Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Miraculous Christmas

The Christmas we went into hiding I covered our tree with four-inch stockings. I can no longer remember how many there were, but I remember knitting them. And I remember the constant feelings of terror. And the pain.

That Christmas was a season of threes. For three months my infant son and I hid in a small apartment from the man bent on killing us while my husband went to work during the day at his job as an IRS Criminal Investigator. Our pursuer, a man my husband investigated as part of his job, had hired two hit men to murder us yet he still walked the streets of Portland a free man. Looking for us.

I visited three doctors over a three week period hoping to find out the cause of the intense pain in my back. All three doctors came to the conclusion that nothing was wrong with me. I sneaked a peek at one chart when the doctor left the room, "Mrs. Taylor says she's in pain," he had written, "but she doesn't act like it." 

No one believed me. I would get no help. 

Nights I slept on the floor with my feet elevated onto the bed, trying in vain to relieve my intense back pain. The throbbing pain plus the fear that one of the hit-men would find and kill us kept me awake.
My husband slept with a loaded gun on the bed beside him. 

Christmas approached. Because we had fled our home five minutes after becoming aware of the danger, we had nothing. Not even extra underwear. We had no ornaments for the tree my husband managed to bring in, little money to purchase decorations, and we had been instructed not to leave the house unless absolutely necessary. 

So most days, I sat on the couch with my toddler playing at my feet and knitted ornaments while I battled terror and pain. 

Then came another onslaught of three. The results of a medical test informed me I could bear no more children. I sobbed for days.

My fifteen-month-old locked himself in the bathroom and I fought a new fear while waiting for firemen to rush over. I experienced momentary comfort when, lights flashing, they managed to extricate him safely. Yet the terror stayed with me. What would happen next? Would my family survive? 

My pain grew unendurable. I made an appointment with a chiropractor. The next afternoon, feeling sick and dizzy, I drove down an unfamiliar street in Portland’s heavy traffic so ill I could barely think. After getting lost once, I located the doctor’s office, managed to park, and carried my suddenly uncharacteristically-difficult son inside. I checked in at the receptionist’s desk before dragging Ty with me to the bathroom. As soon as I sat down, a wave of pain washed over me and I held onto the sink to keep from passing out. 

Cessation of pain came suddenly and unexpectedly, but as soon as I saw the tiny precious balloon floating in the water grief twisted my heart. I had miscarried. 

Death was stalking us! 

It had ripped my unborn child from my womb. Evil men bent on our destruction searched for us. Would I lose my husband and son? My own life? Terror paralyzed me. 

Finally, I knelt at the couch and cried desperately for the LORD to give me reassurance and comfort. I begged for a promise. Too distraught to know what else to do, I opened my Bible and pointed at random. My finger fell on the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:2,3. “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us” (ESV, italics mine)

My fear evaporated as I read those words and realized God had spoken directly to me though his Word. Me! Suddenly I could view our circumstances through God’s eyes. For the first time my son and I could play in front of the tree enjoying the fragrance of pine, the lights and the hand knit stockings. God had saved us miraculously from the first attempt on our lives and would continue to do so. Even the miscarriage, though tragic, proved doctors wrong and gave us hope. I could get pregnant again. As a matter of fact, by the following March I was pregnant with my second child. 

In January, the men pursuing us were arrested, both hit-men testified against the main perpetrator at the trial and he went to prison. A final satisfying three.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Isn't He Lovely?

      I recently canvassed a youth group of tweens for a devotional I

was writing. I wanted to get their opinion on a certain word. “Okay,

guys,” I said, “How many out there use the word “lovely?” Extra points

if you can give me an example. No smart phones, please. Brains only.”

   Blank stares, then sniggers.

   Okay, so lovely isn’t a word young girls hear that often—much

less use in conversation. Oh, a girl might catch her grandmother calling

a summer’s day lovely. But, she wouldn’t tell her bff the pair of five-

inch heels with spikes she just bought are lovely. They may be cool,

awesome, or totally hot. But lovely….nah.

    Maybe, I thought, we can get some comments if I find out what

they think isn’t lovely.

     So I said, “Let’s try it this way: So was Miley Cyrus’s twerking

gyrations at the VMA awards, well, were they lovely?”

     “No,” my test group answered. (That’s a good start, I thought.)

     “Okay, okay, then, what if you saw a girl walking down the street

with short shorts on, and you could see more flesh than shorts, could you

say she looked “lovely?”

     “Ah… no,” the group replied. (Two for two, I thought.)

     “Okay, guys,” I said, “What about a reality show that has brides

throwing tantrums and cursing? Brides are supposed to be lovely aren’t

they?” I said. “So, by association, maybe we can call that show lovely?”

      “Nooooooo,” they all screamed. (Wow, now we’re cooking.)

     “Okay, so we know what’s not lovely. So what is lovely?

     “Something’s that lovely,” said one girl sauntering in with her

head in her smart phone (she wasn’t in the room to hear me ban them)

is ‘something that…or someone who…inspires love,’” she said, giving

us all the proper definition.

     “Spot on”, I said. “Can anyone give me an example? Who is

lovely? Who inspires love?”

     “Justine Timberlake,” A.J., a girl in the back, shouted out. Laughs

all around.

      “Not exactly who I was looking for,” I said.

     “Jesus,” one girl offered in a voice so low it was like a breath.

     “Jesus inspires love…doesn’t he?”

      “Bingo,” I screamed, a little louder than I anticipated.

      “’Lovely’ describes Jesus in every sense of the word,” I said.

Anybody know why?” (I was really reaching now.)”

     “Well,” said one girl, “Jesus died for us. He took our punishment.

That inspires love, doesn’t it?”

      “You bet,” I said, “Jesus was his loveliest on the cross. Because

he poured out all his love for us and made us lovely to God.”

      “Wow, I never thought of it that way,” one girl blurted out.

      “Okay,” I said. “Well now at least we know one person who is

lovely; who inspires love. Want to know some others?”

      “As long as it’s quick,” A.J. yelled out. The group cracked up.

      “Well, A.J., I’m here to tell you: YOU are lovely, and the girl

next to you, and everyone in this room is lovely in God’s eyes.

      “And that’s why we owe it to Jesus to act lovely,” I said. “Take

our cues from Jesus…not from stars, reality shows, books, and stuff

like that—which is anything but lovely.”

      “So no Miley Cyrus gyrations,” A.J. said. Again the group

laughed. “But, hey,” she said, “I think twerking’s pretty gross anyway.”

     “Glad to hear it A.J,” I said, as the group dispersed.

      “Oh, and Allia,” A.J. said, taking the last word. “Thanks. This

was lovely.”

Allia Zobel Nolan is author of



a tween devo. The blog above based on page


Thursday, April 18, 2013

One Benefit of Fasting

It happens every time I fast and pray: I give up food for one purpose and God unexpectedly opens another unrelated opportunity for me. I love it!

This morning, I’d been fasting only one day when a dearly-loved friend for whom I’ve been praying for several months dropped in. She sank into a chair at my round dining table to share her horror and dismay at the Boston Marathon bombing. “Don’t you feel like just giving up sometimes?” she asked.

“No,” I told her. “Instead of making me feel like giving up, the bombing made me want to pray harder for more people to turn to Jesus because that’s the only hope for our nation. I quoted, “’If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and heal their land’” 2 Chron 7:14. I pushed the point, “The only hope for our nation is for people to turn to the Lord . . . and that means you, too!”

Rather than getting angry or uncomfortable, my friend agreed, telling me that she has been praying and can sometimes feel God working in her life. For the next hour, we went over some of the basics of scripture. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be a Christian like you,” she said.

I told her she didn’t have to be like me. She just needed to read the Bible and confess that Jesus is God. We talked about why Jesus is the only way to heaven.

Do I think fasting somehow opened the way for me to chat with her? Absolutely. I’d been wanting to talk to her, but the opportunity didn’t present itself until I fasted. Is that biblical? I can’t think of a scripture that says exactly that, but I do know that every time I fast, opportunities come up and I’ve heard the same from others.

The moral of the story: Fast and pray.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

David's Connection to Christ's Cruxifixion

 My niece, Chelise Slowik, an Art History Professor sent me these insights after listening to Perry Stone. Many of the connections came from him, some from her.

  • When David slew Goliath, he took five stones with him, not because he thought he may need all five to kill the giant, but because Goliath had four more brothers! (Who were eventually killed by David's mighty men.)

  • After he killed Goliath, he cut off the head. The reason? Because Goliath was a Nephilim (found in Genesis 6) or descended from them, and traditionsaid that if the head was not removed, they could be “re-animated” by those Nephilim cursed to walk the earth as evil spirits after the flood.

  • Tradition says that David then took the head, and buried it in Jerusalem. Now, put it all together:

  • Goliath was from Gath.

  • David removed his head, and buried it in Jerusalem.

  • Christ was crucified on Golgotha – Goliath, from Gath- (Gol-gath –a) – The Place of the Skull!

  • It is said in Genesis 3:  “He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." More than likely, Christ was crucified directly above the skull – the seed of the serpent, whom He crushed.

  • Recently, archaeologists have excavated crucifixion victims, and have found that the nail was hammered in between the Achilles tendons and ankle - the heel, not through the toes, or foot bones.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Prayer in the Dark Times

Did you ever go through one of those times when life felt as though everything
around you was crumbling? Be honest. I know you have! Jesus said, “In this life you will have troubles . . .”

Well, right now I’m going through a troubled time. Some of the things I am praying about are spiritual / emotional others job-related and financial, others concern relationships. All concern people I love. All are all too confidential to share. Isn’t that the way it always is with the really heavy stuff? You share; you betray.

So I find myself “worrying to the Lord” while tricking myself into believing I’m praying. “Lord, please heal him . . . Lord please heal him . . . Lord please heal him.”

The good news is: Today I’ve been resting in the Lord by asking once, trusting him for the answer and then rejoicing, thanking and praising him for his answer.

How does the Bible tell us to pray?

  • Keep on praying. “You who put the Lord in remembrance, give the Lord no rest . . .” (Isaiah 62:6b). That’s me. For sure.

  • The fervent prayers of the righteous are very effective (Jas. 5:16, 17). When I’m hurt or scared or worried my prayers are definitely FERVENT. So I’m doing good, right?

  • In Luke 11:5-10 Jesus tells about a man who harasses his friend in the middle of the night until he gets what he wants. The fellow gets what he asks for because he won’t go away. Won’t leave his friend alone. The point is persistence. We should be persistent in prayer if we want answers. Believe me, I’m persistent.

So why does the way I pray sometimes feel a little off?

  • In Matt. 6:7 Jesus cautions us not to “heap up empty phrases” when we pray. I’m not certain my repetitive asking qualifies as empty, but I suppose it’s possible.

  • And doesn’t having to beg God over and over run contrary to God’s character? He’s better than I am. He gives his children better gifts than I give my children (Luke 11:11-13). He will answer any prayer that is in accordance with his will. 

Doesn’t thanking him rather than desperately begging fit Isaiah 62, “give the Lord no rest?” Don’t you think my fervent gratitude fulfills James 5? Since he’s listening as I thank him I’m being persistent.

That doesn’t mean I can’t ask more than once; I’m sure I will ask many times. But I will allow my prayers to focus more on trusting God than fearing a dark future. Those kind of prayers calm me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

More than thirty years ago, I taught junior high during the day and threw pottery from the time I got home at about four in the afternoon until late at night. Since I have an addictive personality, I spent every moment of every summer immersed in throwing, glazing and firing my pottery. I loved every second of pottery making.

However, I wasn't walking with the Lord at the time, so I didn't realize until years later all the ways clay and the potter symbolize God and his Creation. But as I read my Bible daily and God gave me many Ah-ha! moments, a book emerged. The publisher that I signed a contract with didn't like the title Living Clay and could never come up with an alternative. Though my editor fought valiantly, the book was never published. I never submitted it to another publisher.

In these blogs I will share some of the insights God gave me. Most came from actual hands-on work with clay. Other information and insights came from books. I found the chemical composition chart below from Rhodes, Clay and Glazes for the Potter: Chilton Book Company, 1957, pg 5.
"As one might expect, the usual chemical composition of clay is quite similar to the average composition of the surface of the earth as a whole. Compare, for example, an analysis of a common, red clay with the approximate percentages of oxides on the surface of the earth as a whole:"

                                                                                     Earth as                    Common red
                                                                                     a whole                          clay                          
SiO2                                                                  59.14                           57.02
Al2O3                                                  15.34                           19.15
Fe2O3                                                                 6.88                             6.70
MgO                                                      3.49                             3.08
CaO                                                       5.08                             4.26
Na2O                                                     3.84                             2.38
K2O                                                       3.13                            2.03
H2O                                                       1.15                             3.45
TiO2                                                                   1.05                              .91

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Living Clay -- Yet Too Ordinary to Brag

 © Jeannie St. John Taylor

Potters call locating and excavating clay winning the clay. That term strikes me as strange considering the commonness of clay. It’s supposed to be difficult to win something, isn’t it? Runners spend countless hours preparing to win a race; students work for years earning grades good enough to win a scholarship. But finding clay isn’t difficult.

Clay is everywhere – so easy to find that one of my pottery books suggests searching for it as a way to enrich any summer camp program for children anywhere in the world. It will be educational, the book says, while greatly increasing the fun quotient of camp. And campers will have no trouble finding it themselves. Anyone can locate clay. They just need to know where to look and what to look for.

Around the world, most topsoil is only about a foot and a half thick. Under that resides a layer of clay.

  • Deep-cut riverbeds reveal clay. You can find clay in small streams. 
  • Clay covered the bottom of the murky swimming hole in Syracuse, Ohio creek where I played as a young child. After we’d played and swam for an afternoon, the dissolving clay turned the creek a slimy, muddy red.
  • My mother and her siblings chinked the cracks of the Kentucky log cabin where they grew up with tan clay dug from their hillside front yard.
  • On one hill on the Yorkshire moors, England three different kinds and colors of clay were found on a single slope in about 400 yards.
  •  Veins of clay stripe the hillside cutaways along highways.

Clay is not rare; it is abundant and cheap. It has no value of its own. It is being produced every day by forces of nature God set in motion. Water seeps into rocks and splits them when it freezes. Plants gain a foothold in the rocks and crack them into smaller pieces.  Streams and glaciers grind rocks, readying them for disintegration by chemicals found in water. It has been estimated that more clay is formed daily than potters are able to use up in ceramics.

Furthermore, as though God wanted to prove how ordinary clay is, the chemical composition of clay is similar to the composition of the earth as a whole.  Silica (SiO2) and Alumina (Al2O3) make up
 approximately seventy-five percent of the surface of the earth. And these two oxides are the essential elements of all types of clay. It’s hardly a stretch to think of clay as a representative sample of the entire earth.

God chose to shape us from the most ordinary substance on earth. He made us from earth. Of earth. That’s not allegorical; it’s fact. We are clay. The fact that we return to dirt after we die is proof of it.

God relates our history very simply in the second chapter of Genesis. “And the LORD God formed a man’s body from the dust of the ground and breathed into it the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). The “dust of the earth” is clay. Just add a little water to make it easy to shape and you’ve got . . . well, you. And me.

Furthermore, God spoke the animals into being using the same clay from which he formed us. “And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth every kind of animal – livestock, small animals, and wildlife.’” (Gen.1:24). That makes it a little hard to feel special, doesn’t it? Yet there is something in each of us that longs to be special, to be extraordinary.

Have you ever rebelled, just a little, at the idea of being formed from common clay, from the same material as animals? Why did God make us from dirt? Diamonds are rarer. Why couldn’t he have chiseled us from diamonds with dazzling facets for reflecting him, or rubies with passionate inner warmth that would draw others, or emeralds glowing with the color of life and hope? Why’d he make us from mud?

I doubt he created Satan from mud. Surely God used some exotic substance to make him. Satan must have been too exquisite to be shaped of clay. “You were the perfection of wisdom and beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God. Your clothing was adorned with every precious stone – red carnelian, chrysolite, white moonstone, beryl, onyx, jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald – all beautifully crafted for you and set in the finest gold. They were given to you on the day you were born (Ezekiel 28:12.13).

I don’t see anything common in that description of Satan, do you? Yet Satan ended up hideous, despoiled by arrogance over his own beauty. “Your heart was filled with pride because of all your beauty. You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor” (Ezekiel 28: 17). Pride ruined the devil.

I don’t want to end up like him and I’m assuming you don’t either. Certainly, God doesn’t want us to fall victim to our own bloated pride. God wants us to understand precisely who we are so we will remain humble and not fall into Satan’s trap. “Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you” (Rom. 12:3b).

God tells us plainly that he is the potter and we are common clay. We are nothing without him. “How stupid can you be? He is the Potter, and he is certainly greater than you. You are only the jars he makes! Should the thing that was created say to the one who made it, ‘He didn’t make us’? Does a jar ever say, ‘The potter who made me is stupid?'” (Is.29:16).

I’m convinced God has many reasons for each thing he does. I wonder . . .  is it possible he formed us from common clay to continually remind us we have no basis for pride? If we vessels of clay truly understand where we came from, pride should never be a danger for us.

Yet we do have a reason to feel pride. We should boast because God the Potter wins us. He scooped clay from the ground, shaped it and breathed his own Life into humankind. We alone can display his image. That makes us special. Extraordinarily special.

Even so, the second time he won us was the best. Nothing else so difficult and painful has ever been accomplished. He won us when Jesus died on the cross. As a result, we each have a noble purpose, to pray and glorify him forever. We can give him pleasure.

“God forbid that I should boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).