Candy Canes, Barber Poles, and Lighthouses! Oh my!

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Our church recently sponsored an Angel Tree event for some of the kids in our community. As part of the program, we included a special segment where a storytelling candy maker (yours truly) read ‘The Legend of the Candy Cane, by Lori Walburg. Here are some photos of that fun-filled afternoon.

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There are a couple of stories regarding the true origins of the candy cane. In the Christian version, the candy was given a crook shape to remind us of the shepherds who were the first to visit the newborn King of the Jews. When you turn the cane upside down it resembles the letter ‘J’, which stands for Jesus, the name of the promised King. The candy was given red stripes to remind us of Jesus’ suffering and the blood He shed for our sins. And the white stripes are a symbol of the washing away of our sin through His atoning sacrifice on the cross. While this inspirational version may not be verifiable, its message of hope actually can be. It is found in God’s word, the Holy Bible.

With that in mind, I suppose a red and white barber pole can also remind us of God’s salvation and so can the White Shoal Lighthouse (pictured above and below). Built in 1910, this 124 feet tower, which is still operational, is located on a shoal in the northeasterly end of Lake Michigan. Although there are two other ‘barber pole’ style lighthouses in the US, this is the only one that is red and white or ‘candy cane striped.

I must admit that the hustle and bustle of the Holiday Season, while hectic and exhausting, does fill the atmosphere with a sense of gratitude and joy. However, as one who has personally experienced salvation as represented by the candy cane, I can attest that the joy of knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior surpasses any pleasure available to man. Unfortunately, far too many people still can not relate to the life-changing act of love that started in a manger and ended at a cross.

Every lighthouse in the world is unique in design. Not all of them have the ‘candy cane stripes’, but they all have the same purpose; to emit a light beam that guides those who are lost at sea to safety. Likewise, we may not all look the same physically and spiritually, but we all have the same purpose; to shine God’s light and guide the spiritually lost to the saving arms of Jesus.

The prophet Isaiah foretold of Jesus’ sacrifice. He said that the Messiah would endure great pain and suffering and that by his wounds we would be saved. The scourging and other brutal punishments Jesus received resulted in the shedding of his precious blood (red stripes). The blood that still heals us by granting us forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life (white stripes). At Calvary’s cross, Jesus laid down His life as a ransom for all humanity. He did it to restore our broken relationship with God and allow us to experience true hope, peace, and joy. Not only during the holidays but throughout our lifetime.

15589535_1504424709586546_3071936329821047010_nPerhaps the next time you see anything with red and white stripes you will remember the story of the candy cane. Better yet, you will be reminded that it is a message that needs to be shared with everyone who is yet to know that Jesus died in order to save us!

I pray you had a wonderful Christmas. May the new year 2017 bring you closer to God and to your loved ones. Don’t forget to share the “red and white” story that is found in God’s story book (the Bible). It is verifiable not only because it is recorded therein, but because it has and continues to change millions of lives.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his stripes (wounds) we are healed (saved).” -Isaiah 53:5 (KJV)

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USEFUL LINKS
Candy Cane History
Legend of the Candy Cane (film)
The Candymaker’s Gift

How Candy Canes are made

Spiritual Winters

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A wintry phenomenon

Like a magical tower in the land of Narnia, this beacon beckons us to marvel at the wonders of creation. Underneath this fairy-tale like facade is one of two lighthouses located on a pier in the town of St. Joseph, Michigan. Built in 1907 this range light, which is still operational, is known as the St. Joseph North Pier Outer Lighthouse. Perhaps you have already come across this or similar images which, along with an amazing drone captured video clip, has been circulating the internet since December 19th. Extreme cold weather in Lake Michigan has caused ice accretions to cover the lighthouse and pier. But more amazing than this wintry phenomenon is the fact that although everything surrounding the lighthouse is frozen its light continues to shine!

We also go through seasons

Winter is one of the seasons God established for as long as the earth remains. In the northern parts of our planet winter is usually accompanied by moderate to severe cold and icy conditions. In some cases, deep freezes can actually bring a whole populated region to a standstill. While hot summer days usually encourage people to travel to places where they can cool off (beaches, pools, air-conditioned malls) extremely cold winters discourage people from venturing out. They are forced to brave the bone-chilling weather only to go to work, school, or acquire a few essentials. Many actually feel despondent during this time of the year. Hence, the winter blues.

Just as the earth goes through seasons so do we. Many people I know and have read about have experienced fluctuating spiritual periods;  times when they have felt close to God and times when they have felt distant from any relationship with Him and even other people. While many refer to the latter as dry spells or desert times, I rather think of them as spiritual winters. Times when the blazing fire of God in our hearts gives way to soft smoldering embers. Times when the enthusiasm of gathering with other believers to worship is replaced with uncaring apathy. And times when the desire to be intimate with God in prayer and Bible reading is overtaken by sighs of despair. All of these are usually accompanied by feelings of abandonment, half-heartedness, and/or confusion. Do you know what I am talking about? If you do, you have definitely been through a spiritual winter. You are probably experiencing one right now. But don’t resign yourself to remain in that condition. It’s just for a season. 

You’re not the only one

Biblical and modern-day patriarchs of the faith have all had to endure spiritual winters of their own. I have experienced them myself. Some of the most faith-freezing times have not been so much feeling rejected by God as feeling guilty and unworthy. These are the times that I have allowed the enemy to use the memory of my past and my shortcomings to condemn me. Times when I have focused more on my failures than in the victories God has given me. Times when I have allowed the consequences of a bad choice to paralyze me instead of relying on the grace of Christ to set me free. Yet I can honestly say that my frozen faith has always, always, been thawed out by the warmth of God’s embrace. The assurance of His steadfast love has set me ablaze for Him over and over again. However, to get back to that state is not always that easy. His word, His promises, and the memory of His faithfulness have to be rooted deep in your heart in order for the Holy Spirit to use them as embers to rekindle the fire.

You can shine in spite of the weather

Granted, no one undergoing a spiritual winter has the desire let alone the energy to shine. Yet, like the St. Joseph Lighthouse we can keep shining in spite of the cold spell because the light within us is not our own, it is God’s. In the midst of our winter, we must show the world that His power is greater than any trial we can ever face. I am not suggesting that we hypocritically smile all the time and act like nothing is wrong. What I am saying is that while we can and should allow others to see our humanness, they also need to see that our faith is more than just a vocal declaration. It must be evident in the way we respond to our challenges. It must attest that we are guided by God’s faithfulness and not by our circumstances. Like Paul, we should be able to be content (to shine) in every situation, whether having abundance or suffering need. In fact, it is very likely that in our times of trouble someone somewhere is experiencing the same thing we are or even worse. That is why we must be ready to shine in spite of the weather. It might encourage you to read my devotion titled When You Are Needed The Most.

Be prepared for the inevitable

As I mentioned earlier, earth’s seasons have been established by our Creator. Spring, summer, fall, and winter are inevitable. Those who are blessed with the opportunity to experience them all know that the key to enjoying them is to be prepared for them. Just like the passionate horticulturist stays busy during the winter preparing for the spring we too need to take care of our spiritual winters lest they become a year-long condition that will end up in spiritual hypothermia. Trials will come. Jesus forewarned us about them. But He also encouraged us to keep our light shining by being of good cheer. Because he overcame the world and its challenges we too can overcome by keeping our eyes fixed on Him and our faith anchored in His promises.

As a lighthouse for God, here are a few things you can do to help you prepare for spiritual winters:

  1. Don’t stop adding oil to your lamp
    Pray even if you don’t feel like it. Remember, prayer is just talking to God. It’s OK to tell Him exactly how you feel. Even it means telling Him you don’t feel like talking to Him. Doing so still proves that you have faith that He is there and listening. You’ll be surprised what a simple and honest prayer can do. And read the Bible. Yes, read even if you are too tired, lazy, or uncaring. The word of God has the power not only to save but to heal and restore.
  2. Take proper care of your tower
    Physical health is as important as spiritual health. An unhealthy vessel is limited in what it can do for the Lord and it lacks the energy needed to properly carry out spiritual disciplines. Be serious and intentional about your diet and exercise regimen.
  3. Seek lighthouse assistants
    The Bible says victory comes through counsel. Seek advice from spiritually mature friends and church leaders. This does not mean you should become dependent on them, but rather conscious that God has placed them in your path to encourage and guide when you face trials of different kinds.
  4. Learn to detect potential malfunctions
    Winter is always preceded by falling leaves, chilly winds, and dry air. Learn to discern when the enemy is using people and situations to discourage, aggravate, and even tempt you. The bible says we are to be constantly vigilant for the enemy of our soul is looking for the opportune moment to strike. Be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit whose job is to warn, convict, and quicken you to stay away from potential spiritual downfalls. 
  5. Remember, it’s only for a season
    Winter is inevitable, but it is not forever. Every dormant tree rebuds in the spring. Whatever challenge you are facing now or may have to face in the future is only temporary. Even if your spiritual winter seems to be unending remember that in the midst of it you can still shine for God and be a witness to his loving mercy and grace. Plus, you can rest in the promise that one day every tear will be wiped away and there will be no more sickness, death, crying or pain. 

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Prayer: God of all creation, you who have set the seasons in place, grant me the strength to endure the spiritual winters in my life. Help me to keep your light shining brightly. Even in the midst of my challenging plight. Rekindle the fire of God in me, Oh Holy Spirt. And keep me from spiritual dormancy for the sake of those who depend on your light shining through me. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen. 

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” – Genesis 8:22
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” -Philippians 4:12
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33 (KJV)
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” -Romans 12:12
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” -Proverbs 11:14 (ESV)
“Be clear-minded and alert. Your opponent, the devil, is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” -1 Peter 5:8 (ISV)
“you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” -1 Peter 5:10
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.

Every Lighthouse Needs a Maria

Located on a small rock island off Cape Ann on the Massachusetts coast in the USA are these two lighthouses known as the Thacher Island Twin Lights. The original towers built in 1771 were made out of wood. These were replaced with the present 124-foot tall granite ones in 1861. The Thacher Island Lights are the tallest lighthouses in the state of Massachusetts.

An amazing story that dates back to 1864 is told about these two lighthouses. It involves Alexander Bray, a Civil War veteran who was appointed keeper of the newly constructed towers, and his wife Maria. Both lighthouses required routine maintenance on a daily basis. This was a very arduous task since it required climbing the 150 steps in each tower while carrying containers of oil to replenish the lamps in the lantern rooms. The lights needed to burn continuously and the window panes needed to be kept soot free.

aphot2Alexander had two assistant keepers. On December 21, 1864, one of them got very ill and needed to be taken to the mainland for medical attention. He and his second assistant sailed a mile across the bay with the ailing man in hopes to get him to a doctor and quickly make it back home that same day. Alexander had no choice but to leave Maria in charge of the lighthouses while he was aphot1away. Once the men got to the mainland they were able to get the necessary help in a short amount of time. But just as they were getting ready to head back to the island, a slow but steady moving snowstorm had caught up with them. Not wanting to put himself and his other worker at risk, Alexander decided to wait a couple of hours, but the storm only increased in intensity and they were unable to leave as planned. In fact, they were forced to stay on the mainland for another two days. Alexander’s heart grew weary knowing that Maria would have to take over the strenuous job of keeping both lights burning.

With the help of her 12-year-old nephew, Maria braved the wintery conditions to take care of the lighthouses. First, she would have to carry fuel up 150 stairs to the lantern room of the first tower, trim the lantern wick and clean the window panes. Then she would have to descend the same amount of stairs and battle through waist high snow drifts and bitter winds to reach the second tower which was 900 ft. away! In addition, she had to monitor the engine rooms which contained the fog signals. Oh, did I mention that she had to do this three times a day while her husband was away? But for Maria, it was more than just lending a helping hand. It was about saving the lives of mariners, including her husband’s, who depended on the lighthouses especially during stormy days like this one. 

Finally, three days later (Christmas Eve) the winds subsided and Alexander was able to set sail. Visibility was still not good, but he was able to use the glowing lights from the towers to guide him safely home. Maria’s resilience and genuine love for people allowed her to stand in the gap and help out when she was needed the most. Because of her commitment to keeping the lights burning during the storm, there were no marine casualties. 

In my devotion titled, Keeper of The Light, I explain how the Holy Spirit is the One who imag4887maintains our spiritual lighthouse. Nevertheless, it is also He who, from time to time, provides other keepers to help us when the storms of life are seemingly unbearable. These keepers are the people who stand in the gap for us when we are faint of heart. They are the ones who pray for, encourage, and help us in practical ways so that our light does not fade away. As lighthouses for God, we all need a Maria in our lives. Someone who will do whatever they can to see that we don’t lose hope when all seems hopeless. Someone who will not just say that they will pray for us, but who will make the time to pick up the phone or pay us a visit to actually pray with us. That someone would also do more than just pray. They would be a physical extension of Jesus’ hands and feet. 

cpt_1481422534059I have a Maria in my life. Her name is actually Amparo, which means protection in Spanish. She is my mom. Mom’s spiritual help has been crucial in my life, especially during a time when I left my lighthouse unattended. I met the Lord at the age of 13 and faithfully served Him through the ministry of my local church until I graduated from high school. I left home at the age of 17 to go to college and it wasn’t long before I slowly began to drift away from my faith. For the next 8 years that followed my lighthouse had ceased to shine. But my Maria wasted no time and ran to the rescue. Mom’s fervent and faithful prayers to God on my behalf are the reason why I am once again a shining lighthouse for the Lord and am sitting here writing this devotion. Her spiritual insight and words of wisdom have cleared the soot from the window panes of my heart many times. Her commitment to God and His church in spite of her many challenges have taught me to rise above my circumstances and truly live by faith and not by sight. Thank you mom, for being my Maria. 

Because we will all need a Maria in our lives we need to pursue, establish and maintain genuine and trusting relationships with other spiritually mature Christians. And we need to pray not only for God to send us a Maria but to become a Maria ourselves to other lighthouses (believers). 

Prayer: Thank you Holy Spirit for being the keeper of my light. And thank you for those who have been there for me when I have needed them the most. Help me to stand in the gap for those who may be facing storms in their lives so that together we may continue to shine your light in a dark and lost world. In Jesus name I pray, amen. 

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” -James 5:16
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” -Galatians 6:2
“Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of the weak and not to please ourselves.” -Romans 15:1 (BLB)
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.

 

 

 

The Hidden Lighthouse

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Nestled among two magnificent rocky mountain tops rising like gothic cathedrals out of the sea is this 40 ft. beacon known as the Skellig Michale Lighthouse. It is one of two lighthouses built in 1829 on Skellig Michale, an uninhabited steep rocky island lying off the coast of the Iveragh Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland. The first lighthouse, which is located at a higher elevation, has been out of commission since 1870. This one, however, has been renovated and still serves as a navigational aid to mariners.

Public visits to Skellig Michale are very limited and the lighthouse is not readily accessible as it is somewhat tucked away out of sight. The only way to reach it is by climbing a set of steep and dangerous steps that were originally constructed by 15th-century monks who once lived there. Because it is only visible from the north side of the rock island, this light has been referred to by one photographer as, “The Hidden Lighthouse.”

When I look at this inconspicuous tower hiding behind the weather battered scar-like rocks I can’t help but think of how we sometimes hide the light of Christ behind the scars of our past. While many of us wish we had never gone through some of the experiences we’ve had, some of us would be happy if we could just forget them all together. Unfortunately, we all bear the scar(s) of some undesirable past. Perhaps it was a broken relationship, a bad decision, an unexpected disappointment, a painful memory, or even an innocent mistake.

…scars are only a part of your life’s story not the end of it. 

As repentant sinners, we can rest assure that our past has been forgiven. But the truth is that sometimes it can come back to haunt us [Read Haunted Lighthouses]. Like scars, our past can leave memories that remind us of the pain and suffering we once endured. When we focus more on the reasons for our scars rather than on the fact that they are evidence of healed wounds, we can easily hide behind feelings of guilt, self-pity, and shame. These feelings cause us to hide the light of Christ within us. The same light that brought us out of darkness and into a bright, promising, and purposeful future. Don’t allow the scars of life to hide your light. Rise up to the mountain top where you can shine for all to see the NEW creation Christ has made of you. And let your scars serve only as a testimony of the healing power of His stripes. Remember, scars are only a part of your life’s story not the end of it. 

Have you or someone you know been hiding behind the scars of the past? I recommend that you not only read God’s word daily but commit it to memory and take God up on His promises. These promises include the assurance that we have been freed from the penalty of sin and no longer need to hide behind the walls of condemnation. Here is a link to a FREE 365 Promises E-Book. You can download it as PDF for your PC or as EPUB for your iPhone/Android. Enjoy! 

Prayer: Dear God, you are Jehova Rapha (The Lord who heals). Your sacrifice has healed the wounds of sin in my life. You are Jehova Or (The Lord of Light). Your salvation has rescued me from darkness and now shines upon me. Let the scars of my past only serve to remind me of your grace so that I may shine brightly and guide others to you. In the name of Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus the Messiah), amen! 

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. “By His stripes you are healed.” -1Peter2:24  (BSB)
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” – Isaiah 43:18 (ESV)
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.” -Isaiah 60:1
 -ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.