Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Road Less Traveled: Fourth Encounter

(This fictional Advent story began on post Nov 28, 2016.)

  After several hours of traveling, Mary and Joseph decided to look for a place to stay for the night before they lost the light of day.  Although Mary never complained, Joseph could see how uncomfortable this trip was for her.  His concern grew that perhaps this trip would put her or their precious baby's health in danger.  They came to a house on top of a hill and requested lodging for the night.
  A man answered the door saying, "I'm sorry I do not have any room available.  I have relatives traveling as well and they just arrived this morning.  Try the house at the end of the hill.  I don't know if you will have any luck, she just had a baby two weeks back."
  Joseph thanked the man and he and Mary continued down the hill.  As Joseph and Mary approached the house a young man suddenly appeared.  Joseph smiled, "Excuse me, my wife and I have been traveling all day, and we are in need of a place to stay for the night.  Could you kindly allow us a small space?"
   The man shook his head back and forth and was about to say "no" when he noticed Mary's condition.  "She's not in labor is she?"
  "No." Joseph replied.  "She is just worn from the trip."
  "That's good, because one crying baby is more than we can handle right now.  My wife delivered over two weeks ago.  She had some problems and the baby doesn't feed well.  The baby cries nonstop.  You can stay here if you want, but I doubt you will get any rest."
   Joseph looked at Mary and Mary said, "Joseph, I really could use a rest from traveling." Then she looked at the man and said, "Sir if you would allow me, I would like to assist your wife in any way that I can."
  The man nodded and lead Joseph and Mary inside his home.  As soon as the door was opened the sound of a baby crying echoed all around them.  "Ruth, we are going to have two visitors staying the night.".   A woman a few years older than Mary appeared with a crying baby and a toddler wrapped around her leg. She had dark circles under her eyes as if she hadn't slept in days.  The woman said something to her husband, but the cries of the baby got louder and drowned out her meek voice.
 Mary took a few steps forward towards Ruth.  "Would you allow me the honor of holding your beautiful child?"
 Ruth looked at her husband.  "Go ahead and let her.  It's not as if the child can cry any more than it already is."  Reluctantly, Ruth placed the child in Mary's arms. 

  Mary saw a chair and sat down allowing the baby to partially rest on her pregnant abdomen and whispered something in the baby's ear.  As soon as the baby touched her body,  the child stopped crying.  Mary softly hummed a familiar psalm, and the baby lovingly looked at Mary.
 Ruth sat down next to Mary and said, "How did you get her to stop crying?"
 Mary smiled and said, "I asked her if she wanted to join me in praising the Lord."
 "I have been so exhausted,  and I have tried everything.  I never would of thought to ask her to pray with me.  She's too young to even know what prayer is." 
 Mary smiled and said, "When our words are not adequate, God, himself, will supply the words. It is an awesome privilege to teach a child to love the Lord."  Mary continued to sing her psalm and meditate in prayer as the baby peacefully drifted off to sleep. When Mary finished praying, she looked at Ruth and saw that both her eyes and her toddler's were closed as well, so she continued to softly sing. 
 Ruth's husband had stepped outside with Joseph to attend to the donkey. When he came back inside and saw his family sleeping, he was pleasantly surprised. He looked at Joseph and said, "Your wife has brought peace to my whole family. How is this possible?"
 Joseph recognized the psalm Mary was singing and the love in her eyes.  He looked at the man and said, "She is praying. She has asked God to bless your family.  It has been my experience, that I feel closer to God when I join my prayers with Mary."  Joseph looked at the man and then the future's horizon and said,  "I would encourage you to pray with her well."

(to be continued...)

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Road Less Traveled: Third Encounter

(This fictional Advent story began on post dated 11-28-16)

  Joseph helped Mary get back on the donkey as they continued their journey towards Bethlehem.  "It seemed to me you made quite an impression on that woman back there.  What were you talking about?" inquired Joseph.
  "One of my favorite subjects, prayer.  I just shared how important prayer was in my life.  I told her how we made prayer a priority in our lives, and how important it is for a husband and wife to pray together.  I told her how blessed I was to have such a holy man as my husband."
  Joseph turned back to see Mary smiling at him.  He blushed at such a generous compliment.  "Well I hope you told her that it was actually I who was blessed with such a devout spouse.  I really have no idea what I ever did to deserve having you as my wife."  Joseph stopped walking and leaned up against the donkey and Mary's side.  He looked up at Mary's face and said, "You have no idea how much I thank God every day for the gift of you and our soon to be son." Joseph turned his head into Mary’s side so that she would not see the tear of joy and love slide down his cheek.  As he gently pressed his face against her abdomen, he unexpectedly felt a kick.  "Mary, did you feel the baby just kick?"
  Mary smiled and said, "I think we both did that time.  I think our son enjoys the sound of your voice and how much you love us both."
  "Mary, sometimes I am completely overwhelmed when I think how you will give birth to the Messiah.  What do you think he will be like?  Do you think he will be just like other babies or will he know everything and just start talking to us?"
  Mary laughed and slid off the donkey.  "Well I hope he doesn't start talking the minute he is born.  How could we possibly explain that to others?"  Mary took Joseph's hand in hers and said,” I wonder what he will be like as well.  It's exciting, isn't it?"
  "Did the angel tell you if people will know he is the Messiah?"
  "How and when people will know was not revealed to me.  I'm sure in time, God will let us know.  Joseph, don't worry.  I know you will be an amazing father."
  "Just promise me one thing, Mary."
   "Please don't have this baby while we are traveling.  I honestly don't know if I would be of any help."
  "Joseph, I wish I could make that promise.  I get nervous, too, sometimes, but I close my eyes and I feel God's love inside my growing more each day, and I am filled with such joy.  Joseph, I think when his birth occurs it will be amazing."
  Joseph looked at Mary with so much love that he felt his heart could not contain all the love he felt for her.  Again, he silently asked God what he ever did to deserve to have Mary as his wife?

(to be continued)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Road Less Traveled: Second Encounter

 (This Advent story began on the post dated Nov 28, 2016)

 Mary and Joseph awoke early the next morning and began their trip towards Bethlehem.  Joseph felt fortunate that they owned a donkey and Mary would not have to walk the entire way.  However, Joseph could tell that riding the donkey was not a comfortable situation for Mary.  Although she did not complain, Mary often requested that they stop and rest a minute as she rubbed her back.
 "Well Joseph, I think it is your turn to ride the donkey," Mary said jokingly.
  "Oh, you think I'm going to sit on this poor tired donkey while my pregnant wife wattles alongside?  I don't think you would be able to keep up with us," Joseph said teasingly as he flashed Mary a smile.
  Mary started laughing.  She really enjoyed Joseph's playful sense of humor.  He was going to be a very good father.  He was loving and kind, generous and good natured, and He had a heart of gold.  "Well you and the donkey will have to forgive me for being so slow these days," Mary said with a smile.
  "I will forgive you in a heartbeat, but I'm not so sure about our friend, Donkey.  He can be quite stubborn sometimes."  Again, Mary smiled at Joseph.  "Tell you what I think we should do.  Why don't we both walk together and give Donkey a rest.  I believe there is a small town coming up soon and we can stop and have lunch.  Maybe if you rested for a little bit your back will stop hurting."
  Mary nodded her head in agreement, "I think that sounds like a good idea."
  When they reached the small town, Joseph knocked at the first house and asked where he might find some water and a place for Mary to rest.  The man who answered the door looked at Joseph and then Mary.  He couldn't help but notice the young woman was with child.  He very politely invited Mary inside his home and then showed Joseph where he could get some water for the donkey.  While Joseph was gone, Mary quietly sat down on an empty seat and closed her eyes for a few moments.  Suddenly she was startled when a pot fell and an older woman emerged mumbling to herself and carrying a loaf of bread.
  "My husband told me to offer you some bread.  I'm surprised you would be traveling when you are so far along.  You're pretty young, too.  Don't you know any better?" the woman rudely asked.
  Mary politely accepted the bread that was offered to her.  "Thank you for your kind hospitality.  My husband and I are traveling to Bethlehem because of the Roman census."
  "There are a lot of people traveling these days, thanks to Caesar.  As if Rome isn't already taking enough of our money for taxes, now they want a census taken, for what?  More taxes and more money?  Travelers just keep coming by and I'm just expected to give out what little food and drink we have," the woman sighed very loudly and then mumbled under her breath.  The woman was obviously not very happy.
  "Again, I thank you for your kindness.  I shall keep you in my prayers today and ask God to bless you for your generosity."
  The woman stopped for a moment and looked at Mary.  "You keep praying, because I have just about given up.  All my life I have prayed for the Messiah to come and save us.  And yet here we are, day after day, subjected to the Romans and burdened by their taxes and selfish leaders.  Why has God not heard our cries?"
  Mary compassionately look at this woman.  It appeared that this woman had let her faith wear thin as the troubles in her life increased.  Her hope was gone. Her eyes blind to God's love around her.  Cautiously, Mary continued the conversation.  "I am young, and certainly not as wise to the ways of the world as you are, but I pray every day, and I do believe God hears our cries.  My prayers seek out God's love.  I, too, pray for the Messiah to come, but not to be a governing leader, but to lead my heart toward salvation.  I would like to see changes, too.....but I don't think a government can bring about the changes I desire.  I think the power of change resides in our own hearts.  I try to live as if the Messiah was already in our midst.  What if you found the Messiah to be your neighbor, would you conduct yourself differently?
  We are all capable of changing this world we live in.  We can change our attitudes.  We can change how we speak to each other.  We can change how generous we are with one another.  We can change how we love one another.  Those are changes each of us are capable of making, and those changes could change our world.  It's a choice really.  You can live as if nothing you do matters, or you can live and truly believe that everything you do will be for the coming of the Kingdom of the Messiah.  Perhaps, only a few have power here on earth, but I think in God's Kingdom the power will reside in each and every heart faithful to God's covenant.  Love can be very powerful."
  The woman looked thoughtfully at Mary, surprised and touched by her words.  "Your wisdom is greater than your years, but how powerful can one heart be?  Can it fight an army?"
  "It is my prayer that one day we will all realize how much God loves us.  When we learn to love as God does, there will be no need for armies.  A heart filled with love desires peace,  and has no desire to allow power or jealousy to take root.  Jealousy is the seed of the Evil One.  We may not even notice it growing until it's roots begin to choke us and cut us off from the springs of everlasting love inside of us.  I try very hard to guard my heart from jealousy, and the riches and power of this world."
  The two woman continued to talk and eat. Mary spoke about the joy she experienced while praying, and the woman listened very carefully to all that Mary shared with her.  Twenty minutes later,  Joseph and the woman's husband returned.  Joseph looked at Mary and said,  "How are you feeling?"
  "I am feeling better.  We have been blessed to have found such gracious hosts along our travels."  Mary looked at the woman and said,  "I am grateful for your kindness.  I will pray that God brings blessings to this house."
  The woman looked at Mary and said, "I feel as if God, himself, already blessed us, the moment He brought you to our door.  Please, keep us in your prayers and I will keep you in mine as well.  You were hungry and I fed you with some bread, but you have fed me with your faith, and I didn't even realize I was starving. I feel that God is very near to you. I will pray for my heart to be changed as well."
  Mary smiled.
  "Shall we continue our journey, Mary?" Joseph inquired.
  "Yes, I am ready," Mary replied, and then asked, "Are you?"

(to be continued)

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Road Less Traveled

  "Mary, please lay down and rest for awhile before we begin our trip.  I'm worried about you and the baby.  The trip will be very hard on you.  Are you sure we are doing the right thing?  Bethlehem is going to take at least four days of continuos walking.  I'm just not sure...," Joseph stopped mid sentence as he shook his head.  He was very worried about Mary and about the baby.  Everyone said she looked as if it could be very soon.  The last thing he wanted to do was a long trip to Bethlehem.  What if Mary went into labor somewhere along the road?  What if he was the only one to help deliver the baby?  Of course their neighbor Leah had explained to Joseph in detail yesterday what he should do, but honestly, he wasn't sure if he could do it.  Why would the Romans insist on this decree right before the baby was to be born?
  "Joseph, please, do not worry.  I will rest as you have suggested.  We will put our trust in God.  Everything will work according to His Plan.  The Messiah will come at God's desired time," Mary smiled lovingly at Joseph.  Her radiance took Joseph's breath away along with his worries. "Remember, Joseph, The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack, " again Mary smiled a she gestured at Joseph to pray with her.
  Together they prayed in unison, "In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength.  You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.  Even when I walk through dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.  You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You annoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come."
  Mary looked at Joseph and then towards the future and said, "Let each of us pray for God's strength and His mercy as we begin this journey together."

(to be continued..)


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent Begins

  Advent is a time of anticipation, reflection, and joy.  We prepare for the birth of The Messiah.  "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life" (John 3:16).  We should spend these next four weeks remembering how Jesus became a small baby, just for us.  Advent is a special time where past, present and future coincide for a treasure of blessings for us. As we reflect on the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, in our hearts, and when Jesus will come again.
  I'm going to ask a huge favor from everyone.  Please let this be a time of spiritual wonder and joy.  Listen to the very voice of God this season as He shares His Son with us.  I know it is difficult, but do your very best to turn away the marketing of the world.  The gifts that God has always intended to share with us, have nothing to do with what can be bought in a store.  In fact Jesus, himself, said, "Go and sell what you have, and give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me" (Mark 10:21).  This Advent season turn your ear to God, Hear His voice, and rejoice in His promises.
  Theresa and I will beginning a new series of stories called "The Path Less Traveled."  It is a collection of fictional stories based on Mary and Joseph's journey to bring Christ to the world.  Like Advent, the stories will occur at a time where past, present, and future coincide and celebrate the coming of the Messiah.  We hope that you will choose to be a part of "The Path Less Traveled."


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Today as we gather with family and friends, let us thank God for placing these people in our lives.  Separately, we are all very different individuals, but we are bound and strengthened and challenged by each other and the prayers we share.  My life is far from perfect.  Sometimes I feel I've had more than my share of challenges, but I am grateful that the Lord has never left me alone.  He has blessed me with people who have stood beside me, laughed with me, cried with me, and strengthened me with their prayers.  Thank you Lord for allowing me to discover the beauty of life through all those you have chosen to place at my side.