Monday, December 29, 2014


Taken last year at a hotel sleep-over

Twenty seven years ago Mario and I  were married in a small Methodist Church in Tracy.  It was freezing cold, a dark and still Tuesday night, just four days after Christmas and one day after my birthday. 

“I can’t believe you’d choose this day,” my mom teased me as we prepared for the event.  “You’ve spent your whole life complaining how your birthday is swallowed up by Christmas and News Years!”

She was right – As a child (the second born of five) I always mourned the timing of my birthday.  I was never forgotten, but many times I’d get “combination” greeting cards and gifts.  I had done a lot of whining about my special day being swallowed up by the holidays.

The truth was, I didn’t care what day I married him.  I didn’t even care that it would be happening on a Tuesday night in that holiday week.  I was getting married to him – and we were expecting a baby.

It is a miracle that Mario and I survived the first five years of marriage.  We both thought it would be something that it wasn’t.  Neither one of us were equipped for the selfless institution that marriage is.  We had “issues” – both personally and as a couple.  We struggled (with four kids in tow) for that first five years. 

Mario was older than I was and had already been married to Cathy, the mother of David and Joe.  I hadn’t been married, but had a long term relationship with a man who was the father of Vince.  Our relationships with our ex-spouses were amicable, but we both were determined not to repeat that failure again.  I had seen a good marriage modeled for me by my parents, who were romantic and loving and religious.   I knew that God would have to be involved – Mario took some convincing.

It was Arlaine, a family counselor that we had been seeing together, that suggested we go to church together.  It was where I was radically changed and fell in love with God.  The relationship with Mario came to a screeching halt until I found out I was pregnant.  When I told him, he agreed we should have the baby together and “go see Arlaine”.  The next day we met in her office, tearfully making a plan to salvage our relationship – it ended up being the day he asked me to marry him. 

Mario was my ideal man and I was madly in love with him - determined that our marriage would succeed.  He was looking for passion, holiness, a wife that he would be faithful to, but confessed to me that he was scared of failing.  His history proved to him that he was selfish; my own history proved that I would hold on to a sinking ship until it drowned me.  We were unequipped to succeed, as much as we loved each other.

The miracles came in a sequence of events; not all at once, but one after another.  Three years into our marriage, Mario fell in love with God the same way I did.  We were baptized in a river on the same day.  He and I made a decision to work closely with Cathy, never speaking ill of her and praying for her (this was easy to do because she really was a sweetheart).  Mario legally adopted Vince and bonded with him deeply.  We went to marriage conferences, read books on communication, attended retreats, made time for one another.... 

If you ask us separately, we’d probably see one miracle being more powerful than another, depending on the way the wind was blowing that day.  The real truth is, God held us together and sustained us during the storms and the dry seasons; there was many of each.

Today,  we are best friends, private confidantes and romantic partners on a journey that doesn’t end.  Today we decided to be spontaneous and be silly together. 

“Hey, since it’s our anniversary, let’s play a game where we say what we love about each other.  He laughed and balked at first.

“No fair, you can think faster than I can.”

“Look, it’s easy,” I said, determined to be romantic.  “I’ll start.  I LOVE the way you make coffee for me every morning.”

He smiled and thought.  “Okay.  I LOVE the way you trim my toenails.” 

We laughed, and continued through a long list of things we love about each other.  Some of them got very deep, but most were ordinary things that we can take for granted if we’re not careful. 

At one point, Mario looked at me and said, “I love YOU.  I love your personality.”

I smiled, a little embarrassed (he can still make me feel like we just met).  I thanked him...because it’s true.  I know every moment of every day that Mario loves me – and I know that kind of love happens very rarely. 

Of all the gifts I’ve been given in this life (and there are so many) Mario is the most incredible, unexpected gift I’ve been given – and I don’t deserve him!  I thank God for the way HE has shaped, protected, preserved and nurtured both of us as individuals and as a couple. 

A lot of times people ask us how to have a good marriage and I try to think of what to say.  The thing I’ve realized after twenty-seven years is that our own marriage has been one miracle after another.  We’re not perfect people, but God has been the One who is.  I can humbly say that it’s not because I’ve done something a certain way or that I’m the kind of wife that has the perfect amount of respect and love and wisdom.  If I’m an expert on anything, I hope I’m one on how to be humble and turn to God for the answers. 

This world doesn’t need another marriage expert – there’s already enough of those.  This world needs God – the giver of life.  He’s been the One who has power to breathe life into any dead or helpless situation. 

Happy Anniversary, Babe.  You are a miracle!

Sunday, December 28, 2014


Janet - age 3

When I was a young twenty-one year-old I worked as a home health aid, visiting the homes of people who hired the services of a health care worker two or three times a week.  For some patients, I cooked; for others, I took them for walks or a grocery run.  I loved the job, especially the fact that I got to meet some really interesting people. 

During this time, I worked for a couple who owned a massive almond ranch, surrounded by a row of tall olive trees.  The husband had just survived a massive stroke, and he was becoming ambulatory again with the help of supervised walks through his orchards.  He was eighty-five or so, only months before driving his tractor through his fields.  It was through the fields we took our walks; he taught me a lot about the life of a farmer.  The olive trees, ripe with fruit, were never harvested.  He told me once that they were planted purposefully to keep the birds away from the almond trees. 

One afternoon, he let me gather the olives I could reach (the birds didn’t touch the low-lying olives) and take them home.  I went home with a large paper grocery bag filled to the brim of the largest olives I’ve ever seen. 

Later, I explained to my Auntie Emmy (who cured the olives) that the man probably didn’t want them because he was so old.  Way Old.  Very, very old.

He doesn’t seem so old now.

Today I’m 52. 

Eighty five used to be ancient, now it’s not so old.  At twenty-one I thought I had matured into a very balanced young woman but it was not truth – I was sad.  My life (despite having a good family base and friends) seemed purposeless. 

 Two years later I had my first child, which gave me identity and love, but I was terrified that I wouldn’t lead him anywhere worth following.  A year later I met Mario, the (gorgeous) man who would change my life; only six months after meeting him, we started going to church together.  There, I was given a deep and life-changing understanding of God.  It can’t be explained in a sentence or a paragraph, but I can say that I am thankful that God revealed His plan for me.  He’s been faithful to guide me on the multi-faceted luge race that has been my life.

Today I examine the Psalm that corresponds with my year – Psalm 52.  I give you the last two verses of it, a gift-wrapped blessing from the birthday girl to reader.  I thank you for visiting Brazen Princess – my sanctuary of words.  

I thank God that He has made me an olive tree, and I thank Him for my life.

But I am like an olive tree
    flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
    for ever and ever.
 For what you have done I will always praise you
    in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
    for your name is good. 

Psalm 52: 8,9

Janet - Age 52

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


The TWELFTH NIGHT of Christmas is on January 6 – the day that is celebrated in some churches as "Epiphany".  The reason I started this twelve day series is because I wanted to address the song, the gifts, and the “hidden meanings” before Christmas - before we all start singing it mindlessly.  Now, hopefully, we can think about it in a different way. 

Since the story about the symbolism largely rests in oral tradition and not documented evidence (a detailed synopsis accompanying Mirth without Mischief circa 1780), it is a theory.  Unlike evolutionists, I have no problem admitting when a theory is a theory and when a fact is a fact. What we do know for sure is that the "true love" mentioned in the song doesn't refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God Himself. Those of us who receive the gifts are the ones who have faith in Jesus Christ.  Thankfully, the foundations of our faith are found in the Bible with a greater substance than the 12 Days of Christmas  – but it is a fun way to remember the gifts that our God gives us, isn't it?


Twelve, in Biblical terms, is a number of completion.  TWELVE signifies perfection, balance and government.  Several places in the Bible we see things in multiples of twelve, especially when we see authority or leadership.

TWELVE DRUMMERS DRUMMING is a perfect accompaniment to our ELEVEN PIPERS PIPING – and the only thing that can complete the whole noisy gift package.  Tradition holds that TWELVE DRUMMERS DRUMMING symbolize  the 12  STATEMENTS OF FAITH found in THE APOSTLES CREED: 

1.       Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae,
2.       et in Iesum Christum, Filium Eius unicum, Dominum nostrum,
3.       qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine,
4.       passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus,
5.       descendit ad inferos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis,
6.       ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Patris omnipotentis,
7.       inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos.
8.       Credo in Spiritum Sanctum,
9.       sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, sanctorum communionem,
10.   remissionem peccatorum,
11.   carnis resurrectionem,
12.   vitam aeternam.

Oh…maybe I should post them in English, huh?  Oh, alright.

1.       I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth;

2.       And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord;

3.       Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary;

4.       Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell;

5.       The third day he rose again from the dead;

6.       He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

7.       From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead;

8.       I believe in the Holy Ghost;

9.       I believe in the holy catholic* church (God’s children, called Christians), the communion of saints;

10.   The forgiveness of sins;

11.   The resurrection of the body:

12.   And the life everlasting.


The Apostle's creed is as true for a Frenchman in the 1700's as it is for a Malawian in 2014.  It is the creed of a Russian Cosmonaut Christian and a Salvadorian farmer.  The statement of faith is what binds us together - it's what makes us all brothers and sisters.

Christians used to declare the APOSTLE’S CREED each time they met.  Now, it is dismissed as religious rote.  I would like to be part of a community of believers that say it over and over.  I do believe in these things – I am humbled by them.  They cause me to remember that I march to a different drummer – against the rhythm of this world…

Charles Spurgeon once said “Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.”   Hopefully the symbolic meanings behind the “Twelve Days of Christmas” can show us how fleeting everything around us is, save Jesus Christ.  There are few things in this world that are worth more than a season of happiness, but  Jesus is a man for all seasons.  He is more than a Man, He is our savior. 

On Christmas, remember that in the middle of your family, the food, the oodles and oodles of gifts (or lack of them) that there is ONE who has something greater for you.  Our Jesus makes this whole life worthwhile.

Merry Christmas.


On the eleventh day of Christmas my TRUE LOVE gave to me ELEVEN PIPERS PIPING!

The gifts that my TRUE LOVE sent to me in the final four days are often reordered in the earlier versions of the song (Maybe carolers had too much egg nogg?) For example, the pipers used to be on the ninth day rather than the eleventh and in some versions, there are bells ringing, bulls a-beating, and asses racing on the last four days!  Since I grew up (as most Americans did) singing it in this order, let’s proceed as if there are no discrepancies, shall we?

On the eleventh day of Christmas I always imagined ELEVEN PIPERS as men with shiny flutes – running around with tights and brightly colored shoes, trying not to run into the TEN LORDS A-LEAPING.  Instead, in France (as in all of Europe) the “pipes” were bagpipes – played by strong men who walked purposefully together in formation – drowning out any other sound around them.  In the 1700’s pipers were men of good will, respected and never silenced.


Jesus chose 12 men to have as his closest followers.  We call them  “the Apostles” (the Greek translation “apostolos” means “one who is sent out”).  He sent them out in pairs to heal the sick, raise the dead and tell the good news to the Jews that there is such a thing as a Messiah and God had not forgotten them.  When he was most popular, the Apostles saw Jesus enter Jerusalem on a colt with people shouting and worshiping and waving palm branches.  A week later, Jesus exited Jerusalem carrying a cross on his back, whipped within an inch of His life – on His way to be executed.  One of his own 12 Apostles (Judas Iscariot) turned Him over to the ones who wanted to kill him – the Sanhedrin. 

After the betrayal and consequent crucifixion of Jesus, the Apostles lay low, hoping to stay out of trouble (this is even after the resurrection –and ascension of Jesus Christ).  One day, the Holy Spirit came in the Upper room where they were staying and entered like a freight train – tongues of fire resting on the heads of the eleven remaining apostles. 

After this day (Pentecost) the Apostles went out boldly, preaching and evangelizing and telling the good news of Jesus Christ in power.  It is said that the early church held true to the Apostles teaching (Acts 2:42) and God added daily to those who were being saved (Acts 2:47).

The Apostles knew Jesus before the Holy Spirit came; they weren't wimps, they were real men.  After The Holy Spirit filled them, they became loud and fearless.  Like soldiers with new life breathed into them, they marched in formation and spread the good news of Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  The threat of being executed like their teacher was still there; they no longer feared it.  All besides John were martyred (even Peter, who had previously denied Christ, was crucified upside down).

The ELEVEN FAITHFUL APOSTLES with their brazen message were like ELEVEN PIPERS PIPING.

It is in the tradition of the Apostles that we trumpet the Gospel of Jesus Christ, especially at Christmas.  PLAY on, church!  Remember our message is real and powerful and when we march in formation, no one can shut us up!

ELEVEN PIPERS PIPING – make way for the Gospel!

Monday, December 22, 2014


At the end of this post will be a secret that I’ll tell you about this day – the TENTH DAY or Christmas.  My TRUE LOVE gave to me….TEN LORDS A-LEAPING!!

In the 1700’s a Lord was a landowner, or a local governor.  Because of the system in Europe in the 1700’s (the time the song was written), the reference to LORDS A-LEAPING would be easy for people-even children- to understand.

The Lords made the rules.  They controlled the moral universe of all they owned.  In France there certainly was a lot of land suitable for farming, but farming families could only keep a portion of what was grown – the rest belonged to the LORD that owned it. 

With this “leftover feudal system” farming families were used to surrendering the work of their hands – hoping for the Lord to be in a good mood the day the harvest was divided.  A good lord shared the abundance with the laboring masses; a greedy lord would be stingy, even after a bountiful harvest . 

The song- implies that TEN LORDS A-LEAPING were ten lords in a very good mood (!).  TEN LORDS A-LEAPING signifies the TEN COMMANDMENTS.

As European Lords established the law in their own jurisdictions, the TEN COMMANDMENTS (Ex. 20:3-17) establish a firm set of laws to live by:

  1. “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.

  1. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

  1. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

  1. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

  1. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

  1. “You shall not murder.

  1. “You shall not commit adultery.

  1. “You shall not steal.

  1. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

  1. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

At first glance, these TEN COMMANDMENTS don’t look like TEN LORDS A-LEAPING, do they? After all, they are God’s Holy Law and breaking any one of them (even slightly) makes us guilty in God’s eyes, and therefore worthy of eternal punishment. 


The legal standing of law seems harsh, but it is only as harsh as God requires.  One sin is as bad as another?  Yes.  Lying is as bad as murder?  Yes (even though the consequences are not the same).  Breaking even a very small law makes you a law-breaker, and therefore a sinner (Gal. 3:10-12).  Can this law bring life to us?  Absolutely NOT.

Is the law (the TEN COMMANDMENTS) opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not!  But really, the law was never given to God’s people to impart life.  If it were, we would have never needed a savior!  We could have become righteous just by keeping the TEN COMMANDMENTS! 

God’s WORD declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin.  So, from the beginning of time, God promised a better way - Jesus Christ.  Until He came, the Law was in charge of what was right or wrong (and we were all busy breaking it).  So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law!! 

Now THAT is a reason to LEAP!!  We’re free from SIN because of Jesus’ sacrifice.  If you look back over your shoulder, you’ll see that the TEN COMMANDMENTS speak of a coming freedom (TEN LORDS A-LEAPING) in Christ.  As our Messiah, HE fulfilled the Law.

Now I will tell you a secret:  On Christmas Eve, our family sings Christmas Carols and I play the guitar.  Our favorite carol is the Twelve Days of Christmas, mainly because we all sing and act them out.  My Dad (Jack) leads us – and is especially funny when he does “TEN LORDS A-LEAPING”.  He kicks one leg out to the side and jumps in the air about a foot.  The man is eighty and he still does TEN LORDS A-LEAPING better than any other hack in this world.  It makes us all shriek with laughter!!  (If you look at the picture closely, it's my father's face in the Ten Lords A-leaping)

Really, you haven’t lived until you sing the Twelve Days of Christmas with my family.  It is truly wonderful!


The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

Psalm 28:7


In “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, our TRUE LOVE gives us live gifts from days one through four for new life.  On day five, our TRUE LOVE seals it with a sign of covenant – FIVE GOLD RINGS.  From day six until the day twelve, our TRUE LOVE sends a series of action gifts.   

On the NINTH DAY of Christmas, my TRUE LOVE gave to me…NINE LADIES DANCING!

There is nothing – and I mean nothing- that livens up a party more than dancing.  Music, movement, and joy signifies celebration!  Tradition holds that NINE LADIES DANCING symbolizes the nine FRUITS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:

 “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  (Galatians 5:22,23)

Take a look at that!  The fruit of the Holy Spirit is what comes out of us – if God is alive in us!

I used to see the FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT as a list: “This is what I need to have in order for me to be a good Christian girl.”  I strived for years to have love (which was kind of easy, until I came across someone I didn't like at all…), joy (also easy - if I was in a good mood), peace (almost impossible as a mother of 4 children), patience (I’d have more if everyone else would move their ass), kindness (telemarketers didn’t count, I had permission to be horrid to them), goodness (*cricket, cricket*), faithfulness (I was pretty good with that one…until I wasn't), gentleness (I have never been great at “gentle”), and self control (with my compulsive nature, I never had much self-control). 

After years of striving, I decided maybe it was a good idea to stay indoors and keep away from people…  I was severely deficient.

There is a scene in Cinderella (the Disney cartoon I’m supposed to hate as a feminist) when the poor step daughter is stripped of the chance to go to the ball and meet the handsome prince.  Cinderella’s step-sisters tear at her jewelry and clothes until she is standing in rags, unable to be seen in public.  As she has a good, hysterical cry in the garden, her fairy godmother comes along, waves her magic wand and clothes Cinderella in a gown, transforms an ordinary pumpkin and mice into a coach and horses and sends her off to the ball. 

I’ve always loved that part of the story.  After all, Cinderella deserved to go to the ball and her awful step-sisters didn’t.  At the ball, Cinderella dances with the handsome Prince Charming and they fall in love on the dance floor.


Of course, it’s a weak comparison – but it reminds me of the power of Holy Spirit transformation.  Once I surrendered to God, I admitted that my own efforts weren’t good enough (Eph. 2:1-5) and only Jesus could make it possible for me to be with Him.  Instead of a magic wand, Jesus held the real power of transformation.  When someone surrenders their life to Jesus, they are given a living gift – God’s Holy Spirit, alive inside of them.  Out of that life comes LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS and SELF-CONTROL ! 

Just like that, any ragamuffin can be outfitted to go to the ball. 

Receiving the life of the Holy Spirit isn’t the result of our lame efforts.  It doesn’t reflect any super-Christian abilities or intelligent choices.  It is the result of an exchanged heart – here is my old, broken one; thank you for Your perfect, beautiful one!  This exchange is made possible by our benevolent lover, who accepts our surrender and gives us His Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit alive inside of us that bears fruit – the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. 

 God’s One and Only Holy Spirit lives inside of us and comes out – brightening the world as a result.  In truth, our TRUE LOVE wants to bring us joy so much that He includes the party!

Let’s celebrate with those NINE LADIES DANCING!  As somber as some try to make it, the Christian life is alive and there are many opportunities to dance!  The best part is, we don’t have to be home by midnight! 

Thank you, Jesus!

Sunday, December 21, 2014


On the EIGHTH DAY of Christmas, my true love gave to me EIGHT MAIDS-A-MILKING.  It is suggested to us that the eight maids represent the BEATITUDES from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  THE BEATITUDES are named thus because of the Latin noun beatitudo which means "happiness". 

How does a maid ( a young girl) milking a cow remind us of these BEATITUDES? 

 My mother grew up on a farm and as far back as she can remember, machines were being used to milk cows.  A heifer makes so much milk that even when she gives birth to two calves at a time, she would never be relieved of her load.  The milking has to be done early in the morning, and if it’s done by hand it can take a long time.  So, a milk maid (in the 1700’s)was a humble position, a job that few would envy.

Jesus knew all about humility.  Early in His public ministry, He was followed by a multitude of people hoping to hear him teach, be fed, have a miraculous healing.  The Sermon on the Mount took place in a remote wilderness, where Jesus used the time to encourage His apostles.  He taught them to think differently about the people that followed Him – and themselves.  This simple teaching remains to be one of the most powerful (and quoted) sermons to this day:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
 Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  (Matthew 5:3-12)

Jesus' teaching that day is sobering, considering how all of the apostles would all die.  With the exception of John, they would be martyrs, killed for their faith.  Jesus encouraged them to count it a blessing rather than a failure.

I have never measured strength by humility until I was born again in Jesus Christ.  He reminds me that if I'm in Him, I don’t have to fight for everything – it will all be given to me.  Humility recognizes that there is no such thing as losing when we are in Christ.  He knows our sufferings and He encourages us that no matter how lowly our station is, He will exalt us.

The gift of EIGHT MAIDS-A-MILKING assures us that our TRUE LOVE sees what we think no one can.   

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Oh my word!  I just looked over my notes and realized my post was all wrong  – inaccuracies my own blog!   Please forgive me and accept this as my flawed and otherwise corrected piece of the story!


Swans are truly incredible birds.  They flock together and live closely, taking care of one another.  They are graceful and bold at the same time, making them birds to be admired and respected at the same time.  Born with a face only a mother could love, the swan grows up to be one of the most beautiful birds in the world.  They symbolize grace, beauty and elegance.  

On the SEVENTH day of Christmas, my true love gave to me SEVEN SWANS A-SWIMMING.  In the New Dial (see “origins”) SEVEN represents  the SEVEN SPIRITUAL GIFTS given to Christians for the purpose of reflecting our creator’s glory (Romans 12:6-8; I Corinthians 12).  We see that, as God’s people we are all given different gifts, “… according to the grace given to each of us.”

The SEVEN SPIRITUAL GIFTS that are spoken of in Romans 12 are these:

1.       prophesy  (telling something that God has spontaneously brought to mind)

2.       serving (helping others by lending a hand when needed)

3.       teaching (bringing light and understanding to God’s Word)

4.       encouragement (the desire to build others up in truth and love)

5.       giving (generously sharing what God has given you)

6.       leadership (bringing people together and helping them find their personal and collective destiny in Christ)

7.       mercy (the ability to love and minister to those in need)

On the SEVENTH DAY of Christmas my TRUE LOVE gave to me SEVEN SWANS A-SWIMMING.  Usually, God gives gifts in bundles, like the spiritual gifts.  Most people have more than one spiritual gift, but there are usually dominant ones – buoyant and beautiful, always rising to the surface.  No spiritual gift is greater than another, and it is incredibly beautiful when we see them all functioning all together.  It gives believers in Jesus the chance to shine brightly and function gracefully and elegantly.

SEVEN SWANS SWIMMING?  The SEVEN SPIRITUAL GIFTS remind us that God’s grace abounds and is especially beautiful in groups.  If we all swim together with grace and beauty, we are a beautiful gift to others. 

Today, unpack those gifts that He’s given you and let your light shine! 

Friday, December 19, 2014


The Sixth Day of Christmas is technically six days after Christmas.  The way the church celebrated the holiday ( moving the celebration of birth of Christ to December and then saying the Magi appeared twelve days after his birth ) – Epiphany was the “Twelfth Night” of Christmas.

Man began His time keeping on a model set by God – Seven Days in one week.  The calendar is measured in twelve months, roughly 52 of these weeks.  Christians (and Jews) used to champion a Sabbath: six days of the week were set aside for work and one was set aside to rest.  This rest day was also modeled for us by our creator – GOD rested on the seventh day.

On the SIXTH DAY of Christmas, my TRUE LOVE gave to me SIX GEESE A-LAYING.

Six Geese a-Laying represents the six days of CREATION – in Six Days God created the heavens and the earth – all that is seen and unseen.  Then, as a divine surprise, He rested.  RESTING was given to us by example- our CREATOR GOD, who never grows weary or tires, rested on the seventh day.  He blessed it, sanctified it, and made it Holy- set apart for HIM (Exodus 20:11).  So, our weeks were set up in stone:  Six days to work; one day to rest.  Six to work, one to rest.  Six to work, one to rest.  Six to work, one to rest.  It’s amazing how soon we forget the concept of a Sabbath.  Today millions of people who sing this song will not even know how to define the Sabbath.  God wants us to rest.

The Sabbath was a good idea, but one that was lost in times of slavery, famine, war and plagues.  In truth, man (the creation of God) cannot keep the law to save his life.  We’re a damn mess.  The Holy Sabbath was a foreshadowing of a greater rest – a better rest.  It was there to whisper that something better was coming: a complete rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  The perfect Son of God sanctifies us and makes us holy since we can’t do it ourselves. God sanctified Jesus Christ, but in a greater way: He sent a Messiah into the world to be our sacrifice for sin (John 10:36). In Him we find complete rest.

Today, are you weary?  Are you ready to lay down all of your striving to be perfect?  We really can’t be perfect, you know…Jesus alone is our only hope for rest.  If you want to remember this, think of those six days of creation and remember  that you can now rest for good.  Put down all of your desires to be good enough for God and rest in Him, not just one day a week, but always.

On the SIXTH DAY of Christmas, my TRUE LOVE gave to me an example of striving  - and a promise of TRUE REST.  Six Geese laying all kinds of eggs!  Not only does that sound like a lot of work, it reminds me of the life I left behind!!

Thank you, Jesus!!

Thursday, December 18, 2014


The symbolic meanings in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" are explained by folk who love folklore and I am one of them.  Atheists and skeptical Christians alike say the idea of hidden meanings are “nothing more than hype” (a lot like the hidden meanings in Mother Goose nursery rhymes, which I also look for).  I can understand the skeptics.  Documentation of the hidden meanings did not appear in Mirth without Mischief in 1780, but since that time hymnologists and historians have given credit to the traditional belief that there is more than nonsense in the words– there is the real story of Christmas.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me FIVE GOLDEN RINGS (did you sing it in your head?).  At this point in the song, we slow down and make a big deal about those five golden rings.  They are a really cool gift – we prove it by slowing down, as if we’re doing this out of respect. 

But what do they mean?

According to tradition, FIVE GOLD RINGS symbolizes the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  Jews call this the Torah, Christians call it the Pentateuch – we both know it as “the Law”.  It is the word of God, written by Moses, given to God’s people as a guide on how to live.

Salvation comes from the Jews.  That’s right I said it… I said it loud and clear.  I can say it with confidence because Jesus said it Himself (John 4:22).  The Messiah came for the Jews – Jesus was a gift for God’s chosen people, so He was born a Jew.  He lived, ate, and celebrated with Jews; read Jewish law and embraced Jewish tradition.  He said He didn’t come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). 

It was talk like this that got Him crucified. 

The Bold and beautiful (and AWESOME) statement that SALVATION came from the Jews is one that is to be revered.  It is the perfection of God – the beautiful completion of a promise.  God is a covenant God who keeps with us a covenant of love (Psalm 105:8).

As humans, we see golden rings as a sign of covenant.  My most cherished possession on this earth is my wedding ring – the sign of my covenant bond with my husband.  FIVE GOLDEN RINGS – is God’s completed promise.  The LAW fulfilled in one person.  FIVE BOOKS of the LAW – kept by the person of Jesus Christ.

Glory, Hallelujah!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


The 12 Days of Christmas actually do have words with symbolic meanings, but they have the danger of being lost, especially if we misquote them.  On the FOURTH day of Christmas my true love gave to me – FOUR CALLING BIRDS?  

Not really.

The 1780 version (the English translation from the French) is written “FOUR COLLY BIRDS” – the common description of what we would call ordinary blackbirds – noisy, disruptive birds that are not as beautiful as they are noticeable.  Would your true love give you blackbirds (common and noisy) as a symbol of love?  Really, it doesn’t seem so romantic at all.

Legend has it that FOUR COLLY BIRDS speaks of the FOUR GOSPELS – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  These four books begin the New Testament and all tell the story of Jesus: life, death and resurrection.  Their pages are filled with eye witness accounts of tyranny, espionage, miracles, adultery, scandal, greed, poverty, crime, salvation, betrayal, and (at the very climax) the resurrection of Jesus Christ – the single event that changed the world.

It is perfect that we recognize the GOSPELS as FOUR COLLY BIRDS.  The gospel soars into our life like a stark blackbird against a crystal blue sky.  The Good News comes singing, loudly; bringing evidence that demands a verdict.  It is impossible to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be neutral – it requires a yes or a no.  The red pill or the blue pill….

My true love is an all-consuming fire.  He came into my life and swept me up from the wreckage that I had made of it.  Upon his dramatic rescue, He revealed Himself as truth – not a kind and gentle truth, but a truth that completely changed me and the direction my life was taking.  I am forever grateful; forever changed.

In the movie Moonstruck, Ronny declares his passionate love for Loretta, then gives her a disclaimer: “Love don't make things nice. It ruins everything! It breaks your heart; it makes things a mess!”  Anyone who has seen the truth of the Gospel knows that it is not about the false Jesus (meek and mild) – it is the TRUTH about the Christ, the Messiah who came in power and transforming love.  The Good News conveys supreme passion –God giving His ONLY SON to be a Savior us.  If we are honest, we can say that the Gospel ruins us for anything else in this world.  We know God as truth, a beautiful truth that cannot ever be denied.  Because of the truth of the GOSPEL we can never go back to how we were before.

I don’t believe in free will.  If I had a free will, I would be miles from God.  I am, at my very core, a selfish, proud woman who will do anything to get what I want.  Along came FOUR COLLY BIRDS and knocked down my life – only to have me be swept away by a benevolent lover.  I’ve never looked back.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me – FOUR COLLY BIRDS.  The most powerful thing I have ever read – the GOSPEL, the GOOD NEWS is available to everyone.  It comes from God and is for us – read it if you dare. 


Tuesday, December 16, 2014


The Twelve Days of Christmas was originally a French carol.  Why, especially would they need a reference to “ 3 FRENCH HENS”?  Aren’t all hens in France French hens?  Why would the carol make note of an obvious distinction?

The reference to a “FRENCH HEN” (rather than an English variety of chicken) may have just been because the rhyme sounded better that way.  In the original French, the carol sang: “Trois poules françaises” – literally three French female poultry (a hen). 

The habits of French hens are very different from breed to breed.  The Crèvecoeur is the oldest of the standard-bred fowls of France – black with a beautiful plume on its head.  The Houdan has an unusual butterfly-shaped comb, and is one of few breeds to have five toes rather than the usual four. La Flèche hens look a lot like our chickens and lay very large white eggs.  Of all the French breeds of chicken, it is said that the La Flèche became the most popular around the world and therefore… the obvious choice of this referral.

Three hens stay together and work together; they sleep together and hunt food together.  Because of this, when a person buys hens they are advised to buy three at a time. 

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me – THREE FRENCH HENS.

It is said that this referral is to FAITH, HOPE and LOVE (I Corinthians 13:13) the things that “remain” in our faith.  When all is said and done, our belief in God, our identity as sons and the core of our being boils down to faith, hope and love.  

I think of my own life – the cornerstone of my faith is Jesus Christ  - his finished work on the cross and His resurrection.  After that, what remains in me is faith, hope and love – the hens that work together and are seen together in the courtyard of my life.

If we don’t have a benefactor who gives without finding fault, we all would be in a place where we need to love more.  Our faith would be cold…nothing more than knowledge of Christ and His sacrifice.  Because of our true love we are given gifts of faith, hope and love.  We just need to open them and see what oozes out!    

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me THREE FRENCH HENS – Faith hope and love.  

Monday, December 15, 2014


Photo Credit

It is a common bird, at first glance it would be called a pigeon.  The turtle dove has a habit of nesting in two – male and female.  Because of this, they have become the symbol of peace and love – even romance. 

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me – TWO TURTLE DOVES.  The message to the listener was a different kind of peace and love – a sacrifice.

Some hymnologists say that TWO TURTLE DOVES symbolizes the Old and New Testaments .  This interpretation is probably not true is because the Old and New Testaments were accepted by early Christians as one book:  “The Bible” – the Word of God (the PEAR TREE).

It is a walk down a Biblical path that explains two turtle doves – if you walk with me it will be worth it. 

According to Jewish law, there was no forgiveness without the shedding of blood  (Hebrews 9:22).  The common people of Israel offered a “sin offering” at the temple in Jerusalem–the sacred place where Jews would make a pilgrimage once a year.  This Temple was revered as the one most sacred place on earth -  the where heaven and earth met.  When they arrived at the temple, the Jews would bring a sacrifice without spot or blemish – for the poor, it was a pair of turtle doves.  These doves were handed to the high priest for their sin and sacrificed on the holy altar where commoners were not allowed.  There was so much blood being shed in Jerusalem for sin, there were hygienic rules set up by the priests.  The performing of rituals was in the hands of the priest.  This sacrifice, this altar, this temple were all run by a small select group of people.  While most people could never even penetrate the walls to the altar, they cherished the temple, and respected the practice of sacrificing animals for their sin.  There, in Jerusalem, earth was sacred and the people believed that God would somehow descend just enough that He would accept their sacrifice. 

Fast forward to the life of Jesus.  By the time he came to earth, the practice of sacrificing animals had become very corrupt.  The Temple had manufactured their own money and opportunistic money-changers and animal sellers were inside the walls where before only the holy ones were allowed.  Jesus, upon seeing it, drove out the corruption with a whip he fashioned out of cords.  It is the one time in the New Testament where He is so zealous that people got out of His way….

One week later, Jesus carried a cross down the Via de la Rosa out to Calvary, where He was crucified.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me….  TWO TURTLE DOVES.

For the common people- for ALL people- a sacrifice was given for us by God.  Yes, we were given the birth of a Savior - His purpose was to be a sacrifice for us: the perfect sacrifice without spot or blemish for our sin. 

The symbol of love, peace and romance is PURE when we see it this way:
Beyond the priesthood, beyond religion, beyond humankind’s desire to touch heaven, The second day of Christmas is a reminder that Jesus is our perfect Savior - the one who came as the perfect sacrifice for us – the poor, the common, the simple.

My true love gave to me a bridge to Himself – the perfect sacrifice.  

Thank you, Jesus. 


Sunday, December 14, 2014


A partridge in a pear tree

On the first Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me – a PARTRIDGE in a PEAR TREE

The cornerstone of the Christian faith rests on two things: THE PARTRIDGE and the PEAR TREE.

The carol sung praises about the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany and all the gifts that were bestowed by a true love.  In the original Old French, the song says these gifts were “sent” (On the first Day of Christmas my True Love sent to me).  They were given by a benefactor that was far away.  The gifts symbolized true love and affection.

There is no doubt (especially since the First day of Christmas is Christmas DAY) that the PARTRIDGE in the carol is JESUS CHRIST, the only begotten Son of God.

The PEAR TREE signifies the Holy Scriptures, a book not commonly read in the 1700’s (literacy rates were low among the common folk) but accepted as the infallible words God breathed.  It is beautiful imagery that JESUS CHRIST is the partridge (the real gift inside of a gift) hidden among the gorgeous promises of the “pear tree”. 

This carol has been sung with many, many interpretations.  Few “hymnologists” dispute the significance of the first day’s gift.  Jesus Christ and the Scriptures are the cornerstone of our foundation – on which the faith of a Christian is built.

Ever notice how the pear tree (alive but firmly rooted before it bears fruit) is home to a bird that normally nests in the ground?  Jesus Christ came as a gift to us from our true love – He broke the boundaries of life and love, transcending heaven and earth.

The first and most important gift of Christmas is a gift within a gift.  

Thanks be to God!

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Twelve Days of Christmas Pictoral

There are a lot of teachings about Christmas Carols.  Some of them are so good that I want to believe them – but I can’t.  I am and I am a seeker of truth, which is a force as powerful as it is beautiful.   

My favorite mythical explanation is about “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  Storytellers allege that it began as a code, a secret catechism of sorts, sung to teach children in the late middle ages by Catholics in England (after Parliament emancipated the Catholics).  Since they were prohibited to practice their faith, the ever-musical church invented the lyrics to teach children the foundations of their faith they were forbidden to discuss openly.

It’s a heartwarming story, but I have found no supporting history of this.  Instead, I found that this misnomer was begun (at the earliest) in the 1980’s – and in America.  I think the story of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was mistaken for another carol, one called “A New Dial” taught to children around the same historical period, using a clock as a model (An almanac from 1625, in the Bagford Collection, contains the song "A New Dial"  already quite old when the almanac was printed).  Since TWELVE is a number that signifies Biblical completion -and speaks of perfect, balanced government-  it makes sense that the songs were mistaken for each other.  They were sung by the same people in the same country... Weren't they?

In truth, Christmas carols such as The Twelve Days of Christmas DO speak of Christ – and of God’s incredible heart to give to His people.  This particular song has been sung through years of drought, famine, plagues, and the crusades.  Their lyrics were designed to intrigue people when the majority of the population could not read (Christianity was not forbidden, but Bible reading was not the norm).   As much as they were celebratory, Christmas carols were evangelical in nature.

From my research, this is what I know about the carol that we have grown to love as a people – and still don’t know very well:

What we do know is that the Twelve Days of Christmas is that it signifies the TWELVE DAYS between the celebration of birth of Christ (December 25) and when the Catholic church celebrates the coming of the Magi (Epiphany, January 6). 

The song’s earliest printed version was in the 1780 children's book Mirth Without Mischief .  "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was originally printed in French (which makes sense since the partridge wasn’t brought into England until the late 1770’s).   

It is sung about a one-way love-affair.  The joyful caroler sings: “On the first Day of Christmas my TRUE LOVE gave to me…”  There is never a “and I gave to Him…”

We see from the very beginning that God’s love to us is what defines our holiday – our receiving was a surprise.  The benevolent giver was “my true love” – sung by both men and women.

Christians were taught to use this term carefully – because it was reserved for God.  The early church wouldn’t even say His name outside of prayer (it was considered reckless or even blasphemous) – but they confessed that their HEAVENLY FATHER was their true love.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin the song.  It will count-down to Christmas, rather than Epiphany.  It will hopefully be as delightful as it is evangelical.