Friday, April 10, 2020

They Killed My Son Today!

They Killed My Son Today!

When my son was young, the agony Mary must have experienced watching her Son die on the cross became very real to me, and I wrote this story. On her bed that night, how she must have been haunted by His suffering as she relived that awful day !

They killed my son today! I pound my pillow trying to expend my rage. Angry tears pour down my cheeks.

"Crucify him! Crucify him!" That's all I can hear. I clamp my hands over my ears, yet still I hear their yells.

Just last week the crowd wanted to crown him king. Today, they shouted for his blood. How fickle they are! His trial was a mockery of justice. And Judas--one of his closest friends. How could he betray him?

John has been so kind. The house is quiet now. But this stillness only seems to magnify the sickening thud of the hammer driving those spikes into his hands and feet. Oh, God, will I ever be free of those sounds?

His hands. I held those baby hands, and the fingers closed tightly around mine. Those small boy hands patted my arm so gently when I had a headache. Those young man hands became calloused working in the carpenter shop with Joseph. Those manly hands blessed the little children, healed blind eyes, raised the sick, multiplied the loaves and fish. They never did anything wrong. Why would they pound rusty nails into those loving, kind hands?

His feet. I remember his first steps. Joseph had just come in and Jesus, forgetting himself in his pleasure of seeing Joseph, let go of the table and tottered toward Joseph, saying, "Up! Up!" I remember listening for his footsteps each evening when he and Joseph would come home from the carpenter shop. His step was always the first to ring out on the cobblestones. He was so full of life. And now he's dead.

Oh, my son, my son! I'll never hear your gentle voice again. You'll never sit down with me after supper and tell me of your dreams. I didn't always understand what you said, but just being with you, listening, was enough.

What are these words coming into my mind? "This child will be rejected by many in Israel...And a sword will pierce your very soul." I'd nearly forgotten those words of Simeon. Is this what he tried to tell me?

Words my son spoke suddenly begin to vibrate in my soul: "I am the resurrection and the life."

Could it be? Do I dare to hope? You raised Lazarus. Do you have the power to raise yourself from the dead also?

What's this strange peace settling over me? Dawn is near. Perhaps I can sleep awhile.


Monday, December 23, 2019

The Christmas I Learned about My Heavenly Father



Here is an excerpt from the new book I 'm writing, Following in Footsteps of Faith--a true event that happened one Christmas that still impacts my life. I hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas!
In the early 1950s in Juneau, Alaska, when I was 5 or 6 years old, most families did their gift shopping by mail in the Territory. The arrival of the Sears and Roebuck Christmas catalog signaled the beginning of the holiday season. We kids spent hours poring over the Christmas catalog, studying page after page of toys and dolls, looking for the exact gift we wanted.
As I turned a page, my eyes fell upon the most beautiful doll I’d ever seen—a bride doll dressed in lace and tulle, with a veil over long, blond curls that could be combed and styled.
I ran to show my mother. “This is what I want for Christmas!”
With sadness tingeing her voice, she said, “Oh, honey, you’ll have to pray and ask Jesus for that doll. We don’t have enough money to buy presents this year.”
By faith, my parents operated the Bethel Beach Children’s Home in a big house on the beach just outside of town. They received little income for caring for the children—as many as thirteen children, nine of them under five and two babies in cribs—orphaned, neglected, or abandoned. Others had only one parent and no one to care for them while the parent worked.
Bethel Beach Children’s Home in Juneau, Alaska, c. 1950
I am the girl in the back row second from left
My dad worked full time to support our family and the home. My mother cared for all the children as well as doing the cooking, the laundry, and the cleaning. We children did our assigned chores, but Mother was usually without other adult help. Both parents provided us with a lot of love and Christian training.
That year, every night until December 24, when I knelt to say my bedtime prayers, I asked Jesus to give me that beautiful bride doll for Christmas. My request wasn’t very significant to anyone but me. You might even say it was selfish. It certainly would not change the course of history if I didn’t receive that doll.
Christmas morning, when we children, wide-eyed with expectation, tripped down the stairs and peeked into the large living room, we discovered gaily wrapped presents under the tree for each of us. The tags all read, “From Jesus.” When I unwrapped my gift, the beautiful doll I’d prayed for lay inside.
Years later, my mother told me the rest of the story. That Christmas Eve, Behrends, the only department store in Juneau at that time, had invited my parents to come down to the store to pick out gifts for all the children—free of charge. Among the unsold toys, she found the bride doll for me.
That Christmas, this young girl learned that the God who created the Universe cares about every detail of her life, including what she wanted for Christmas. And to this day, that sense of my Heavenly Father’s love has never left me.
Other books by AnnaLeeConti available at www.AnnaLeeConti.com/books.html


Friday, December 20, 2019

Significance of the Swaddling Cloths

I just realized it's been more than a month since I wrote a blog post. In addition to doctors' visits, preparations for Christmas, and several snowstorms, I've been working hard on my new writing project--a book which I'm titling Following in Footsteps of Faith. It is a sequel to Frontiers of Faith,  the story of my grandparents, Charles & Florence Personeus, pioneer missionaries to Alaska, 1917-1982. The new book tells the faith-building true stories of my adventures in following in their footsteps even from early childhood.

Courtesy Google.com
Before I continue work on my new book, I want to pause and wish you all a blessed Christmas and  God's best in the New Year.

From the first Christmas I can remember until now, my family has always read the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke on Christmas Eve. We've sung the carols and reenacted the precious story every year in church. This year, however, I gained insight into the wondrous story that I had never known previously: the significance of the swaddling cloths to the shepherds.

Bethlehem, meaning "House of Bread," is only 5 miles from Jerusalem. King David watched his father's sheep on the hillsides around Bethlehem, the town designated in Micah 5:1 as the birthplace of the coming Messiah, who would be called "The Bread of Life."

Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, near the Sea of Galilee, about 80 miles north of Bethlehem. We all know the Bible story of the taxation census ordered by Caesar Augustus that required all men to return to their hometowns to register. Joseph, as well as Mary, were both of the lineage of King David. In spite of Mary's advanced pregnancy, she accompanied Joseph on the journey. As they arrived in Bethlehem, she went into labor.

Bethlehem at that time was overwhelmed with travelers who had come to register. Frantically, Joseph searched for a room. All he could find was a shepherd's cave. At least it was clean and provided shelter. Mary gave birth and wrapped the Babe in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. This fact is mentioned three times within 20 verses in Luke 2, calling attention to its importance.

Out on the hillside, shepherds were watching their sheep that night. Suddenly, the angel of the Lord appeared to them and announced the birth of "Christ the Lord," saying,

Courtesy Pinterest.com
And this will be the sign to you: you will find the Babe wrapped in 
swaddling cloth, lying in a manger.
  
The message was punctuated by the singing of a radiant angelic choir:

Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!

Now, these were not ordinary shepherds. The shepherds of Bethlehem were "Levitical Shepherds," chosen and trained to take care of the sheep that were to be used as sacrificial lambs in the Temple in nearby Jerusalem.

The Law of Moses required that the sacrificial lambs be "spotless and without blemish." To assure that, special treatment was required. When an ewe was ready to give birth, she was taken to a special birthplace, a cave designated for the birth of the sacrificial lambs. The newborn lamb was carefully wrapped in swaddling cloths, bandage-like strips of cloth to protect it from blemish, and laid in the manger there.

When the shepherds heard the angel's news, they knew immediately where they could go to see the Baby--to their cave where the sacrificial lambs were born.

As soon as the angels went back into heaven, the shepherds hurried to see the newborn Babe, the One of whom John the Baptist later called "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).

Today, amid all the tinsel, lights, sounds, and gifts, let's not forget "the Reason for the Season"!

The Sacrificial Lamb is now our Shepherd.

He is Emanuel, God with us!

He is the the Lamb without spot or blemish--the One who was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin,  the One who can sympathize with our weaknesses and give us help in our time of need. Praise His wonderful Name!

Consider giving a book for Christmas. See http://annaleeconti.com/books.html



Thursday, November 14, 2019

Beauty for Ashes


On that clear Sunday morning of May 18, 1980, my mother walked the two blocks from their house to the church they pastored in Kittitas, Washington. When she stepped out the door, she noticed a small cloud on the southwest horizon. By the time she arrived at the church, billows of dark ash clouds boiled overhead, blocking out the sun, turning the day to night in just a few minutes.

That was the day Mt. St. Helens, a volcano in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, blew its top. The eruption was witnessed by vulcanologist David Johnston, who was camped on a ridge 6 miles from the volcano, and Keith and Dorothy Stoffel, who were making an aerial survey of the volcano that morning. Miraculously, they lived to tell their stories.

At 8:32 a.m., a local magnitude 5.1 earthquake set off a landslide on the lip of the crater. Within seconds, the whole north face of the mountain began to move and collapsed, releasing super-heated gases and trapped magma in a massive cloud. Hot gases and rock debris were blown out of the mountain face at nearly supersonic speeds, wiping out everything within 8 miles almost instantly.

The shock wave rolled over the forest for another 19 miles, leveling century-old trees, leaving all the trunks neatly aligned to the north. Beyond this downed-tree zone, the forest remained standing but was seared lifeless. The area devastated by the direct force covered nearly 230 square miles.

Shortly after the lateral blast, a second vertical explosion occurred at the summit of the volcano, sending a mushroom cloud of ash and hot gases more than 12 miles into the atmosphere.

During the next 9 hours, about 540 million tons of ash from Mt. St. Helens fell like rain over an area of more than 22,000 square miles. The total volume of the ash before its compaction by rainfall was about 0.3 cubic mile, equivalent to an area the size of a football field piled about 150 miles high with fluffy ash. My sister lived in Yakima, about 85 miles northeast of the volcano. She measured 7 inches of ash on her porch. In the next valley north, ash accumulated to 4 inches on my parents' porch--like snow, but it didn't melt. When I visited my family 2 months later, it was just blowing around in the wind and making everything gritty, even my teeth!

Heat from the initial eruption melted and eroded the glacial ice and snow around the remaining part of the mountain. The water mixed with dirt and debris to create mud flows, which reached speeds of 90 mph and demolished everything in their path.

The 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption was the most destructive in U.S. history. Fifty-seven people died, and thousands of animals were killed, according to the U. S. Geologic Survey. More than 200 homes were destroyed, and more than 185 miles of roads and 15 miles of railways were damaged. 

Ash clogged sewage systems, damaged cars and buildings, and temporarily shut down air traffic over the Northwest. The International Trade Commission estimated damages to timber, civil works, fisheries, and agriculture to be $1.1 billion. Hot ash caused forest fires, and snow melt from the top of the mountain caused floods. Volcanic ash spread across the Northwest. More than 900,000 tons of ash were cleaned up from areas around Washington.

Mt. St. Helens ash
Today, scientists keep a close watch on Mount St. Helens and other volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest. The volcano's location on the Cascadian Subduction Zone means another eruption is inevitable.

Yet, out of the ashes and destruction has come beauty. The ash has made the farmlands of Washington even more fertile. 

While Mt. St. Helens lost over 1,300 feet in height (previously, the mountain was 9,677 feet; it is now 8,365 feet) and scenic Spirit Lake was severely impacted, over time, the landscape is recovering. Different but still beautiful, it still attracts tourists.


Helenite also comes in shades of blue and red.
Unexpected and even more surprising, while cleaning up after the eruption, it was accidentally discovered that, when heated, the elements in the volcanic rock and ashes would fuse to form a rich, green gem similar to an emerald. The process was later perfected in strict lab conditions to create the magnificent deep green Helenite gemstone. Called Helenite or Mt. St. Helens Emerald, it has earned the title "America's Emerald." With its sparkle, color, and cut, it delivers the beauty of precious emeralds without the big price tag.





Isn't that just like our God? In Isaiah 61:3, He promised to comfort all who mourn:

To give them beauty for ashes, 
the oil of joy for mourning, 
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; 
that they may be called trees of righteousness, 
the planting of the Lord, 
that He may be glorified.

As I look back over my life, I remember times when I felt my life was in ashes. But God has made something beautiful out of the devastation. Can you think of a time when God turned your ashes into something beautiful?


Note: I'm still struggling to get my blood pressure down to normal. Still getting many tests and trying new meds. Significant deterioration in my cervical and lumbar spine has been discovered, and physical therapy is recommended. That will be time consuming. I will still make my new book a priority. I'm making good progress. And I will try to write a blog post from time to time. Thank you for your continued prayers. 
 

Friday, November 1, 2019

It's Time to Pray!

We have a collection of old Ideals books I inherited from my Personeus grandparents. Every fall, my husband gets them off the shelf to browse through them. Full of colorful pictures, poems, and short stories, they bring to our remembrance days or yore. We especially enjoy the fall scenes.

In our 1956 Old Fashioned Issue of Ideals, I came across a letter that is so apropos it could have been written about America today:

We have been the recipients of the 
choicest bounties of Heaven; 
we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power
 as no other nation has grown. 
But we have forgotten God. 
We have forgotten the gracious hand 
which preserved us in peace 
and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, 
and we have vainly imagined, 
in the deceitfulness of our hearts, 
that all these blessings were produced 
by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, 
we have become too self-sufficient 
to feel the necessity of 
redeeming and preserving grace,
too proud to pray to 
the God that made us.
                                  --Abraham Lincoln

My heart breaks when I hear the attacks on our Judeo-Christian heritage. I'm reminded of a song I used to sing as a teenager, "It's time to Pray." 

It's time to pray to the God who watches o'er us;
It's time to seek His help without delay;
The world is dark for the clouds of war still threaten;
It's time for all America to pray.
If we would keep the flag of freedom flying,
Secure the peace for which we all are crying,
It's time to pray--our sin and wrong confessing,
It's time for all America to pray!

It's up to us as people of God!

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV).


Update on my health: I've been kept busy with doctors' appointments and all kinds of test trying to get to the cause of my uncontrolled blood pressure. Continuing to try new medications to find ones that help. More tests scheduled. But I continue to look to the Lord, my Healer. Appreciate your continued prayers for me. Thank you!


Friday, October 11, 2019

In Sickness and In Health


It's been nearly a month since I've written a blog. I've been working hard on another book, Following in the Footsteps of Faith, a sequel to Frontiers of Faith, which tells the story of my grandparents, Charles and Florence Personeus and their miraculous faith journey as pioneer missionaries in Alaska, 1917-1982.

The sequel describes the faith journeys of my parents and myself as we too stepped out by faith into a life of ministry in Alaska and beyond.

Last week, a health crisis interrupted everything. Wednesday morning, I went in for cataract surgery. It would be more complicated than most because of my hereditary Fuchs Corneal Dystrophy, and I was a bit anxious about all the possible complications. Recalling God's promises and hymns I'd memorized many years ago, I tried to calm myself.

That morning, as I was being prepared for the procedure, my blood pressure skyrocketed to a life-threatening level. The surgery was canceled, and I was sent immediately to the ER by ambulance. Scary!

The ER was packed with sick people in the cubicles as well as lining the halls. I was taken right into a cubicle where a multitude of medical personnel began tests that ruled out heart attack, but they said I was in danger of stroke and kidney failure.

After many hours in the ER, many tests, and new medications, the pressure was not coming down. My left arm was swollen and red from the painful tightening of the BP cuff every few minutes.

In spite of meditating on God's Word and silently humming my favorite hymns, my anxiety level rose even higher. Of course, that didn't help my blood pressure.

As I lay on the extremely uncomfortable gurney, which aggravated my already chronically painful back and neck, my head was now aching too. It was a catch-22 situation. I felt hopeless. Tears flooded my eyes.

I tried to hide my distress over the situation, but my husband, Bob, who had been with me from the moment I arrived, noticed. Alarmed, he rose from his chair and and handed me a tissue. "What's the matter? Why are you crying?"


I shrugged, but I didn't need to explain. He held my hand.

"I love you," I was finally able to say.

"Why are you saying that now?" he asked.

"Because you're here." And his eyes filled with tears too.

It was a special moment. In our marriage vows more than 52 years ago, he had promised to love me "in sickness and in health." And he was again keeping that promise.

After 30 hours in the ER and a trial and error of medicines and much prayer, my blood pressure finally lowered sufficiently that I could be moved to a regular room late Thursday afternoon. But it was still high.

By Friday afternoon, my systolic blood pressure had lowered to the mid one hundred fifties, and I was cleared to go home with a handful of new medications and a low sodium diet.

I do not tolerate medications very well. I was instructed to take the meds before breakfast. The next morning, I threw them all up. And I felt weak, shaky, and lightheaded all day every day until I saw my cardiologist yesterday (Thursday). She now has me taking them with food and spread throughout the day. So far, so good. I hope I'll be able to function normally again.

Through it all, Bob has been my nurse, chef, and constant companion "in sickness and in health." He does it all without a complaint. He is an example of love in action. When God gave me my husband, He gave me a good gift!

As I continue to prepare my new book for publication, I may not be able to write my blog as often. A lot depends on my health too. But I'll keep you informed. And I appreciate your prayers.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Look to the End!

Diogenes
Diogenes, a renowned pagan thinker of ancient Greece, set up a tent in the marketplace of Athens with a sign which read, "Wisdom sold here."

One of the citizens laughed at the idea and sent a servant with twelve cents in Greek coins, saying, "Go and ask that braggart how much wisdom he will let you have for twelve cents."

When the servant delivered the money and the message to Diogenes, the latter answered, "Tell this to  your master: 'In all your actions look to the end.'"

When the servant brought this message home, his master was so pleased with it that he had the words painted in gold over the entrance of his house so that he and everyone else entering his home might be reminded of the end of life. Even the mere natural virtue seemed to him very valuable.

This message should speak to us as Christians today. The Apostle Paul reminds us that "we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God" (Romans 14:10, 12, NLT).

With the death of my 97-year-old father a few weeks ago, I've been reminded that even a long life is short. This life is our preparation for eternity.

The psalmist says that our life on this earth is like the flowers of the field that flourish briefly and then are blown away by the wind and remembered no more (103:15, 16).

If we live our lives with the end in mind and make our choices in the light of eternity, God will be able to say to us, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

A plaque that always hung on my Personeus grandparents' wall pointed out,

Only one life, twill soon be past;
Only what's done for Christ will last.

And a chorus I learned as a child has influenced my daily choices throughout my life:

With eternity's values in view, Lord,
With eternity's values in view;
May I do each day's work for Jesus,
With eternity's values in view.

Are you living your life in the light of eternity? Or, do temporal values rule your life? What choices do you need to make today in the light of the fact that you will one day stand before God and give account of your life to Him?