Treasured Things

My Mom's Evening Bag
     During hurricane season, when we lived along the coast of South Carolina, I kept a few boxes handy filled with irreplaceable mementoes and pictures in case the Governor ordered us to evacuate. When hurricane season ended, I put these little treasures back on shelves where I could enjoy seeing them. Some of my treasured things included my childhood choir pins, baby pictures of my children, a small porcelain 80-90-year-old statue my mother gave my grandmother, one of our wedding pictures from 1977, my mother’s evening bag for dressy occasions, and a photo of my parents taken on one of their train trips to New York City in the 1940s.
     Not one of these sentimental things has any value over $20 I’m sure! Yet, when I look at them, they evoke tender, precious memories of loved ones and my childhood.   How do my simple treasures relate to our Heavenly Father?  In Deuteronomy 14:2 we read about God persistently teaching His detailed list of instructions to create the early culture of the Jewish people. Right in the middle of all these minute details about marriage, sacrifices, laws, and every aspect of life, Moses makes a rather startling statement to God’s Jewish people: “Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession.”  This is such an affectionate, powerful statement during a busy, task oriented “day at the office” attempting to organize 12 tribes of almost a million people.
My Church Choir Pins
     While we know that God fashioned the Jewish people and culture as His vessels to transmit His laws, scriptures, and ultimately His Beloved Son through them, we also know that God made an additional provision.  The Old Testament royally sets the table for us non-Jews (Gentiles) when we embrace the concept of our adoption in the New Testament. We are adopted into the tribe! We don’t replace His Jewish people, the people of His eternal covenant, but we do partake of the privilege of being grafted in to the ancient Olive tree of Judaism. Judaism is the root of our Christian DNA.
     While my sentimental treasures don’t have a high monetary value, God places a high value on us! I don’t even comprehend it quite honestly. Yet, when I  think of my small treasures, it does serve to remind me of how the Lord views us. We are so highly treasured by God the Father that He sent His beloved, one and only Son, to redeem us from the pawnshop of sin and darkness.  Whether we think of ourselves as treasures or not, that’s God’s viewpoint of us.  Difficult to comprehend, but oh so joyous when we glimpse the truth of God’s limitless, lavish love. We are HIS treasures.
     What are some of your treasures? When you think of them, remember YOU are a treasure in God’s eyes.


Circa 1981
     My husband and I lived on Hilton Head Island, SC the first eight years of our marriage. When we first moved there, we described ourselves as a poet and singer looking for creativity inspired by beauty. We found it on this idyllic South Carolina barrier island. 
     In 1976, only one stoplight interfered with the island’s population of 6,000.  We shopped at the only grocery store, the iconic Piggly Wiggly. Everyone knew everyone and we lived “a wonderful life.” We slept at night to the sound of waves washing in from the Atlantic Ocean and roamed the beach with our amazing German Shepherd “Moondance.” We slogged in the pluff mud’s unique perfume harvesting oysters, and steamed them outdoors over wood fires. 
     Several years later, I opened a singing telegram company. Singing telegrams were popular back in the 70s and 80s. The island’s population grew and so did my business, Southern Onion Singing Telegram and Balloon Company. My singing characters were quite popular:  Scarlett O’Southern, a tuxedoed troubadour, Curley the Clown, and the “wildly” popular Gloria Gorilla. 

Gloria Gorilla
     I became quite adept at loping into a restaurant announcing myself with a kazoo, locating the birthday or anniversary recipient, and belting out an acapella song. The gorilla suit was so real looking, it frightened guests in restaurants so I quickly solved the problem by asking a friend to make a pink tutu. I topped it off with a pink ribbon on the mask and sported a pink T-shirt that proclaimed, “Ape for you.” Gloria Gorilla was famous on Hilton Head and restaurants sold more drinks and food because the songs made everyone so happy. 
      The songs were not just an ordinary “Happy Birthday to you,” but an original song set to a familiar tune, and totally personalized for the recipient. I found that almost always no one had ever had a song written just for them. When they ordered a singing telegram, loved ones and friends secretly provided the information beforehand. With my handy, now tattered Rhyming Dictionary, I created an original song. Recipients laughed, cried, and especially loved the gorilla hugs dispensed by Gloria.  Pictures captured all the excitement. 
     The concept of “personalized” really held great meaning.  An anniversary or birthday song lit up a recipient’s eyes as the crooner-whether a gorilla, clown or southern belle- sang about their college, birthplace, favorite color, hobbies, children, spouse, and so on. I learned that many islanders framed the copy of their song which was presented after the serenade. Having a personalized song or any other personalized gift  is special to most of us.

     And God Himself is the Designer of Personalization.  Psalm 139:13-16 beautifully describes it this way: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
     Think of it!  God has created billions, maybe trillions, of unique human beings. He personalized each one of us with appearances, talents, abilities, interests, and ethnicities.  Then He designed a redemptive plan available to everyone He ever created. He offers us a Gift and the freedom to either accept or reject it.  Isaiah 49:16 describes this magnificent gift with a profound personalized message which bespeaks of Jesus, our sacrificial Savior: “See, I have written your name on the palms of My hands.”   
     While God the Father offers us the same magnificent Gift of His 
Scarlett O'Southern 
beloved Son, we encounter the Lord in many unique ways that God personalizes to reach into our hearts and introduce Himself. It may be a friend, a book, a pamphlet, a dream, or a crisis which awakens us to Him.God allowed me to see the importance of personalization and the impact on people through my  silly singing telegram company. But more significantly, it opened up for me a new understanding of God’s love and His personalized design for every one of us.  I hope that you too will embrace more of His PERSONAL interest in you! 
                 And remember, God has composed a life song just for you!

Crushed in Gethsemane

     In Jesus’ time, the Mount of Olives was a manufacturing location to produce olive oil. In olive groves scattered all over Israel, huge ancient stone olive presses crushed the harvested olives. The pulp eventually underwent enough crushing so that refined oil emptied into clay jars to use in cooking, anointing, and Temple lights. I’ve seen one of the huge olive presses discovered in various parts of Israel. Their size and crushing methods portrayed their effectiveness!
The Christian community is well-versed in the fact that Jesus prayed in anguish and wept tears of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to His betrayal and arrest. Yet, His geographical location on the Mount of Olives is rich with physical and spiritual symbolism for us today. Even the word “Gethsemane” itself means “olive oil” in Hebrew and Aramaic.

Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane was a process of crushing His will as He prayed to His Father in Heaven, “Not My will but Thine be done.” While we know the magnificent outcome of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the process was excruciating. It is instructive however for us today in our lives.  We cannot in any way compare ourselves to Jesus’ sacrificial death on the tree to pay our debt of sin. But we can draw perspective from His crushing. Sorrows befall us in life and some seem insurmountable. The death of a child, parent or spouse. Terminal illness or divorce. Loss of income. Betrayal. Depression. An endless list.  

Scripture is replete with stories of sorrow and problems which seem to have no good outcome either. For example, Joseph in the pit- then prison- could not have imagined he’d later be the Prime Minister for Egypt’s Pharaoh. A devout Jew, the apostle Paul-imprisoned and beaten-endured to become the most well-known missionary in the ancient world carrying the good news to the non-Jewish world. Today, the nation of Israel is an example too. Crushed for thousands of years with deportation, anti-Semitism, violence, and death they have harnessed centuries of crushing and endurance to create a thriving ancestral homeland which blesses the world with their innovations. 

Jesus’ crushing in Gethsemane was dark, painful, and later unbearable on the tree. Yet His crushing for our sins became the oil of salvation for all of us who accept His sacrificial gift of eternal life.  What is crushing you in your Gethsemane? When we look to our Lord Jesus and cry out for His help, He walks us though whatever is crushing us. Counting on Him, we find hope and solutions.

The lesson and the outcome: Like harvested olives crushed into precious olive oil, our crushing can turn into beauty and usefulness in the comforting Hands of our Lord. Then we can fully embrace 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV) 
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”

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