Grandma Lily

Grandma Lily was perfect for all 6 of us PNG Howards.

She always opened her home and welcomed us with special touches. For son Reggie, the special touch was always the biggest available box of Wheat Chex. For daughter-in-law Susan, it was French Vanilla Creamer in the fridge.

For the kids, starting with Jodie, it was brand new pajamas, socks and so much more. 

When 3-year-old Icey was coming, she asked him over the phone, “what do you want when you get here?” His immediate answer was, “Grandma, I want a pet giraffe.” And rather than say, “that’s impossible” (like us parents did), [1] she sewed up the most beautiful stuffed giraffe a three-year-old could ever ask for. It was waiting on Isaiah’s bed when we arrived.

While we were away year-after-year across the Pacific Ocean, she often sent her love through personalized care packages. Oreo cookies (every new type that became available), M&M’s, Kool-Aid, and too much more to list here. One time she asked 3-year-old JJ, “what would you like me to send you?” he quickly answered, “Grandma, I want some snow.” And, rather than say, “that’s impossible” (like us parents did), she said “Ok, I will send you some snow.”[2] This brilliant grandma found a hand-cranked “snow cone” maker at the local store and sent it in the next care package. With ice cubes and a bit of cranking, JJ got his snow!

When Hada came the first time, grandma wrapped her arms around her and said, Welcome to the family, you are my 14th grandchild. You are most special.”

We miss mom/grandma so much, but our hearts and minds are full of precious, special memories that we wouldn’t trade for anything.

She is fully alive now; with her Living Savior, her parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, big brother, “bestie” Russ, and so many precious friends; singing, dancing, praising, and thanking their/our Glorious Father, our/their Lived-Died-Rose-again Savior, and myriads of saints and angels.


[1] This kid believed his grandma 100%, and we were sure he would be heart broken when he saw that grandma could not get him a pet giraffe.

[2] We hoped JJ would simply forget about this impossible promise, but…

Jesus Enjoyed People

Still learning about something so basic as Christmas.

Charles Wesley wrote of Jesus, that he was “Pleased as man with men to dwell.”

I secretly thought of Jesus’ 33 years on earth as mostly a duty (and burden) that he put up with in order to accomplish a greater end.

But Wesley is right. The Gospels show a man who thoroughly enjoyed being human.
He loved people! He enjoyed being with them 24/7. Kids loved him. Parents loved him. He could engage respectfully and successfully with outcasts, with nobles, with rich, with poor, with religious zealots, political zealots, low lifers and high rollers. He was a dynamic person that no one could forget.

This Jesus shows the heart of the True and Living God. He loves people. Truly loves people. Not just loves what they can become, not just what they might do. He truly from His heart loves all people as they are, who they are, where they are. This is the message of Christmas. This is the truth that can transform individuals, families, societies. This is the Gospel.

(Sorry to “preach”, I really am excited to finally see this side of things.)

Deity “hearts” you, me, everyone

A most incredible truth in the universe is that God “hearts” each one of us.

What?

We are talking about an all-powerful, unstoppable BEING, and saying that he knows and cares about each of the estimated 7.8 billion mortals inhabiting this globe? Selah! [“Selah” means “take a break and ponder it”].

Honestly, this is more than our 1.5 kg (3.3 lb.) brains can comprehend. Trips the circuit breakers.

Time to realize that HeDeity – has infinite capacity. Mental capacity, focus, attention span, all are unlimited and inexhaustible with Him. The Bible describes God as authentically relational and responsive toward human beings. He can engage with each man, woman, and child fully at the same time. Recognize God’s relational nature.

Has the Lord forgotten us? “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you. See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind …” Isa. 49:14-16.[1]

From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand.” Isa. 43:13.

BUTTTTTT

How, how, how could there be so much injustice and suffering in this world? If God “hearts” us, wouldn’t He fix everything that is wrong? These are burning, legitimate questions. Let’s see if HE answers them for us.

Some of the most significant episodes in human history are provided to us in the early chapters of the Bible, Genesis chapters 1 – 3. They form the bedrock for understanding life as we find it on planet earth.

  • God did not delegate the work of creating us. He Himself created us humans. He did so not only by handcrafting our amazing physical bodies, but He also went “mouth to mouth” to breath his very own eternal life into us![2] We humans are the only ones of whom He says, we are “created in God’s image.”[3]
  • He placed us in a wonderful, fault-free environment.[4]
  • He wanted to develop us humans within a relationship of trust and understanding of Him.
    The first step toward this was a simple way for humans to show respect and obedience. There was one thing Creator withheld for Himself. One fruit tree that his image bearers were respect and reserve only for Him.[5] We had all the reason in the world to honor Deity by obeying, but instead, we began millenniums of rebellion. Humankind lost all purity, and descended from bad to worse, and is still going downhill.[6]
  • And every day, all of us suffer the consequences, sometimes horrible consequences, of our insurrection. Killing, looting, theft, gender-based violence, racial-based oppression, religious persecution, etc. etc. etc. have their genesis in this first rejection of God’s authority and goodness.

What has Deity done about this?

Deity has gone far beyond expectation. Rather than obliterate us obstinate rebels, He left His glorious throne and came down to this infected planet. He entered this world as A HUMAN BABY!  Recalibrate this in your thinking.

Deity planted Divine sperm in a young girl who carried Him to full term. Mary gave birth to this Divine-human like any other human baby. Let this bounce around in your 1.5kg (3.3lbs) of grey-cells!  

Angelic beings lit the sky to announce this birth.[7] Deity shifted even some stars to proclaim the news.[8]  

This divine/human grew like other boys and earned the respect of all.[9]

As an adult he walked the country sides and towns, interacting with people of all classes, cultures, and reputations.[10] He showed interest and solidarity with everyone. Mothers were attracted to bring their young children to be held by him.[11] Outcast women found him to be a safe haven.[12] Blind, paralyzed, lepers, infirmed, were healed by him.[13]

Religious heads were jealous and frightened by his popularity. Jesus went to Jerusalem at the busiest time of the year, and purposely inflamed their fear and hatred of him.[14] He often told his close companions that would be killed by these authorities, be buried for a brief time, then resurrect to life again.[15]

This is how much Deity “hearts” you, me, everyone! He died a horrible physical death before the eyes of family, friends, and enemies.[16] But he suffered much worse. Deity on earth called out to Deity above and said, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”[17] Deity broke![18] The God/man was banished, abandoned, rejected for three hours of earthly time (but something incalculable in Divine “time”).[19]                                        

You, me, all our family members, friends, associates, neighbors, and even our enemies and strangers on the street and in the marketplaces, are both: 1, The direct cause of Deity suffering untold turmoil (We are guilty of murder+). 2, The potential beneficiaries of that Love Act.[20] (We are forgiven, able to engage with Deity, become his children through facing our guilt and accepting His transcending offer of forgiveness and restoration to a new life has His children.

“God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.” Acts 2:22-24.

“Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent. You are witnesses of these things.’” Luke 24:46-48.

I wish I could say that Jesus’ followers have done an exemplary job of representing Him and displaying the same love, equity and service as Him. But the story of Christianity is a mishmash of highs and lows and everything in between.  But let’s not look at Christianity as a movement or a cause. See and ponder the revelation of Deity to all humankind. Deity sent his SON to this planet to make a way of peace and reconciliation. “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’ For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” 2 Cor. 5:19-21.

Please consider the implications of what is stated here. Deity truly does “heart” you, me, everyone more than we can fathom.

This article is part two in a three part series. Part one is found here: https://heardivinewords.com/2020/12/17/lets-apprehend-hope/

Next week we will look what has been called the Five Love languages, and how Deity uses each of these 5 languages to declare his love to us again and again and again.

Blessings!


[1] All Bible quotations are from the New Living Translation.

[2] “Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” Gen. 2:7.

[3] “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.’” Gen. 2:27-28.

[4] Eden, Gen. 2:8.

[5] Gen. 2:15-17.

[6] Gen. 3:7-8, 14-19, 21, 22-24; 4:8; 6:5-7; 11:4, 6-8 ???`

[7] Luke 2:8-15.

[8] Mat. 2:1-11.

[9] Luke 2:52.

[10] Even his band of 12, who stuck with him for 3 long years, was diverse group. A political zealot (Mat. 10:4), a political traitor (Mat. 10:3), fisherman (Mat. 4:18-22), and a thief and betrayer (John 12:4-6).

[11] Mat. 19:13-14.

[12] Luke 7:36-50, Luke 8:1-3; John 4:6-42; Mark 5:24-34; Luke 10:38-39

[13] Luke 11:4-6; Mark 10:46-52; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:12-14; Mat. 4:23

[14] Mat. 21:45-46; Mark 14:1-2; John 7:30-32; Mat. 23.

[15] Mat. 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:17-19.

[16] Mat. 27:31, 33-37, 54-56; John 19:25-27.

[17] Mark 15:33-34.

[18] Human language fails us here. Theologians will ask me to recant and denounce this description. They will vehemently say “Deity can’t break!” I will answer, “Nor can deity die. Nor can Holy Trinity be divided. Nor can Deity forsake Deity.” What happened that afternoon on a hill outside Jerusalem is above and beyond our comprehension and description. But the message, the impact, the relational meaning is inescapable. Deity “hearts” you, me, everyone to a degree that is inexplicable in human terms. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:8.

[19] As stated in the previous footnote. We are talking about truths beyond our comprehension. Like a colony of ants trying to discuss quantum physics.

[20] Deity does not make peoples’ decisions for them; this is why we are “potential beneficiaries.” Deut. 30:19; Josh. 24:14-15; Rom. 6:16.

Brief Words on Mother’s Day

I once asked an adult Sunday School class, “What is the saddest verse in the Bible?” A dear lady, Lucia Schwartz, quickly gave her answer, “Mother, behold your son.” I had something else in mind, but nor could I argue with her choice. Can we spend a minute thinking about Jesus and his mother?

Thoughtful beyond compare

Mary had been told that because of Jesus, a “sword” would pierce her very soul (Luke 2:34-35). The fulfillment of this statement took place as she witnessed the horror of her perfect son beaten, dirty, bloody, naked, nailed to a cross reserved for the worst criminals.  What could cause more pain!

“Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister … and Mary Magdalene” (John 19:25). 

Jesus, in the midst of exhaustion and terrible pain (let alone the utter shame and humility of being in such a position), was able to think of the welfare of his dear mother.

When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.”  And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home (John 19:26-27).

This shows at least two things: 1, Jesus possessed a strength of character that is awesome to behold. 2, Love was/is an inescapable part of His being – Even the worst circumstances anyone has ever faced could not stop Him from displaying acts and words of love.[1]  What a Man!  What a Son!

Let’s honor mothers, all mothers, especially today. They deserve it every day.


[1] It also shows how he valued relationships over “ministry”. John’s apostolic ministry would be restricted by this responsibility of caring for his elderly “mother.” But Jesus, and his Father, places top priority on caring for others.  It was proper for Jesus to place his mother in the care of his closest, most trusted and understanding friend (some friends stick close than a brother).

No Recluse

Jeremiah was no recluse. His upbringing as a priest, and his calling to be a prophet, rules out such behavior. His business, his focus, his attention was people.

Yes. He was commanded to not marry (16:1-4). He was forced to stay away from funeral gatherings (16:5-7) and happy feasts (16:8-9). The Lord had specific reasons for this,[1] but it may have given him a reputation as uncaring and self-absorbed.[2]  His writing and his prayers, however, show otherwise (4:19, 8:18, 9:1,[3] 13:17,[4] 14:17, 23:9).

Jeremiah functioned amidst political turmoil, religious delusion, social unrest, severe injustice,[5] and wide-spread fear and suspicion. Rather than going “high brow” and judgmental, he did the opposite and identified with the people on all levels.[6]

Five different kings warmed the throne during his time of service. Two foreign powers invaded, deposed kings, and imposed taxes on their vassal state. And things got worse. The events surrounding Jeremiah’s lifetime formed one continuous downward spiral. His first assignment was to scour the streets of Jerusalem to find one honest person (5:1); he came up empty-handed.  For 40 years he fought with all his wisdom and strength to avert Judah and Jerusalem from destruction. But his efforts were not enough (25:3; 32:1-5), due to the impetulance of his people (32:30-31).  He wept and grieved not for himself, but for his beloved people.


[1] His life was to be a living picture of the severity of God’s deserved anger. Jeremiah was told the reasons behind the restrictions. The people were digging their own graves and the Lord wanted them to see this and change their ways. He had better plans for them but they were refusing to cooperate (16:12-18).

[2] Us modern people probably can’t understand the full burden and strain these restrictions caused him.

[3] In the next verse Jeremiah vents the feelings that could drive him away from society, but he did not act on it.

[4] “And if you still refuse to listen, I will weep alone because of your pride. My eyes will overflow with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be led away into exile.” 13:17.

[5] One example: The laws God gave his people called for mercy and justice. Those who went bankrupt would indenture themselves to a wealthy person. They served in a slave-like capacity, but this situation could only last a maximum of 6 years, because every sabbath (7th) year, slaves were to be freed with pay (Exo. 21:2, Deu. 15:2). But the wealthy of Jeremiah’s days refused to do so, and no leaders enforced it. (34:13-16).

[6] “My grief is beyond healing; my heart is broken. Listen to the weeping of my people; it can be heard all across the land. ‘Has the Lord abandoned Jerusalem?’ the people ask. ‘Is her King no longer there?’” “I hurt with the hurt of my people. I mourn and am overcome with grief… Why is there no healing for the wounds of my people?” 8:18-19, 21-22.

About Relationships

Far more than rules and doctrines, The Bible is especially about RELATIONSHIPS. Our creator wants us basking in fulfilling, uplifting relationships!

“This is the life we have seen and heard. We are reporting about it to you also so that you, too, can have relationship with us. Our relationship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that we can be completely filled with joy.” 1 John 1:3-4 GWN