Saturday, February 23, 2013


The morning sun is edging over the mountain to the east. My cats and I are sitting at the window table that overlooks our snow-blanketed front yard that stretches for miles down below to the ridge of mountains across the valley. We are studying the many sizes of animal tracks. Who knows what or if a cat thinks, but I'm thinkin':   "I don't want to know what animal made those gigantic footprints!"

We just spotted a huge bobcat 'way down below. Have you ever watched the pupils in your cats' eyes change from slits to saucers?  Mine just did.  Fascinating!  These two have cabin fever so Bootsie's yowls coaxed me into letting them outside just now. They did a U turn as soon as they hit that 32 degree temperature. Then, just like my sons used to do when they came through the door, they tackled one another and quicker than lightning had one another in a headlock. Bootsie, the smaller of the two kitties, will climb up on my lap after one of them declares himself the winner, unleash his needle-sharp claws and knead on my fleece bathrobe. Then he will curl up and nap on my shoulder while I read Leviticus in my Chronological Bible. That accomplished, I will hasten to turn to II Corinthians to catch a fresh breath of New Covenant air.

Puss'n, not a "kneader",  will find a sunny spot, stretch his enormous body to full length, turn over on his back, point his big paws to the ceiling, and snooze all day.  In a month or so the gophers and field mice will exit their underground burrows and Puss'n Boots will go to work and earn their room and board.  My spring/summer/fall nightlife will kick in and I will be wringing my hands until my "kids" have deposited their headless trophies on my doorstep and are safe in their little beds about three in the morning.

Why do I let these pets of mine outside with the critters that can't wait to snack on their beautiful  bodies?  I haven't the heart to take away their purpose for living. This week I have had to participate in the sad decision  a mission board must make to break the news to a fellow aged warrior that he cannot go back to the foreign field under their umbrella.  I weep.  So far, I am blessed to have both feet in the stirrups. Modern technology (some of which twists my mind into knots)  connects me in several ways around this world on a regular basis.  ...but there may be a time when I am put out to pasture. ...but not quite yet.

Up here on this mountain, God's activity surfaces afresh nearly every day.  I get to study the Bible for hours every morning and then I get to teach  it. You bet the devil's news media is discouraging, but the Holy Spirit's activity has always hidden beneath the radar. I don't believe that the "Roman Gazette" reported anything that we read about in our Bibles. Today there are millions of young and older people in our troubled country who have not "bowed the knee to Baal", nor will they.

This is the verse I left with my radiant-with-Jesus young people at the conclusion of our class in Ephesians on Thursday afternoon: "But Moses told the people, 'Don't be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you.  Just stay calm.' "  (Exodus 14:13 and 14)  All of us have the devil at our backs and a deep blue (Red) sea in front of us. We have a choice: Believe God's promises to us, His beloved children, or collapse in unbelief and despair.

This minute there is a beautiful bluebird who neglected to read the weather forecast, sitting on an ice-covered branch of Ted's apple tree (from which he harvested one apple only in all of his years of waiting), looking bewildered. His brilliant blue coat against the white snow on the mountain is breathtakingly beautiful! Dr. Seuss "talked to the animals". So do I. I also yell at them. You haven't been truly startled until at three o'clock in the morning you sit bolt upright as a mouse,  fleeing for its life from a cat who is chasing him at full speed, lands right in the middle of your stomach! You may be saying, "Why don't you set traps?"  I do. ...but mountain mice know how to outsmart a trap or those little blue pellets that are supposed to knock 'em dead. We either  come to terms with this reality:  that the animals were here before we were, or we live cooped up in our houses just as we did in the cities from which we fled.  Some people up here on this mountain are downright incensed when someone kills a rattlesnake. Well, they can just be incensed. That is the only wild critter I absolutely despise. The mountain lions don't show up at this elevation and neither do the bears. ...although when I walk my half-mile driveway to the pavement I see "evidence" that they have taken a stroll down my road in the night. Like Scarlett O'Hara, "I'll think about that tomorrow".

This week, we measured the snowfall on our mountain by feet, rather than by inches. My trusty Ridgeline Honda truck and I did get out to teach my class on Thurday then I met with a lovely bunch of believers for prayer at the Country Club that night...but my tires slipped out of the tracks on my driveway and I didn't make it into my garage when I came home.  My kind son-in-law came down the mountain last night and shoveled a ton of snow out from under my truck and drove it into the garage.

I used to be called upon a great deal to speak for women's doins' here and there. One such invitation was to speak for a Christian Womens' Club in Brownsville, Texas. All of these women were snow-birds who fled from the upper states to the Gulf Coast for the winter. Whoever planned the entertainment for the event made the thoughtless blunder of having a soloist sing "White Christmas". The crowd of women actually BOOED!  There is something quite lovely about being snowbound ...for a day or so.  ...but for a whole winter that lasts around eight or nine months? Nope! Ted, little Doug and I lived in Minnesota for several years when Ted was in college. Many a morning, my man uncovered three or four cars before he found ours, buried under snowdrifts half as high as our apartment building.

I may put my snow boots on, grab my ski poles and take a walk down my snow-covered driveway after I put this blog to bed for another week.  ...or maybe I won't. The temperature is dropping, so I could throw a bigger log on the fire and eat the tasty soup Heidi insisted I take when I dropped in to hug her neck at her house the other day.

As I look out the window in front of my desk and gaze at the top of our mountain a couple of thousand feet above,  the ice covered trees glitter like a million Christmas lights. Beautiful!

...but no beauty can equal the beauty of our lovely Jesus.

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus; sing His mercy and His grace;
In the mansions, bright and blessed, He's prepared for us a place.

Onward to the prize before us! Soon His beauty we'll behold.
Soon the pearly gates will open; we will tread the streets of gold.


Love, Jo

Saturday, February 16, 2013

God's purifying fire

In 1984, the year oil prices and the economy plummeted in Houston, it was made evident to us that we had to leave Houston and come back to a dry climate where I could live without being bedridden from allergies to pine and mold. The shady pine forests, frequent torrential rains and high humidity blend together to produce mold in that beautiful city. Breathing mold, for me, threatened to be fatal. I was exhausted from the headaches. Allergy shots did not help. Nothing helped. As is so often the case, one phone call from a messenger from God opened the way for us to come to this place of physical healing for me, high on a California mountain where the air is dry.  ...but the "way of escape" that God provided appeared at the time, to be brutal.

No homes were selling. Our personal home had been trashed out by renters. My family began the tedious, sweaty process of ripping out carpets, painting and doing what we could to repair the damage. ....and then what seemed to be a disaster struck! An arsonist came in the middle of the night, threw a match into some cleaning fluid and the result was a horrifying thick covering of filthy black sticky residue that ruined every effort we had made to restore our home in order to put it on the market.  We had moments of wishing the house had simply burned to the ground...but that was not God's plan  (...and NO! I didn't strike the match!).

I had heard of a Christian family who specialized in restoring burned homes and buildings. I called them.  Our daughter, Dee, summoned our family and friends to come and pray over the ghastly mess. While we were praying,  John Freidrickson, burn specialist, showed up, prayed with us, and we made a plan. ...a plan that led to a nearly gutted house with walls opened up to a beautiful view of ...Yep! You guessed it...a pine forest!  Because the fire department declared the cause of the fire to be arson, our insurance paid every cent required for the renovation. We put the house on the market and the first people who answered the ad exclaimed: "This is like a California house! We love the openness! We'll take it!" ...and they did!

That was  twenty-nine years ago. God made a way for us to come to Bear Valley to pioneer the building of a church here on this lovely mountain that has clean, dry air. Yes... in California that is known for its smog down below in the valleys.  We rented the only available house through the efforts of Nancy, a lovely Christian realtor and a year later purchased this family/ministry home. There was no way we could afford to buy this house, but God could, and He did.  I remain in this home where family has gathered countless times and literally thousands of people have come for help and restoration. I have not had one day in all these years suffering from the agony of debilitating headaches.

As I revisit the shocks that have been followed by God-surprises throughout my long life, a pattern emerges and here it is: First comes the burn. Then comes the cleansing. The burnt offering is the oldest offering known to man. The burnt offering went up in smoke. As in the Old Testament Tabernacle, the animal without blemish was burned in the brazen altar, the first piece of furniture the people saw as they entered the Outer Court. This burnt offering is a picture of Christ in death...a death that exonerated us from the penalty of sin and death, once we receive the dying Lamb's substitutionary blood-letting for us on the cross.

The next piece of furniture in the Outer Court of the Tabernacle, the laver, which is made of mirrors, represents the Word of God which shows us our need for cleansing. The law cannot cleanse us and neither can the mirror. Beneath the mirror, however, is a wash basin. The laver is where we confess our sins and receive his forgiveness and cleansing.  Today only the blood of Christ can cleanse us from all sin. The blood offering under the old Law merely covered over sin. Christ's blood offering erased sin. Forever.

My family could never have dug into the walls deep enough to dislodge the filth and the mold. It took a Specialist. That's our Jesus.

Maybe we will proceed with my very elementary explanation of the Tabernacle as it relates to us today: God's redeemed children. ...or maybe I won't. That's a whole week away and lots can happen in a week. Boy Howdy! Can it ever!!

                                     Hymn of the Week: There is a Fountain

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

Thou dying Lamb, thy precious blood shall never lose its power
'Til all the ransomed church of God are saved, to sin no more.

E'er since by faith I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply
Redeeming love has been my theme and shall be till I die.
Then in a nobler, sweeter song I'll sing Thy power to save
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Love, Jo

Saturday, February 9, 2013

I married a warrior

I married a warrior. For sixty years we battled the enemy together. We battled each other as well at times. Two iron wills met at the cross, then at the altar and then on the battlefield. My Ted believed me to be so strong that I did not need him to protect me sometimes and that scared me. ... but it also drove me to the Word and prepared me to continue on alone and do battle in Satan's kingdom. 

God has graciously provided four local men who are skilled in different arenas of ministry that willingly help me when I call upon them. It takes four to even begin to match Ted's gifts that God developed in him over his long lifetime of work for the Lord. God is graciously providing some women partners in ministry. For three days this week I made phone calls to many of my prayer and financial supporters across this nation.  Today I will call the west coast and northern friends/supporters. The Lord has put upon my heart for many years to personally keep in contact with every supporter; not only to thank them for their investment in us but to pray for them as they do battle with the world, the flesh and the devil. Some are widows; some are still couples; some are veterans of world wars,  having fought for our nation's freedoms. Now they are nearly unbearably saddened to see that we have become a nation of sheep.

Our "hope is in the Lord".  We have been at war with the enemy from the second we received Christ as Lord of our lives. As the Lord graciously gives me the joy of introducing someone to Christ, right afterwards,  I open scripture to show them that 1) they are no longer condemned and cannot lose their salvation; 2) that the Lord Jesus Christ is God-in-the-flesh; 3) the Holy Spirit has entered their very souls and bodies;  4) the Bible is the Word of God that must be their constant guide;  5) show and tell them in scripture who their enemies are. I don't relish giving a brand new Christian that last piece of news right after giving them the greatest news they have ever heard, but there is good news within the bad news:  Jesus Himself has already won the battle against Satan at Calvary.

Nothing in war makes an army fight so desperately as necessity. What was the fuel that fed Ted's and my passion to fight for the Gospel? ... persecution for our faith in Christ. Ted's dad offered him a full ride through college to prepare to be a surgeon if he would "give up this religion and that woman who led you into it." Ted, already a many-lettered hard fighting athlete and a veteran Navy corpsman said, "Thanks, Dad, but I am going to serve Christ," My family called me names,  yelled at me, mocked me and impugned my motives.  Is it any wonder that the first verse I learned besides John 3:16 is Proverbs 16;7: "If a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even His enemies to be at peace with him." All of these attacks made Ted and me strong....not bitter; not victims, but strong warriors. Early on, we learned that the deal was this: ...It's just us and the Lord. Now Ted's wars are over; mine are not. ...and I get so scared sometimes. very scared. ...and I run to His Word and drench myself in it. He hears my cry. ...and I can, with honesty, tell others that He is our Shield and Defender, our Comforter, our Guide, our Strong Tower, our Provider, our tender but mighty Daddy who fights for us. ...and I am experiencing in a new way that He is my Bridegroom... Add your own lovely definitions that describe your Blessed Redeemer.

Most of the young people I am ministering to are fighting terrible battles. That's why the Lord sends them to me, of course. I do my best to help them be grateful for what they do have and to show respect for their parents. Yes, I tell stories to the next generation as we older ones are admonished to do in Psalm 78.  My Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday students love to get me goin' with my stories, but I always draw them back to biblical truths. These "truths" are all they will have in order to face the coming days. They cannot survive on my stories, but they must let Christ write their story as they depend upon Him and His Word.

Is this a "doomsday message"? Nope. It's prophecy coming to a speedy reality. Every mature student of God's Word that I talked to across this nation this week knows it and is doing exactly what I am doing:

...telling (Tell me)  the story of Jesus; write on my heart every word
Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard
Tell how the angels in chorus sang as they welcomed His birth
"Glory to God in the highest! Peace and good tidings to earth."

Tell of the cross where they nailed Him, writhing in anguish and pain
Tell of the grave where they laid Him; tell how He liveth again.
Love in that story so tender, clearer than ever I see
Stay, let me weep while you whisper, LOVE paid the ransom for me.

Love, Jo

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Why Josephus?

Christian scholars are well acquainted with the works of Josephus, but he has always posed problems for people like me, the average reader.  The strong point of Josephus' works lies in the fact that he was there and was personally involved in the Jewish rebellion during the Romans' powerful hold on their Empire during Bible-recording times.  He was more a pagan than a Jew.  At the age of nineteen he became a Pharisee then served as a priest until the age of twenty-six at which point he became involved in the Jewish rebellion against the Romans. At twenty-nine, he was the governor of Galilee, a general and an administrator committed to the Jewish cause. He pulled a convenient and traitorous flip-flop when he saw that the Romans would overpower the Jewish rebellion and served the Romans for the rest of his life.

Why am I reading the works of such a fickle recorder?  I want to understand what was going on in biblical times and he seems to be the man with the most accurate history of that period of time. Simultaneously I have returned to the beginning of our Bible to study through Genesis, Job, and now Exodus (the chronological order of the Books).  I am not yet sure which Pharoahs reigned during the 400 years of the Hebrews' enslavement, but this week I will go on that search. As archaeologists are discovering thousands more mummies, some still encased in gold, buried beneath the sand, and are uncovering more tombs that have mostly been stripped of the immense wealth that was buried with the hotshot leaders of that day, the message of Solomon's "Ecclesiastes" settles deeper into my soul: "All is vanity".

Shall we move ahead to the night when the Baby Jesus was born in a filthy manger in an obscure town near Jerusalem?  The blood of countless thousands was spilled regularly, right down the road from his birthplace. There was scarcely any notice given to the murduring of the leaders' own wives, mothers, sons and daughters, or anyone else that stood in the way of their wicked schemes to remain in power. ...and then came the birth of ...a baby Messiah?  ...when millions of terrified people were crying for a strong warrior to come and staunch the blood-letting?  Is it any wonder that Jesus'  message of God's love manifested through His death and resurrection seemed so pitifully inadequate to many?

What will be the next hammer blow that could shake our nation out of its denial?  Think, if you will, of the plagues He permitted with the mighty Egyptians:  one for every god they had worshipped. ...and still Pharoah hardened his heart. Finally we read that "God hardened his heart". Note that God did not "harden his heart" until after Pharoah repeatedly hardened his. We dare not miss the message.
Will turning to God only occur in our wealth-hungry country as our blood and the blood of our families, neighbors and friends runs in the streets? Perhaps. Perhaps. Meanwhile, as the Christian philosopher of the last century, Frances Schaefer asked before he went Home:  "How Shall We Then Live?" He predicted that following the acceptance of homosexuality as a celebrated lifestyle, the government-approved killing of unborn babies, then the gradual acceptability of euthanasia (That would mean that I will be murdered, along with millions of American people considered to be old and useless.), America could join the many civilizations that have been judged by our righteous Father and relegated to Godless darkness.

From these pages of history, I rush to Ephesians and wrap around my being the Power and Might of the New Covenant. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God gives LIFE ...and I want to immerse myself in the Life-giving words of  Christ . I want to spill out those words to anyone He sends to me. ...until Jesus lifts me into His tender arms and transports me to my Beautiful Father's Throne. Knowing that He has already "accepted me in the Beloved" and has "seated me in the Heavenlies"  while the soles of my feet are solidly planted on the Promises here on Earth, gives me the will to keep on keeping on.

                        HYMN OF THE WEEK: HOW FIRM A FOUNDATION

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you, who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

"Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my gracious omnipotent hand".

Love, Jo