Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Anti-Christian Rhetoric
Geordie Gardiner

Anti-Christian Rhetoric

People who do not believe believe they know how to believe

The collective brain

Like a sponge in the rain
All that should flow down the drain

Then repeated
Again and again

Till it's stuck in their brain
And so they can get to repeat

The thoughts of the collective brain
That they are seeking

Weather good or bad
Whether happy or sad

Sane or mad
They are all glad

That there is a hymn book
That fits

The fashion of the week
That they can all sing from

"I am a pacifist"
Who would go out and kill?

Just for the thrill
Of a revolution

But you
You should not kill

And blood should not spill
If someone attacks you

"Jesus would not kill a fly"
But they bat an eye

In case anyone should spy
A herd of pigs

Who ran into the sea
For other than to wash there

So it goes on and on
And on and on


Spouted from wannabe strewths
From the hightest roofs

Because they know
What you should know

That they are atheists

Monday, 4 January 2016

Happy New Year!
Brian Tada

I am grateful for all the many “likes” and comments on my personal Facebook page about this graphic, so much so that I would like to share this image with my fellow artists and customers on Fine Art America.

The year 2016 on the Gregorian Calendar is 5776,  “Ayin Vav” on the Hebrew Calendar,

“Vav” is the 6th letter of the Hebrew Aleph Bet (alphabet). It refers to “man”; also a tent peg.

Interestingly, Yeshua’s (Jesus’) name in Hebrew contains “Ayin Vav”. He is the Man (Son) of God, 100% perfection, Who gave His life as The Ransom for our sins, crucified on a Cross with iron pegs (spikes), and gloriously resurrected to give us New Life (Yeshua = Salvation).

Isaiah 54:2-3 speaks of spreading out one’s tent pegs for God’s increase. I believe “5776” speaks of that increase. Yeshua's Name will increase worldwide, especially among the precious Jewish people and Muslim people who will see visions of Messiah Jesus in greater measure.

More of His presents, starts with more of His presence. Let it increase today…

Have a super day, an awesome year, and a terrific forever! :-)

Artwork notes:

Embedded in the top right-hand corner is the Hebrew acronym for "B'ezras Hashem" [ב ס " ד] meaning "with God's help". It is a reminder to me as an artist and photographer of my dependence on the Almighty, the Originator of all creativity. This is a similar acknowledgement used by great artists like Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel who signed their work with the Latin phrase, "Soli Deo gloria" which means, "Glory to God alone".

The fireworks photo in this image is one of several I took on July 4th, 2014 over San Francisco Bay. Please view my fireworks album in my portfolio for additional fireworks images by themselves.

Photo and illustration copyright © 2016 Brian Tada. To the glory of God. Downloading, distributing, displaying online and/or altering this image without the express written permission of the photographer is prohibited.

Does the Jewish New Year 5776 Hold Special Meaning?

Happy New Year!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Writing & Poems
Michelle Greene Wheeler

God Knew The Tree

God Knew The Tree

First published February 14, 2007

He watched the seed fall into the cold ground, and even at that moment, He knew what great mission that little seed would one day take on.

He allowed it to soak in just enough rain to feed the sapling's needs, yet kept the rains from overtaking the little sprout or causing it's foundling roots to rot.

His eyes watched the sun shine its loving rays upon the growing tree, but watched it ever so closely so that the heat would never become unbearable or that its leaves would not become scorched.

He instructed the winds to kiss the branches and leaves every now and again, but never allowed it to be too harsh or destructive to the little tree.

Birds made their homes in the shade of its leafy branches and other animals climbed in and through the weave of its limbs yet never broke a twig large enough to cause the tree to suffer from the effects.

Bugs and worms were permitted to crawl over and around the tree, but were stopped short of diving into its bark or causing irreversible damage.

Ten or twenty trees near it may have fallen to the woodsman's ax, but the tree was protected from the blade until it was the right blade at the right time.

Not until it's time. Not until time in heaven and on earth were at the exact moment ordained from Adam and Eve's fall from grace. Not until His time on earth was finished.

He had accomplished the task set before Him by His father. Dying had been His reason for living. Dying, not only for all who lived on the earth at that particular moment, but for you and I who were but specks on an elusive vision called the future.

One tree, apart from all others that have ever grown on the face of the earth, lived to die as He did. Did our God refuse to look upon the tree that would someday hold His battered Son?

No, for if He had, the tree would not have flourished as it did. It would not have grown tall or strong enough to fulfill its own destiny.

No, I believe that Our Father looked after this tiny seed as it became the tree it was purposed to be with all the love and pride that a Father's heart can hold. Yes, He knew its eventual fate. He knew that it would someday be chosen, cut, hewn, and erected for a task so essential to the course of the world that He alone would need to oversee its development.

Did His heart ache as He watched the tree's leaves brush the ground as it fell from its original place? I'm sure it did. Just as I am certain that His precious heart shattered into a thousand pieces as He saw it standing on that forlorn hill on that Good Friday so long ago; His only son hanging from the cross that had been fashioned from its wood.

A saddened gardener became a grieving Father. Both were His own. Tree and Son. One sacrificed for the other; the other sacrificed for you and me. There can be no comparison as to which was the greater sacrifice, for nothing can be compared to the death of our Savior. But both were slain that somber day for our benefit. And God's glory can be seen in the stories of both. One story is the greatest ever told, and one that I stake my own salvation on. The other is a story which tells us what God is able to use a common, lowly seed for the glory of His kingdom, if it is left to His care and direction.

Wearing You On My Sleeve

Wearing You On My Sleeve

First published February 16, 2007

I've always been that type of person, haven't I, Lord? Transparent. Unable to hide my emotions, even when necessary. Loving easily, and rarely being able to keep myself from expressing that love. Even to others who don't feel the same way about me or that do but are uncomfortable accepting or offering professions of love.

A prime example of this is my father. He was raised by parents who just didn't find it particularly easy to show affection to anyone. And I'm sure, in turn, that his parents had been raised the same way. I will soon reach forty years of age, and I believe I've only heard my father tell me that he loves me a total of three times, and each of those was an admission made under duress. Does my father love me? Yes, of course he does. He just finds it difficult to articulate his feelings.

But me, I've always been the gotta hear it, gotta say it kind of person. Maybe it was because I felt the loss of hearing love professed to me so deeply that I became the person I am now. Or maybe this is just the way that You created me to be. The kind who craves the sound of those three words, and who cannot hold her tongue if the words come to the surface. Love is a great, important emotion, and has been expressed by You in 1 Corinthians 13: 4 & 13 as well as it could possibly be. Love is important not only to me, but to You as well.

How do I know this? It's written all over Your word. Love is mentioned six hundred and ninety-seven times, to be exact. Surely, if it wasn't important to You, then it would not be discussed in this book that You wrote for us over and over again. But it most assuredly is.

So how do I know that You love me? How can I be sure that Your love for me transcends the boundaries of my imperfections - warts, scars, flaws and all? I mean, it's not like You call me up once a week or drop by on holidays just to tell me. I've never heard Your physical voice say those all important words, but I have read them many times in Your word. I have read how nothing can separate me from Your love, and that nothing I could ever do will ever cause that love to cease. The scriptures talk about the love You have for me and the rest of Your children so often that there is no need for us to ever doubt it for any reason.

If I say I love You several times a day, I never have to worry that I am wasting words or putting You on the spot. I know that You will delight in hearing my love for You proclaimed until I've drawn my final breath. If I tell everyone I know, and even a few that I don't, that You are the love of my life, I know that You are not embarrassed or scared off. And if I wear signs of my faith or declarations of love for You on my t-shirt or my sleeve, I know that You will not hide Your face nor laugh in mine. My love for You is not only reciprocated, but given back to me a thousand fold.

You are the designer of this thing called love, and You have created it for all people to share in friendship, family ties, and romantically. But there is no higher level of true love to be found than that You have in Your heart for us. We cannot comprehend it. We cannot match it. We can only fervently strive to develop an ever closer and strengthening bond with You that our love for You will grow larger than this life can hold.

Thank You, Lord. Thank You for creating love, for creating me in love, and for creating a love within me that belongs to only You.
And for the umpteenth time today- I Love You, Lord.

Longing Just To Touch You

Longing Just To Touch You

First published February 20, 2007

And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. And Jesus said, "Who is the one who touched Me?" Jesus said, "Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me."

When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace."

Luke 8:43-48 NASB 

How many times have I been like that woman, Lord? Longing to be able to touch You. Aching from the need to grasp the hem of Your garment. Knowing that if I could only press my fingers against the fabric for a moment my prayers would be answered. Sure I'd be able to feel the power that she felt that day so long ago.

There have been many times that I've needed You, Lord. More often than not, my need for you has been desperate, if only in my own mind.

I talk to You, but every now and again, I fail to hear Your response as clearly as I might have hoped. I cry out to You, but sometimes it feels like my tears are slipping through Your hands and falling vainly to the floor. I scream and beat my fists upon my chest, but at times I'm afraid that You have turned Your face from me and shielded Your ears. So what can I do, Lord? What can I do but reach for the hem of Your robe and tug on it as fiercely as I possibly can like a child trying to garner the attention of a busy parent?

Maybe I need to quit sobbing long enough to be able to hear the response You're trying to send to me. Maybe I need to quit focusing on me- my hurt, my needs, my questions, my longing- long enough to set my eyes upon You so that I may see where You may be leading me through this trial.

Maybe I need to quit talking about faith and begin acting on it instead. Maybe I don't really need to physically see, hear or touch You at all. I mean, haven't I seen You in the minute details of nature, the sweet smile of a two year-old, or the perfectly formed laugh lines of a woman who has spent ninety-five years with a heart filled with Your joy? Haven't I heard the rumblings of thunder of the sunniest of days, the crinkle of millions of tiny snowflakes joined together to bear the weight of my shoes, or the wind whispering through the tree outside my bedroom window when all the rest of the world is asleep? And You know that I have held scores of babies including my own precious two, the head of a man made especially for me, and the hand of quite a few irreplaceable souls who have since went home to You. I've read the stories, sang the songs, proclaimed Your glory, and felt Your spirit dance within myself.

I've experienced all these things. These and a million more overwhelmingly wonderful and seemingly insignificant things that have shown me Your presence in this world. In my life. In my very heart. And yet there are times when I still long for one more embrace. One more sign of Your mercy. One more message to only me that You are still concerned with the splendid and horrid details of my journey here on earth. Not only that You care, but that You are invisibly yet steadily working for my good somewhere in the background so that I may see the answer so long prayed for, enjoy the unexpected blessing that I've not even imagined yet, or feel the arms of the friend that You've sent my way to encourage me in my trial.

Then again, just maybe the most important work that You're carrying on behind the scenes is actually in someone else's life. Maybe there's someone somewhere that is unaware that even right now You are preparing these words that are coming from a humble servant’s conversation with her Heavenly Father to touch their heart at a time when they too are longing to touch You, hear You, feel You. It does mean more to us than we could truly explain- knowing that those longings are not wholly unique to our lives. That there are others who feel as we do at times. There is no doubt in my mind that You are in the comfort we bring to another just as much as You are undoubtedly in the comfort that we receive ourselves.

Thank You, Lord, for letting me know that You are there. Thank You for letting me see that in a million different ways. Thank You for letting me hear it in the noises that others take for granted. Thank You for letting me feel it in ways that cannot even be explained. And thank You for letting me show others from time to time that You are there for them as well.

I Love You, Lord.

The Same Old Questions

The Same Old Questions

First published February 20, 2007

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is
perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light
affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding
and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which
are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are
seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

II Corinthians 4:16-18 NKJV

It happened again today, Lord. Another of Your children was called home to be with You. It seems like that's been happening a lot lately. Deaths and grief. Illnesses and pain. Troubles and worries. Falling on so many of us like a ninety pound weight.

This is when the questions come. The when's, the how's, the why's. Times like these are when the gray clouds swirl around us so vigorously that we wonder if they won't just sweep us away like Dorothy's house. Sometimes, and I know that we should have more faith in Your promises and love than to give in to these thoughts, but sometimes, we wonder if You have abandoned us. If You've forgotten about us, or left us to our own devices at the moment we need You the most.

Is it our own frailty that asks why a mother lingers on for days between life and death? Is it our own fears that cause us to be unable to visit with the friend who has only days left on this earth? Do we secretly harbor unbelief in our heart of hearts when we see a brother or sister wracked with pain that seems to never cease? Is Satan himself in the questions, or is it only our own humanity that leads us to the same unanswered ones again and again?

I don't know, Lord. I don't know the answers to these questions any more than I have the answers to a million more just like them that I and the rest of Your children send Your way every time something comes at us that we just can't understand.

Your scriptures say that we are not to lose heart. That we cannot look at the things that happen to us in this life as permanent or unchangeable. But Lord, it is so hard. It's so difficult to see these situations all around us, and perhaps even especially in our own lives, and not become downhearted. It seems nearly impossible to erase these questions from our mind in times when our faith is tested or our lives are in danger.

I know, Lord, that nothing that happens in this world is truly lasting, even though much seems to last past what our mind's time frame can accept. I know that these sufferings are like minute drops of rain to You who holds time from beginning to end in Your hand. And I know that however great these trials may be to us in the here and now, there will come a day when all these things will have passed away. Then we will know joy and peace that so far surpasses the measure of pain that we are experiencing now that we cannot even possibly begin to comprehend how wonderful it will be.

But Lord, every now and again, when these tribulations come at our hearts like arrows aimed at an apple, forgive us for our failing faith. Forgive us for questioning Your reasons. Forgive us for the anger that bubbles up within us before we even realize it. And Lord, forgive us for forgetting that You are in control of every situation, no matter how bleak it may look to us. For I know that You have said that all things work for good for those who love You. Not a few things, not most, but all. Even if the good that comes at the end of the affliction is death, then there is still joy for us, Your children. For death is not an end to life, it is only the end to the life that we can see with our eyes. Because of Your death, our deaths are the very beginning of our eternal lives!

Thank You, Lord, for holding us in the palm of Your hand. Thank You for the trials that come our way- they only serve to make us long for the day when we will be with You and troubles will be no more. And Thank You, Lord, for having compassion toward us when we bombard You with the questions that overflow from our minds-

I Love You, Lord.

It's Time To Go

It's Time To Go

First published February 22, 2007

Verse 1
You led me by the brook just like Elijah
It nourished me for quite a long, long time
But lately Lord, the flow’s become a trickle
What am I to do when it goes dry?

I need you to move on
I need you to be strong
Set your eyes on Me, don’t look behind
I need you to trust Me
I need you to just believe
That I have everything under control
Hold on to me, child, it’s time to go

Verse 2
Here I’ve felt Your peace, I’ve known security
It’s scary face to face with the unknown
But if You tell me change is what I need now
Then take that first step Lord, I’ll follow

You need me to move on
You need me to be strong
Set my eyes on You, don’t look behind
You need me to trust You
Need me to believe in You
That You have everything under control
Hold on to You, ‘cause it’s time to go

There is peace in this decision
Your voice has been so clear
There’s excitement in what’s coming
Erased are all my fears

I’m ready to move on
I’m ready to be strong
My eyes are set on You, not what’s behind
I’m ready to trust You
Lord, I believe You, too
That You have everything under control
I’m holding on to You, it’s time to go
I’m holding on to You, Lord, here we go...

Someone Somewhere Love

Someone Somewhere Love

First published February 22, 2007

Verse 1
Sad little boy cries alone in his bed
Mourning his father recently dead
Won’t someone, somewhere love him?
Forgotten girl with body weak and taut
Scouring garbage for food when suddenly caught
Won’t someone, somewhere love her?

Jesus would
We all should
Live lives of compassion
Love all with all passion
Where there is heartache, sorrow or pain
Someone, somewhere love

Verse 2
Lonely man staring at his metal cage
Heart filled with guilt, tears roll down his face
Won’t someone, somewhere love him?
Scorned lady who’s sold her body to men
Wonders was it her soul they bought instead?
Won’t someone, somewhere love her?

Jesus would
We all should
Live lives of compassion
Love all with all passion
Where there is heartache, sorrow or pain
Someone, somewhere love

Verse 3
Nails in his hands, arms open wide
Wearing our sin He hung there and died
Won’t someone, somewhere love Him?
As he closed His eyes, He saw your face
The image more vivid than death could erase
Won’t you, won’t you love Him?



First published February 25, 2007

We hear the word persecuted, and we think of martyrs from olden times who have been faced with the tip of a sword, or a modern day teen forced to stare down the barrel of a gun. Souls at the ultimate crossroads, commanded to make the choice to either stand in faith for our Savior's name or deny Him once and for all.

Those are moments we all hope we never have to experience for ourselves. The gravity of such situations cannot be measured, and have earned their rightful place in our hearts and memories. We hope that we would do the same if given the same ultimatum; we pray that if ever we were forced to cross the same line, we would do it with dignity and honor to God.

Though the stories like those mentioned remain in our minds forever, we often forget that persecution still goes on today. Around the world, there are many pockets of civilization where Christians are still persecuted. These are areas where God’s children have gone to spread the good news of the gospel, but have even in our day and time had to deal with the sometimes dire consequences of their well intended actions. Missionaries who journey to a foreign land only to find the village hostile to their message. Groups that travel thousands of miles to plant a new church in an area where there had never been one before but are then harassed at every turn. Those who have spent numerous hours and resources to help a community seemingly forgotten by the rest of the world, only to have their efforts destroyed before they could even be finished. We must always remember to hold those in such precarious areas in our hearts and prayers.

But, there are often smaller instances of persecution for Christ's name that occur right here in America- even in our own back yards. How, you say? Where?

Maybe we look at most of these situations as inconsequential, and compared with the sacrifices that others have made and continue to make, they are insignificant in a lot of ways. But I don't believe that God finds even the smallest attack that His children go through for His name or in His service to be trivial at all. The love He has for us is even greater than that of an earthly parent; His heart aches just as ours do for the trials that our children go through. Yes, we may get more upset depending on the seriousness or nature of what's going on with our child, but we never become uncaring about the sticks thrown at them at the playground, the bad names a bully might call them, or the scraped hands and knees they've received from being pushed from their bike. Our first instincts are still to throw our arms open, run to them, and to embrace them with all the love and comfort we can muster, while telling them that everything will be alright.

So, what is the spiritual equivalent to sticks and stones? First, there are times when we are looked down upon, talked about, and made fun of just for being Christians. People who call us freaks or holy-rollers. Those who won't listen to anything we have to say because they've experienced one or two who were hypocrites and now they believe that we all are. Family that won't come to visit because they know they're going to be face to face with your Christian lifestyle or the lack of Christ in their own lives. All of these are common occurrences that hurt our hearts from time to time.

Sometimes the persecution can even come from fellow Christians. Ever had anyone to tell you that something God had told you to do was crazy? That you shouldn't be doing it? Or how about hearing that some are saying you're trying to run everything or going overboard when you're just so on fire for Jesus that you want to be involved in any way you can? Ever known someone who always seems to find some petty reason for being against everything you attempt to do for the Lord? Who make comments telling you that you're taking this religion thing too far? Even make you feel bad for tithing or not wanting to miss a service?

These, too, are instances of modern-day persecution. Not serious enough, admittedly, to have live or die consequences, but they are matters which hurt us, nonetheless, and the hurt we feel has been imposed upon us for His sake. We've all used the old school-yard reply that words can never hurt us, but we all know that this is far from the truth of the matter, even though we hate to admit it most of the time.

Especially when your motives and actions are based upon the joy you have in Christ, having someone go against that is hard. Discouraging and disheartening. Makes you wonder if anything you do is actually worth it. If you’re making any difference by following His directions. Sometimes, our response it to just quit. Give it all up. What's the use in trying so hard to please God when you're making enemies of the world around you?

Dear friend, don’t give in to words or people that are trying to bring you down when you’re serving the Savior. Living for and working for Him is called The Good Fight for a reason: Most of the time, it involves struggle. There will probably never be a time during your journey here on earth when the going will be easy or critic-free. Those who wish for your failure may be temporarily happy if they succeed in hindering your progress, but you, and more importantly God, will definitely not be. Neither will the unseen souls that are waiting to hear the message that you are offering or living.

Set your head and heart on Him, and your eyes straight ahead of you in the direction that He has shown you to go. To the right and left you may hear jeers more often than the cheers, but always remember that the race is worth running, and He’s counting on you to win!

If I Could Look Through Christ's Eyes

If I Could Look Through Christ's Eyes

First published March 9, 2007

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The verse is one that I've heard all my life. One I memorized as a child. I've taken out 'the world' and added my own name so that I could recognize how personal the verse could be. But the question is: how many times have I really thought about His love for the world, as opposed to myself, and what that means for those of us whose main objective in life is to become more like Him?

At some point in our lives, we've probably all fell into the trap of thinking that somehow we've not been quite as sinful as others. It's the humanity in all of us that wants so badly to convince ourselves that maybe we are actually deserving of God's love and mercy, if only just a little. We've not been so bad, have we? I mean, sure, we have sinned in our lifetimes. Perhaps we've even done things that were so terrible that we'd be embarrassed if others were to find us out. But most of us have never murdered, raped, lived a life of crime or cursed God. We've not committed any of those terrible, black sins. So we want to justify ourselves, if only in our own minds, that we deserve our salvation. Or that we're better than other Christians because the past we've asked Him to forgive wasn't as serious as those the guy in the pew across from us has been guilty of.

But that kind of logic is in error. Not only is it wrong, but it's a dangerous state of mind to dwell in. The sins we've committed are no better than anyone else's. What's more, the book of James tells us that whoever keeps all laws and commandments except for one automatically becomes guilty of all because of the one we did commit. That's a pretty hefty passage and one that we should not take lightly. I know what you're saying. You mean to tell me that just because I lied about something yesterday, the weight of sin I carry is equal to the weight of murder? That's what our manual for living, the Holy Bible, says. You might find this unfair, and most people would agree with you. But there are reasons behind every action and reaction that God has, and His ways are much wiser than our own.

I believe that one reason behind this passage is that it makes us humble if we take it seriously. To consider ourselves no better than someone that has done something we find heinous is against our nature. We all want to feel like we're something special; that because we live our lives relatively cleanly, we are deserving of a higher regard and respect. But our Father reminds us, for those times when we inevitably forget, that He has created us of the same materials and with the same amount of detail and loving care. And we are all born with that sinful nature that required His blood to be shed in sacrifice for.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:3-4 that we are to humble ourselves like children. Our Savior said much in these few words. Children are not born with prejudices or with notions of superiority. Newborns have no idea whether they have just come into a family that lives in the projects of Atlanta, or if their family is of royal descent. They do not recognize themselves as better as any other baby in the nursery. They don't care anything about looking better than the tyke in the next crib or if the child on the other side has designer diapers. And perhaps the most important example we can take from newborns is that they do not come into the world having to justify themselves or beg for love. Most are loved before they are ever seen and are loved unconditionally- no matter who they look like, despite any physical deformities or maladies, and without a cent to their newly bestowed name.

If we are to truly see people as Christ sees them, we should strive to be like the parents of the newborn. We should greet others as if we've been waiting for them for months, ready to feed or clothe them and attend to their needs, and love them with the love of a parent. That's how Jesus sees each of us every day of our life. As a father loves his child. He looks upon us and sees the sweet, innocent boy or girl we used to be. He is able to look past the bodies we’ve abused and see the fragile heart inside. He can still see the potential inside of us through all the opportunities we’ve thrown away. And He can see the drop of His own blood that bore our own name at Calvary.

How often can we honestly say that we have looked at another human being the same way we look at our own children? If God sees each and every individual on earth as His own special child and we are to continuously strive to see others as He sees them, our vision of others will be drastically changed. Our lives, and society as a whole, could be changed also. Can you even imagine living in a world where all Christians were able to look at their neighbor across the street, the woman standing on the corner begging for food, or the man sitting in prison in the same way that they looked at their own children? Even though I can barely imagine it, I know that I would love to live there.

Too often, we have a hard time with the commandment that Christ called the greatest. Loving Him is seemingly easy enough, but loving others as we love ourselves is perhaps the hardest request our Father has given us. When we love ourselves, we see to it that our shelter is provided for, that we have enough food in our bellies, that necessities are met, and that we receive a few of our wants when our finances allow. But how often do we ask others, even those in our own families, if their needs have been met? When was the last time we had something extra and offered it to someone who might want or need it free of charge? With the exception of the Christmas season or birthdays, have you ever asked a friend or loved one what their most wished for item was?

Most of us hold Christ’s words about loving others dearly in our hearts. But something holds us back from feeling that love as dearly as He would have us feel it. And for some reason, we fail to act on the love we do have for our fellow man. Is it selfishness? Is it pride? Are we afraid?

In this keeping up with the Joneses, looking out for number one society that we live, people who care as much about other's needs and desires as they do their own are called names. Fanatic. Crazy. Suckers. Door mats. Very rarely are they called what they truly are: Christ-like. That is a name I’m sure we would all love to be called on a daily basis.

Let us all pray that He will truly open our hearts to those He calls His child. Ask Him to impress upon our eyes and our minds His own vision as we look upon others, and that it will become natural for us to do so each time we meet someone new. If we also ask Him to guide us to those who are desperate for love to be shown or have needs we can meet, I am certain the He will put people before us whom we can minister to in His name. In the process, we might just receive more of His love than we could ever give away!

If I could look through Christ’s eyes
Then I would know
What it was in this cold world
That made Him love it so

If I could look through Christ’s eyes
I’d understand much more
The love He felt upon that tree
For each one that He died for

If I could look through Christ’s eyes
Maybe then I’d see
Just what it was that He saw
That made Him save someone like me

If I could look through Christ’s eyes
Then I’d have insight
To what it’s like to live with God
In the glory of His light

One day He’ll help me comprehend
The things I cannot see
When I leave this earth to live
With Him eternally.

God On The Mountain

God On The Mountain

First published March 31, 2007

Thank You, Lord, for planting me in the midst of these wonderful mountains!

I drove up to the top of one of our area mountains the other day, and I was so blown away, Lord, by the awesomeness of it all. Being so close to the clouds and sky made me feel as if I could just step out and join You in the heavens; Like I was physically in Your presence. I felt that I had a special glimpse of the view that You have each day. I looked out on the adjoining hills and tree tops and realized that this was just a small corner of Your vast, wonderful creation. The width and depth and height of the entire world that Your hands have made are incomprehensible to me. For a moment, I felt so insignificant and small. Just a speck in the great scheme of things.

And then I thought of all the people who were at that very moment living, laughing, playing, working and praying within the boundaries of my limited vision. And even though I could only see a small part of the world, Lord, I realized that there must be thousands of people living within a ten mile or so radius of where I was standing. I realized that You knew each person by name. You alone knew every disappointment, failing, and feeling of inadequacy. You know what their prayers are for, and the truest desires of their hearts. You have seen all the scars and tears that no one else on earth will ever have an idea about.

You know their hopes, dreams, and loves. You share in their joys and take pride in their accomplishments just as I do with my own children. You see past all those bruises and things that we see as handicaps and see the person they can be. You know what Your perfect purpose for their life is even when they’re not so sure of it themselves.

Lord, how special we are. To be Your creation and even more than that, Your child, for that is such a wonderful thing to be. That You should care for each one of us so much that even the tiniest things in our lives matters to You is overwhelming to know!

Thank You, so much, Lord. Thank You for caring for everyone so much. Thank You for loving us all so much. And mostly, Lord, thank You for caring so much for me. Even in such a big world with problems so much greater than mine could ever be You care about the little things that I go through. Make me worthy every day of such love and devotion.

I Love You, Lord.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Occultism - A Poem
Jill Usher

Occultism - A Poem

Fascination held me fast
Astonished at what had past
The humdrum beat was not all there was
A world beyond, yet within my grasp

Entering in
I was adept at the craft
It was plainly true
I could tell
the future and its travails

Deeper and deeper I journeyed in
Awareness of a greater mind
awed by the power
no sense of shame crossed my mind

But out of nowhere
the darkness came
leering demons
like a shot

The battlefield arose, surrounding me
the power marshaled against me
Delphi at my side
whispering lies

But the Ancient One
He walked the sky
Peace eternal, peace profound
gentle as rain
I was found

Shame laid bare
My choice was clear
the eternal ONE
saved me
from the lies

A poem I wrote about my foray into the occult before I was saved.

Be always in Christ,

Jill Usher

Santo Toribio – Cantabria Spain
The Blessing of Two Crosses
Diana Raquel Sainz

First published November 2, 2015

While I tend to keep my religion and spirituality to myself, I do not preach, nor do I tell others what they should believe or not believe, it is something that should come from within you, within your heart and through your soul. Something one needs to experience on their own, you cannot force spirituality, it happens truly by an awakening and acceptance of a greater power, an acceptance of God and Jesus Christ into your life. As I grew up going to the region of the Liébana Valley in Spain, being Roman Catholic, not truly understanding the importance or value or the history of that area or religion for that matter, I was always taken by my grandfather, father or a family member to the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana.

The Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana is a Roman Catholic monastery located in the district of, Liébana near Potes in Cantabria, Spain. Located in the Cantabrian Mountains in northern Spain, the monastery is one of the five places of Christianity that, together with Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and Caravaca de la Cruz, has the privilege of perpetual indulgences. It is about 10 kilometers from the village of Perrozo where our family home in the mountains is.

Every year I have spent in the Valley of Liébana I had what now I realize is the true honor of attending the ceremonies of kissing the exposed piece of the cross that Jesus Christ was crucified on. I cannot explain to you the feeling or the sensation that astounds and takes my breath away each and every time I have this opportunity. I realize in the realm of this large world, I am truly one of a few percent that have had this honor and privilege and one I have learned not to take lightly. In doing my research for a book on the Liébana Valley, I learned so much more about this magnificent relic and the religious history, wars, kings, places, many prior to the birth of Jesus Christ.

The monastery was founded prior to the 6th century. According to tradition, the monastery venerates that largest piece of the Lignum Crucis (The True Cross) discovered in Jerusalem by Saint Helena of Constantinople. Brought from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher by Saint Turibius of Astorga, the left arm of the True Cross is kept on a gilded silver reliquary. The monastery was initially dedicated to St. Martin of Tours but its name was changed in the 12th century. On April 16, 1961, the Franciscan friars, Custodians of the Holy Places, were entrusted with the relic’s safekeeping and with the promotion of the devotion to the Holy Cross.

My recent trip last week to Spain I went for a long weekend with my aunt Fina Sainz Amoros to not only solidify and photograph some images for a project regarding our family history, but through a cherished friend Jesus Potes, it was made possible to have the cross privately removed from its amazingly ornate vault. I purchased 3 crosses from the Monastery shop. I laid each cross on top of the exposed piece of wood which upon Jesus was crucified. I said a personal prayer, kissed the cross and then had 2 of the crosses blessed by the priest who graciously did this intimate favor for me.

I will forever be grateful for this opportunity. The 2 blessed crosses, are for:

My Best friend who I so happened to miss during her visit here to Orlando, Kelly Ledbetter Stephens. She has supported me, prayed for me, and given me hope and strength, with that said, she in return needs the same, I do my best as her friend to give that to her. She is strong even when she feels weak, she is beautiful, she is a survivor and she carries Jesus in her heart where ever she goes. What she has endured in her lifetime should be a lesson to all of us, we can prevail. So Kelly Ledbetter Stephens my beautiful friend, this one is for you…

Kelly and Diana 3/2013 My Best friend who I so happened to miss during her visit here to Orlando, Kelly Ledbetter Stephens. She has supported me, prayed for me, and given me hope and strength, with that said, she in return needs the same, I do my best as her friend to give that to her. She is strong even when she feels weak, she is beautiful, she is a survivor and she carries Jesus in her heart where ever she goes. What she has endured in her lifetime should be a lesson to all of us, we can prevail. So Kelly Ledbetter Stephens my beautiful friend, this one is for you…

The largest surviving piece of the True Cross

  Copyright Details  

The second cross I purchased is for a VERY VERY DEAR friend of mine, Rissa Dodson From the moment we met on November 13, 2009 through a mutual friend, Scot Porter, we became instant friends. We were attending a concert at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, California to watch Cy Curnin – whom we LOVE and ADORE (Lead of The Fixx) play with Nick Harper for the Love Hope Strength Cancer Foundation. is NOW the world’s leading rock and roll cancer foundation.

Scot and Rissa, “the culprits” and I decided to continue our stalking of Cy and Nick and attend the second concert the next day in Corona, California at the Fender Museum… So on November 14, 2009, where were we, YUP, front and center table stalking Cy and Nick, but also for a great cause. Know there were a few other stalking moments over the years, but this is how my friendship with Rissa began. I took her on her first photo safari to the raunchiest place, out in the desert, but photographer’s paradise after she purchased her first camera and asking me to give her pointers (an honor when someone asks me).

Nick Harper, Rissa Dodson, Cy Curnin, Diana sainz and Scot Porter

About a month ago, my sweet friend, Rissa Dodson (younger than me) was diagnosed with Colon Cancer. The irony, we met at a concert to benefit cancer awareness, and now my friend whom I cherish is facing this horrible disease and is in for the fight! You got this Rissa!!!

The picture below is the cross I purchased for Rissa, laid on top of the exposed piece of wood from the left arm of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. A healing blessing was said for her, and that she may conquer this challenge and live a full and happy long life. (Especially so that we may continue to stalk Cy Curnin (The Fixx), Dave Wakeling (The English Beat and for you old folks like me, Dave was the cutie pie from General Public in the 80’s) and most importantly Mike Peters of the The Alarm who started Love Hope Strength because he had cancer.

The True Cross ~ The largest surviving piece of the True Cross.

The True Cross, largest known existing piece upon which Jesus was crucified, it is the left arm of the cross, you can see a hole in the cross from the nail that was drive through Jesus’ hand and into the wood.

According to tradition, this relic is part of the True Cross that the Empress Saint Helena unearthed in Jerusalem. From there, Saint Turibius of Astorga, Custodian of the Holy Places, took it to the cathedral of his hometown in Astorga, Spain, where he was soon made bishop. When the Moors invaded Spain in 711, the relic was hidden along with others in a fold on Mount Viorna in the Liébana Valley, next to St. Turibius’ relics. Both relics were eventually transferred to the monastery that immediately became an important place to be visited by pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Documents dated 1507 state that, “since time immemorial” the Jubilee is celebrated every time the saint’s feast-day falls on a Sunday.

Fr. Sandoval, chronicler of the Benedictine order, wrote that this relic is the “left arm of the Holy Cross. It was sawed and assembled in the form of a cross, leaving intact the hole where was nailed down the hand of Christ”. The vertical bar is 635 millimeters (25.0 in) long and the crossbar is 393 millimeters (15.5 in) long. The cross has a thickness of 38 millimeters (1.5 in). It is the largest preserved relic of the True Cross.

The wood was embedded in a Gothic silver gilded cross, manufactured by a workshop of Valladolid in 1679. It lies in a housing of golden wood in a baroque, domed, early 18th-century chapel in the north wall of the church, looked over by an effigy of the chapel’s founder, Francisco de Cosío y Otero (1640–1715), Grand Inquisitor of Madrid and later Archbishop of Bogotá in Colombia, who was born locally.

In 1817 Ignacio Ramón de Roda, Bishop of León, went to the monastery and asked permission of the prior of the Benedictine monks to remove a portion of the Cross. Two pieces of wood arranged in the form of a cross in a reliquary were given to Don Joachim and Don Felix Columbus, descendants of Christopher Columbus, for the chapel of their family castle in Asturias. In 1909 Terry and Mathilde Boal inherited and imported to their American estate the chapel of the Columbus family, including an admiral’s desk that belonged to the famous explorer himself. They brought from Spain to Boalsburg, the entrance door and the whole interior of the Columbus Chapel with the relic of the True Cross.

In 1958 a scientific investigation carried out by Madrid’s Forestry Research Institute, concluded that the relic is of a Mediterranean Cypress wood (Cupressus sempervirens), very common in Palestine, and could be older than 2,000 years.

 Santo Toribio de Liébana - Wikipedia English     Monasterio de Santo Toribio de Liébana - Wikipedia Spanish 

Inside the side room where the vault is kept

The side room which shelters the Lignum Crucis was designed by Fr. Pedro Martínez de Cardeña around 1705. There are several sculptures of Our Holy Fathers, apostles and saints in the niches (on the walls), though some of them belong to a modern time.

The relic is in the gold plated cross behind the altar, it is in the upright position in the cross, you may see it through the glass. The hole from the nail can be plainly seen. In 1958 the wood was scientifically analyzed in Madrid and discovered to be extraordinarily old, the wood is Cupressus Semperviven L.. (Cypress Sempervivens L.)

The veneration of this relic here has been accompanied by many signs and graces from heaven. Fr. Antonio de Yepes, in his Chronicles of the Benedictine Order, states, “If one had to count all the successive miracles, they would fill an entire tract…” Many people have testified to having received big graces praying in front of the relic of the True Cross here in Santo Toribio. As we venerate the cross here, we do so in a spirit of sorrow for our sins and asking graces for our lives that we may better represent Jesus in the world.

The Vault, gilted gold, ornate, absolutely gorgeous and ornate.
The Chapel was built at the beginning of the 18th century by Francisco Gómez de Otero y Cossío (1640-1714), born in the nearby village of Turieno where his native home can still be seen, inquisitor in Madrid and archbishop of Santa Fe de Bogotá (Colombia). Francisco’s praying statue up stands on top of a stone tomb next to the altar.

The Church

The most important building is the Gothic church, whose construction began in 1256, though it has been remodeled several times since. It is built on the site of a Pre-Romanesque and a Romanesque building (perhaps Asturian or Mozarabic in style). It has the clarity of line and space, and the surrounding decoration that characterizes the architecture of San Bernardo. the church is rectangular in plan with three aisles, a tower at the foot of the central, widest aisle, and three polygonal apses. Its facade is similar to that of the Abbey of the Holy Bodies, the cathedral of Santander. Its doors in the southern wall are Romanesque in style and possibly predate the building inside.

The Door of Forgiveness / La Puerta del Perdón

The principal door, the Puerta del Perdón (Door of Forgiveness) is only ever opened during each Jubilee Year when Saint Turibius’ day coincides with a Sunday. The cloister was completed in the 17th century.


The sacred relic of the Lignum Crucis, the largest known piece of the True Cross, has been worshiped perhaps since its arrival in the 8th century. However, it was not until the beginning of 16th century when, according to tradition, the Popes Julio II and Leon X definitely ratified the Jubilee, with plenary indulgence for the years in which St. Toribio’s day falls on a Sunday (16 April), extending the grace to the following seven days. That is why La Puerta del Perdón (The Forgiveness Door) was built at the time and opens during the Jubilee’s Year. The worship of this holy relic was truly outstanding all throughout the Baroque period, particularly during the Jubilee’s years. In 1967 the Pope Pablo VI extended that privilege to every day of the year and since then the affluence of pilgrims and public in general who attend this monastery on the Jubilee’s years have been extraordinary.

My personal Note:

The Love Hope and Strength Org has been my cancer foundation of choice because my father started off as a successful musician creating number one hits throughout Europe and then internationally at the age of 15, he attended the mandatory Spanish Military, he became a pilot and a commercial pilot, and by 1968 at the age of 25 became Dr. Alfonso Sáinz , leader of Spain’s most popular pop and instrumental band, still making number one hits, Los Pekenikes . With those same hands that played the sax and guitar, and that creative mind, he also as an OB/GYN brought life into this world, created surgical techniques allowing women to conceive then delivering their babies and also first and foremost SAVED many lives of many women by finding cancer during early stages and or removing cancerous tumors saving their lives.

In 1984 on my 18th birthday, my father, age 41, was diagnosed with a rare stomach cancer. He was ONE in FIVE percent to survive this type of cancer to begin with. I THANK GOD every day for the extra 30 years he gave me with my father whom I consider a gift to me from God himself. Kelly Ledbetter Stephens and Rissa Dodson, while your needs for these crosses may be different, I pray that the blessings that were placed upon them as they laid on top of the largest piece of the “TRUE CROSS” touching the very wood that Jesus gave his life for to take away our pain, our sins, and so that we may be forgiven. I LOVE YOU BOTH with all of my heart and know that you are not only in my prayers, but in the prayers of so many.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Natalie Kendel

First posted December 7, 2015

This past September two big things happened to me. The first is that I got married. The second is that I started my MA in theology. I started studying again because it’s a dream of mine to teach. One of the biggest reasons why I want to teach theology, is that I want to make good tools for reading the Bible available to anyone. Even people who haven’t studied theology.

One of the three classes I had this semester was called Principle and Methods of Theology, taught by Dr Jan Barna at Newbold College. And I can say it is, by far, one of the most interesting classes I’ve taken. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days it made my brain hurt. (But a good kind of hurt.)

In short, the class examines world views, and the discipline of Epistemology. Epistemology is the study of knowledge or knowing – what we know, how we know what we know. It also challenges the ‘black box’ of presuppositions and philosophical baggage we bring to the table every time we talk about truth or trying to discern reality.

It was during this class, as I listened and took notes, that I realised I had to write an album about what I was learning. So amidst writing my papers, and commuting back and forth between home and college, [Known] was born, mostly written on the back of napkins and ticket receipts.

But what was so great about this class that it made me want to write a whole music album about it?

In class we learned that all human beings ask the fundamental questions of:

Who am I? (What are my origins?)
Why am I here?
What is the problem with the world?
What is the solution/ future – where am I going?

We call these fundamental questions, Universals. And when we try to answer those questions, we use our worldview to do so. Our worldview basically shapes how we see reality.

There are three main world views, which have swayed and shaped human history since the beginning.

From Aristotle to Augustine to Austen – all thinkers, all people, have gone to one of these three ‘lenses’ to answer the Universals listed above.

The first is Nature. This worldview looks to the natural, material world for answers, leading to disciplines like science. It assumes that if something exists or is true, it can be sensed or discovered by sensing beings.

The second is Mind. This worldview, birthed by the Greeks, sees the answers as lying in thought and the mind. It split reality into two parts – one the material world, which is a shadow and something which needs to be escaped from, and the other the world of logos – thought/idea/mind. This is where truth lies in this world view.

And the third is Revelation. This worldview supposes that human beings can’t find truth, the Universals, or reality by observing the world around them, or by looking into their own mind. In fact, they can’t do it by themselves at all. The Revelation epistemology claims a Creator God as being the source of all true knowledge and reality. It is he who reveals to us the truth of our origins, the problem in the world, and the future.

Imagine for a moment what a radical idea this is

– a Revelation worldview. It flies, in many ways, in the face of Humanism. It goes against the commonly-held faith in human progress, ability and genius. It presents us as completely dependent on someone else than ourselves.

Many Christians believe they have this Revelation worldview, but in reality they often mix this worldview with the other two. A way of mixing them is to, for example, look to Nature to prove there is a God, or to validate the biblical story. Or by mixing it with Mind, and believing that if we just study and meditate enough, we can arrive at the truth, instead of God being the one who opens our eyes to it.

I say again – I think the Revelation worldview is a radical one. But it was also the one held by the biblical writers. John believed it. Paul believed it. It was their worldview.

The Principles and Methods class made me realise just how much ‘mixing’ I had done myself. And I thought that if the Revelation worldview was the worldview of writers of the Bible, then I wanted to understand it better. I wanted to better see the lens through which they saw the world – in fact, the lens of the first Christians.

I am reminded of a quote from one of C. S. Lewis’ fictional novels.
“‘You would not have called to me, unless I had been calling to you,'” said the Lion.” (The Silver Chair).

And perhaps this is a very good way to explaining the Revelation worldview. God is the instigator.

He reaches to us before we even know we want to reach for him. He takes the first step, and keeps taking steps to reach us, to reveal to us, to call to us. In fact, human beings finding any truth at all hinges entirely on him.

I wrote [Known] because I wanted to find a way to make some of the big questions asked in class available and accessible to others. I wanted to challenge and prod, and make a call, as much to myself as to anyone else, to ask God to restore a Revelation lens to my thinking. To restore again to us a image of a Cosmos entirely dependent, every second of every day, on his Provision and Sustaining.

And to see through a glass darkly the image of a God who wants to be known.

Natalie Kendel is a Christian theologian who works as a songwriter and musician. To listen to and download her latest album [Known] , visit her site here:

Released October 25, 2015

Natalie Kendel is an author, songwriter, public speaker, theologian, and philosopher, living in England.

Using an imaginative, narrative approach, she communicates a biblical storyline in her music. Led through baroque pop sound and genre blends, Kendel evokes a rallying listening experience, with unique lyrics, based on in-depth study of the biblical text.