A Common Girl, An Uncommon Time

Adapted from Luke 1:5-2:19

Journey One

After a long walk from Nazareth with Daniel’s family, finally Elizabeth’s shaky soprano drifted over her wall, her words from a psalm of David Mary recognized. “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” The swish of her broom kept time to her song. She had waited so long, no wonder her joy.

Mary tapped at the gate with one hand. The other caressed the cotton tunic over her stomach. Would her elder cousin  understand her confusion? “Elizabeth, it’s me.” 

Elizabeth’s singing stopped. She opened the gate. Her silver hair escaped the veil that covered her wrinkled head and belied the obvious bump under her clothing.

“Mary!” Elizabeth’s hand flew to her own womb and her eyes bulged. “Our little John recognizes the mother of our Messiah, the tiny One you carry!” She hugged Mary and kissed her cheek.

“The angel said you’d understand God’s moving among us. … I only wanted to marry Joseph and raise a big family with my carpenter. And now … ”

“Have you told Joseph?”

“He didn’t call for the elders to stone me. He said, ‘We’ll just call it off.’

And I couldn’t … I came to you. The angel said I’m favored, but I feel … favored … and not favored, all at once.” She searched Elizabeth’s eyes for understanding.

And got it. “Dear girl, come in. You look pale. Tea and cakes will revive you. Gabriel spoke to Zechariah too, to tell him about John. You must have responded with faith. Zechariah questioned Gabriel and can’t speak now.” Elizabeth smiled, but then shook her head.

Mary accepted tea, and they relaxed in the courtyard. “Yes, suddenly Gabriel stood there in the room with me.

“He’s not a little fellow.

“I could barely manage to accept his assignment. There’s no evidence I should mother the Messiah. Why me, out of all the girls in Nazareth? Anyway, I asked him one question. How? I really am a virgin, Elizabeth.

”And yet, my womb warmed with life when God moved over me. I know Jesus grows inside me. I know, and yet I am … I don’t know how to do this.”

Elizabeth waited.

“Will my father disown me? My mother insisted I come to you because of what Gabriel said, but her skeptical look broke my heart. What will the townspeople say? I don’t want to return to Nazareth. I’m glad Gabriel told me about you. But … ”

Elizabeth cupped Mary’s arm. “Dear girl, you needn’t know how to do this. I know for certain our God guides us who live in faith. You need only put one foot in front of the other in the direction He leads.”

Tension left Mary in the light of Elizabeth’s words. “Could I stay with you for a while? Could you talk with me about Jesus and John? Please?”

“Of course, for as long as you need. A visit will shorten the time of my waiting.”

Mary stayed three months, gaining courage for what lay ahead and strengthening her faith. After she kissed Elizabeth goodbye, Mary looked to heaven and said, “The Lord has looked with favor on the humble estate of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is His name.” And yet, in this generation, not everyone thinks me blessed. She took home with her all the wisdom Elizabeth had shared before it was time to bring John into the world.

I’m hosting a Christmas blog tour this month. Writing friends participate, and you’ll find nine blogs over the month, with everything from adaptations like this to ideas for Christmas movies and kindness. Look for the rest of this story the week of Christmas. I hope you enjoy the journey.

Guest Author!

My friend and critique partner, Dave Parks, has recently published a terrific book about Elijah, and is about to publish another. I invited him to tell you about himself and his work, and here is what he said:

What book did you publish?

What’s the Book About?

Twelve-year-old Elijah tries to rescue a slave girl. A few years later he gets beat up trying to save a baby from being burned up by Moloch the rain god. He storms off to the capital city and tells the king: “Neither dew nor rain until I say so.” He doesn’t know where those words came from.

He thinks anger motivates him, so the Lord’s “Hide at the Brook” must mean he’s hearing things. Not until Moloch thugs have him hiding under a thorn bush does he pay attention to the Lord’s voice. The story follows the Biblical outline, ending with a chariot of fire and the mantle falling on Elisha.

How did you get the idea for the book?

In Kings and Chronicles, I became fascinated with Elijah and Elisha, Ahab and Obadiah. Then I remembered “Elijah was a man with passions like ours.” (James 5:17)

Did he have a temper?
Get discouraged?
Notice the ladies?

Where can I read the first chapter?

Click here to read Chapter 1. Wind and Fire

What do readers say about this book?

It’s like I’m there. Watching.
– Darci

I loved every part of this book!

— Shanielle

The feel and texture of this story drew me into the ancient world of the Bible.

– Gary Endermann

An excerpt:

“Grab that goatskin!”

Elijah patted the donkey’s rump. “Excuse me.” As he dove beneath the belly, his knee slid through a pile of fresh droppings. Hmm…. Better than a sharp rock. He poked his head out the other side.

A mother with a baby on her back jumped away and pulled two dirty-faced children with her. Elijah favored them with the smile which had sold dozens of skins of Tishbe wine to camel pullers on the King’s Highway, but the children screamed and grabbed their mother’s knees. As Elijah scooted past, most of the donkey dung fell from his knee.

“He’s getting away.”

A bronze-colored chariot stood in his path. No time to run his hand over the rail or examine the wheels. He leaped the shafts and lunged for the gate of the fort.

A load of melons hanging from both sides of a donkey blocked the opening.

From behind him a shout—“Hey, grab that kid in the goatskin. Stop him!”

Elijah nodded to the donkey’s open-mouthed owner, stood tall, sucked in his belly, and squeezed sideways past the bulging sacks. Sandals slapping planks, he dashed across the bridge then down the grade and into the trees. He ripped off the goatskin, jammed it into his pack, and slipped into his robe.

From the gate—“Find that goatskin. He’s not far.”

Where can I buy the book?

Click here to buy The Boy Who Closed the Sky.

When’s your next book coming out?

If the Lord wills and I live, in the fall of 2022 I hope to publish the story of Obadiah.

Friend of the King.
Enemy of the Queen.

What’s this next book about?

Little Obadiah bloodies the nose of Ahab, his friend.

The two growing boys race stallions and run from Syrian assassins.

As adults, Obadiah and King Ahab stand together and fight invading armies.

Then King Ahab marries a witch.

Queen Jezebel steals children from distant backyards and shoves them into brothels.

She kills her critics.

How can the friend of the king rescue fugitives from the queen?

Here’s an excerpt:

“Do you pray, Uncle Biah?”

Obadiah dangled an empty prickly pear stick from his fingers. “Do I pray? Um, well.” How do I answer this child, Lord? He cleared his throat. “My conversations with the Lord lack the poetry of David or Solomon, but we talk a lot, and he listens in on my thoughts.”

Ruthie hunched her shoulders. “Was that a yes or a no? Do you pray?”

Obadiah sighed at Yeskah. “Little Hammurabi.” He took a long breath. “Yes, Ruthie. I pray.” 

Have you been to the Holy Land?

In 1964, Delphine and I toured the Holy Land for three weeks.

Delphine Parks, Dr. DeWayne Coxon, President of Jordan College, and Dave Parks at The Dead Sea.

In 1984-85, we worked at the archaeology dig at Oboth, the Rift Valley oasis where Moses headquartered about 1300 BC (Numbers 21:10). When we weren’t digging, we led busloads of tourists around Israel, introducing them to the Biblical sites. Plus, we made personal jaunts exploring Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan.

I wandered Elijah’s village in Gilead and trudged his paths in the Jezreel valley. Stood in his footprints on Mt. Carmel. In Zerephath, marveled with him at snow-covered Mt. Hermon. The songbirds of the Bible hovered in me with rock badgers, Absalom oaks, and the usual rain shower at 1 pm.

What kind of person are you?

Delphine, my wife of 39 years, died of cancer in 2000, and I miss her every day.

Two years later, I married Vickie. Every day I thank the Lord for Vickie.

I taught English at colleges in Michigan and California.

2002-2010, we taught English at universities in China then retired ten miles from the Alabama Coast.

Vickie and Dave in Sichuan, China about 2006.jpg

Vickie and Dave in Sichuan, China, 2006

English Professor

Turn

Photo by jasmin chew on Pexels.com

“Turn” is my word for this year. Specifically, in baffling or important decisions, turn and ask Jesus first. Sounds like a piece of cake, right? Easier to write than to do, at least for me. You see, I have this hangup. It’s bred into me to say yes and scramble to accomplish whatever need someone presented or whatever good deed needs doing. HOWEVER, this is not biblical. Have you ever noticed that Jesus didn’t heal everyone in Israel? There were still sick, twisted people when He headed back to Heaven. That’s because He talked over His earthly mission with His Father, every day, all the time. He turned, and then He obeyed. That’s how He managed to be gentle and lowly, even in a human body.

There’s an important truth there. He talked it over with His Father. We call that prayer. The trick, for me and you, is to turn off automatic response in favor of discussing the current situation with Jesus. Sometimes I don’t even get my whole thought out before Jesus starts answering. Sometimes he taps me on the shoulder before I have a thought. Other times I ask and ask and He just says, “I’ve got this.” Finally, of course sometimes I ask Him and He says nothing. That is a dead giveaway that I need to stand in place, not rush off to anywhere. But I’m still practicing, sometimes I still forge mightily ahead and don’t ask.

Nevertheless, He loves me. Whatever his response, I know He loves me and will give me His best answers and His best in everything. So this year, I’m practicing. Won’t you join me? Turn and ask.

Politics and Religion

I grew up listening to people argue politics and religion while they said it’s okay to talk about anything except politics and religion. Neither one is worth arguing about, and here’s why I think so.

Just to lighten up the conversation.

Religion always turns out to be man’s twisted interpretation of what God thinks. Whether you’re talking Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Muslims or whatever. Politics also has the drawback of being dependent upon the interpretations of men. So getting your undies in a twist about either is useless.

A much better plan is to find out about God and apply what you find only to your own life. That should make such a drastic change that people will notice. When they ask what changed, tell them what you found out and how you apply it. Sounds simple, but it’s life-changing and takes a lifetime. And for me, it’s a wild ride. (You’re welcome for one of the world’s shortest blogs.)

If Your Dad’s Still Here …

This Father’s Day ends, and I’m remembering my Papa. He wasn’t famous or incredible in many ways, or anything. He drank too much and chainsmoked, and loved me and my sister, Becky,  with his whole heart. I only got eleven Father’s Days with him face-to-face before the divorce.

He stayed in our lives, supporting us financially and emotionally and seeing us a couple of weeks each summer. The ends of which I dreaded.My child’s heart waited  and waited for him to drive back up our drive.

Papa with becky and Greg on their wedding day.

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And then in 1995, he called me to come and get him. He was dying of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart failure. We drove from Oklahoma to California with him doing travelogue most of the way. He’d driven that route as a heavy equipment salesman for years. But just outside Kingman, his eyes began to roll back in his head, and when he was lucid, he told me to find a hospital.

The morning of Father’s Day that year I didn’t even realize what day it was. He’d said the night before that if he were still alive in the morning mysister and I should get him out of the hospital. We checked him out AMA,  lifted him into the back of Becky’s dust buster, and tore off for home. He said if he died before we hit the California border to pretend he was asleep because otherwise we’d have all sorts of trouble with the authorities. That’s how he was, always looking to others’ needs.

Sometime between a car full of angels who folowed us across the desert, only leaving us at Bakersfield, and an 18 wheeler tire flying over Becky inthe dust buster and under me in Papa’s car, I realized it was Father’s Day. I’d always senthim presents and cards and called him to wish him Happy Father’s Day, and I hadn’t said anything, to him or to Bake. Just drove. It was our 12th Father’s Day face-to-face.

When we made it into our cul de sac, my children’s father came from the house and carried my father in to lay him on the sofa. He lived another six months, endearing himself to my children and my friends. He’d already become my husband’s role model long before.

All that to say, if your father is here, don’t take him for granted. One day he won’t be. It will be too late to accept him as he is, to appreciate your existence because of him, to spend time he so longs for. Now, I know there are some abusive dads out there, and if you’ve got one, ask God how to handle him, and follow His guidance. But most dads are just guys who took on the gargantuan task of raising and loving children, making mistakes and keeping on going. They deserve your time, your appreciation.We still love you, Papa. Happy Father’s Day.20171126_070616