised Him. Love gave Jesus life from a horrible death. Love left scars on His resurrected body. Love seated Jesus at the right hand of the Father.

Remember, when we read verses like “Love is patient, love is kind…” from 1 Corinthians 13, we can replace all the “Love is” with God is.

God is love. So God is patient, God is kind; God does not envy or boast…God never ends.


[i] https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/news/g3233/greatest-love-stories-in-history/

[ii] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/aug/04/mass-shooting-el-paso-texas-woman-killed-saved-baby

[iii] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Which filter do you use?

A filter is a common word in today’s vernacular. Growing up, it meant a white, paper thingy you used in your Mr. Coffee to keep the coffee grains from getting into your cup of caffeine. Now, we have the French press and the Keurig, and there is no need of the big, white filters anymore.

Filters on our phones and computers make our selfies and pictures look anyway we want. I can make myself look twenty years younger, glamorous, silly, or like a cat, dog, biker, or a banana.

 I have friends and family who love to take selfies with Snapchat. We send crazy photos to each other, laugh at one another, and make comments.

You can turn a color photo into black and white or a vintage-style picture. On Instagram, there are over twenty different filters to choose from to apply to every picture we take.

But….

All of us have filters ingrained within us.

We can have filters for different reasons:

We inherit certain filters, people teach them to us, or they develop in us by circumstances beyond our control.

We had a German shepherd named Olivia who loved us as much as we loved her. She knew we would protect her so she protected us. She knew she could trust us, too. Whenever anyone came over, she would walk up to them and roll onto her back so they could rub her belly. She loved people because no one had ever given her a reason not to. (I realize that is not always the case.)

Our current dog, Sophie, does not trust anyone. To us, she is the sweetest dog, but let someone visit or drop off a package and she will bark and growl at them until we make her stop, which is why she must stay behind a fence.

Sophie has a pancreatic problem which also causes behavior (fear) issues. Before we knew what was wrong with her, she was already starving. Her body did not digest the large amounts of food we gave her so she ate everything she found. Believe me it was not good. She ate dozens of eggs from our chickens and a couple of times she ate the chicken, too. :((

Two dogs raised in the same way, but one loved all people and the other is afraid of everyone.

Just like our phone apps, filters influence the way we see ourselves and other people.

Hurt, betrayal, pain, illness, or any injustice can be a filter causing us to see things a certain way. Our worldview can skew how we perceive God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, or how we read and interpret the Bible.

For example, sometimes I may need to examine why I react to particular things. I have a friend who told me if I always over-react to the same kinds of comments or behaviors (triggers); I can ask God for the cause of this reaction.

He has been faithful to show me why certain things trigger a negative response from me. My trust issues and disappointment with others stem from family dynamics which affected me as a child.

God has done deep healing in me over the years.

I want to see Him without the filters caused by my parent’s dysfunction. And I want to know truth that only the Holy Spirit and the Word of God can teach me without the negative filters of hurt instilled by teachers and pastors through their erroneous teachings.

Ask God to remove your current filters through his healing and truth. Ask Him to reveal the root of those filters.

Be transparent. Remove the filters telling people you are happy all the time and you don’t need anything. Be vulnerable. Let people get to know the real you.

Mary's Song

Please enjoy this Christmas post by my friend Diane Virginia Cunio.

While shoppers hurried into the mall to escape the winter winds, I was acutely aware of one man who, instead, was ambling to the entrance, methodically tapping his cane. He touched the door. Then he paced ten steps away. Dropping to his knees, he placed his hat on the ground for tips and pulled an instrument from his tattered jacket. With flute in hand, the man played Silent Night, The First Noel, and Drummer Boy. I was enthralled by his passion, and the angelic sound resonating from his instrument. Passersby stopped long enough to listen.

As people returned to the scurry of activities that so easily defines the Christmas season, I remained. A mother dropped a coin in the man’s overturned hat. A teenager handed the flutist a water bottle. It was my chance to talk to him.

“Excuse me, sir,” I said, “Do you play secular songs, too?”

“Naw. They don’t interest me.”

“I thought you’d say that. So, why do you play?”

“Fer Him.”

“For Jesus?”

“Uh huh.”

“Does anybody ever take your money? I mean, you wouldn’t know it seeing as…”

“I sees those that takes with me ears. But, if all they wants is the coins, they can have ‘em. I play ‘cause I want ‘em to have a song in they’s heart like I’s got in mine.”

“Thank you, sir. I’d ask you to play me another song, but I don’t have cash…”

“Set yerself down. I’s playin’ fer ya.”

With that instruction, I sat. The flutist played Mary Did You Know. I felt a warmth erase the cold wind whipping onto the sidewalk from the nearby alley.

I learned something that day. Although the gentleman was blind and poor, his spirit was free. The song of the Lord that resided within the flutist gave him a joy no one could take.

Let’s talk about Mary. Why did God choose her to birth the Savior? She, as the flutist, trusted God to direct the course of her life. She believed God sent the Angel Gabriel who appeared to her during her prayer time. She permitted the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit as He placed a Son within her virgin womb; “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35b KJV) She believed Gabriel’s report and made haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth who also was with child.

The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee:

therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35b KJV

Because of Mary’s reliance upon God, the Bible records her as being the most highly favored woman; “Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” (Luke 1:28b KJV)

There is one more characteristic about Mary that made her God’s choice. She, as the flutist, had a song in her heart that no one could take away. Her song, The Magnificat, also known as The Canticle of Mary, is a declaration of her beliefs about God (see Luke 1:46-56).

What did Mary sing? She sang about being surprised to learn she was God’s humble and favored servant who would give birth to the Savior. She glimpsed the impact of Christ’s birth—that it would bless not only her generation, but ours as well. Expectedly, she sang about God’s sovereignty.

Mary’s simple faith reminds me of the flutist’s. He was not concerned about the troubles around him. He had no sight—he used other methods to ‘see.” His coat was threadbare—he did not focus on the weather. People stole his offerings—silver was not his motivation. Rather than focusing on these outward things, the flutist concentrated on expressing the song within his spirit. Sharing his talent with others brought him satisfaction. And perhaps, this humble flutist is—like Mary—chosen, favored, and blessed. And, may I suggest to you, that when we focus on King Jesus rather than on our circumstances, God’s favor descends upon us as well?

Would Mary have a difficult journey? Sure, she would, and she knew that. But, she kept a song in her heart when the challenges came. As gossipers talked about Mary’s premarital pregnancy, she kept singing. When she and Joseph fled from wicked King Herod, I imagine Mary whispered lullabies into her child’s ears. When her Son lie upon the cross, beaten, and dying a horrible death, blood pooling at her bended knees, I am certain Mary had at least one chord from her Spirit-song residing in her wounded soul. When He arose, the whole world sang, as did Mary.

Christmas is a time to resurrect the song of the Lord that He’s placed within you. Do you hear it? Listen closely…. The Great Flutist has written a melody on the recesses of your heart that will touch future generations. Allow Emmanuel—God with us—to overtake your soul.

And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son,

and shalt call his name JESUS. Luke 1:31

Mary’s Song is a fictional story closely based on real life events.

Copyright © 2017: All Rights Reserved: Mary’s Song: VineWords: Author Diane Virginia Cunio; Pen Name, Diane Virginia: All Rights Reserved: http://www.vinewords.net/marys-song/devotion

About the Author

Diane Virginia Cunio is the author of The Kiss of Peace: An Intimate Exploration into Song of Solomon (awaiting publication). She is passionate about sharing Beloved Jesus’ divine love for you, His bride, as allegorically portrayed in the vignette, Song of Solomon.

She has developed the model for motion-activated musical prayer-stations for use in the garden retreat, themed to the places you as Beloved’s bride travel to in Song of Solomon.

Diane is a regular contributor for Christian Broadcasting Network. She has written for Faith Beyond Fear, Pentecostal Publishing House, The Secret Place, and other ministries.

To schedule Diane as a speaker, please contact her via her website: Stories and Devotions Inspired by the Vine. You may find her on Facebook or contact her via email at email@vinewords.net.